By Casey Harper
The Center Square

https://www.thecentersquare.com/

The return of congressional earmarks is under scrutiny as they begin to pile up and spark controversy, including $3 million of taxpayer money for an art collection in Brooklyn, New York.

The Fiscal year 2022 Omnibus Appropriations Bill passed in March included a “historic” $17.7 million in federal funding for “community projects,” marking the resurgence of Congressional earmarks that are being handed out by lawmakers and raising eyebrows.

U.S. Sens. Mike Braun, R-Ind., Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Rick Scott, R-Fla., filed a Congressional Resolution condemning earmarks, which said, “fiscal year 2022 marked the return of ‘congressionally directed spending’ and ‘community project funding,’ also known as ‘earmarks,’ after a 12-year hiatus.”

The resolution points to the 2022 Omnibus spending bill, which includes a range of earmarks. Scott blasted several examples, including $1.6 million for “equitable shellfish aquaculture” in Rhode Island, $500,000 to revitalize a ski club in New Hampshire and $500,000 for horse management in Nevada.

The resolution points to other spending, including “funding for earmarks including, $2,500,000 to construct a museum annex in Vermont, $605,000 to construct a New York City greenhouse, and $3,000,000 to establish a Brooklyn gallery, in addition to earmark projects including bike trails in Vermont, derelict lobster pots in Connecticut, and a sidewalk for the road of a country club in Colorado.”

Democratic representatives for New York lauded the passage of the funds for the Brooklyn Museum at the time.

Reps. Yvette Clarke D-N.Y., Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., posed with a large check for the museum in May of this year. They also praised the $17.7 million in funding for these kinds of projects as “historic.”

“I fought hard alongside Rep. Yvette Clarke and Chairman Hakeem Jeffries to deliver $3,000,000 for the Brooklyn Museum to establish a permanent gallery for its African Art,” Schumer said in a statement. “Under my leadership, the Senate passed a funding bill which includes historic levels of investment in community projects like the one here at the Brooklyn Museum. This investment will bolster one of Brooklyn’s iconic institutions and broaden its appeal, relevance, and depth of collection to a wider audience…”

The Brooklyn Museum thanked the Democratic members on their Tumblr page for the $3 million funding, saying it will “help bring our celebrated collection of African art back on view.”

The museum said the funds will help create permanent art galleries for the “Arts of Africa collection,” which they say will open by 2025. The museum currently features an array of exhibits and galleries, including “Climate in Crisis: Environmental Change in the Indigenous Americas” and “A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt.”

The museum is also promoting an upcoming exhibit, “Jimmy DeSana: Submission,” featuring a nude person wearing orange cones on their hands and feet, among other “sexually explicit content” that “may not be suitable for all audiences.”

“In conjunction with special exhibitions focused on art of the African diaspora, our new galleries will be the second-largest freely accessible collection of African art permanently on view in New York City, and the only one located in Brooklyn,” the museum said. “We’d like to extend a special thanks to Senator Chuck Schumer, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, and Representative Hakeem Jeffries for their leadership in securing this transformative grant and for making the new galleries possible!”

Scott argued the earmarks are part of a broken system in Congress and pointed to the rising national debt and highest inflation in 40 years.

“Here’s what happens,” he said. “The federal government takes the tax dollars of hardworking Americans from around the nation and uses thousands, sometimes millions, of dollars on pet projects that only benefit a small number of people. In this broken system, Washington says: Give us your money, and politicians who live across the country will redirect it wherever they like. Americans deserve and expect fiscal accountability, not to be used as a political piggybank.”