Congress' ban on earmarks doesn't seem to be stopping members from channeling money to home-state projects. These days, instead of tacking such projects on to bills, legislators are creating "slush funds" that ultimately serve the same purpose, watchdog groups tell the New York Times. Included in the Army Corps of Engineers' latest budget, for instance, are 26 funds containing a total of $507 million that is to be spent on building projects not listed in President Obama's budget or in the final bill. That money will likely go to lawmakers' pet projects, according to analysts.
Though Congress trimmed some money from Army Corps projects Obama had requested, the budget comes in at $375 million more than what the administration had sought, even as lawmakers called for spending cuts. And the watchdog groups tell the Times that the $507 million is pretty close to the total amount of the earmarks that were included in the Army Corps' 2010 budget. But unlike earmarks, the 26 funds aren't named in the spending bill itself—they're instead noted in the House and Senate joint report that accompanies it. "I think Congress is now starting to see that they simply can’t give up their responsibilities and leave everything to the administration," says a former Capitol Hill staffer. "It’s their way of trying to be relevant in the post-earmark era.” (Read more earmarks stories.)