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Congressional Florida House Freedom Caucus Members Earmarked Millions From Taxpayers

In 2015, conservatives inside the republican party founded the House Freedom Caucus. The group was an alternative that would buck the establishment when it came to wasteful spending.

But a new report from government watchdog group Open The Books (OTB) says the “fiscal conservative mantra” portrayed by House Freedom Caucus members no longer applies after its members supported millions of dollars in earmarks for their districts.

The term “earmark” is described by analysts as pork barrel spending, bringing the pork back to a member’s district.

In January 2022, the Caucus laid out four principles for “restoring the people’s voice in Congress.” The fourth principle was to “institute a ban on earmarks.”

However, according to the auditors at OTB, two of the Freedom Caucus members, Florida Congressman Republicans Byron Donalds and Greg Steube, voted to bring millions of spending earmarks back to their congressional districts.

Congressman Steube’s earmarks for his district included $190,000 to test electric and magnetic shark repellent. $4 million for the Multi-Modal Roadway Improvements to Fruitville Road. $2.5 million for the restoration of the shoreline off the Peace River in DeSoto County. $2.4 million for the North Lee County Wellfield Expansion Project.

Congressman Donalds also voted for millions of earmarks for his district. $5 million for a Naples, Florida sewer-to-septic project phase II. Phase I was funded locally. Gov. DeSantis vetoed $1.1 million in state money earmarked for phase II. Now, Phase II is funded by federal taxpayers.

The City of Sanibel East Periwinkle Way Bridge Replacement at a taxpayer price tag of $5.5 million. $5 million for the City of Bonita Springs Water Acquisition.

$3 million for the Great Dunbar Initiative—Phase 1 Cleveland Avenue Housing Authority of the City of Fort Myers.

‘I’m sure these projects are needed, but why isn’t the county commission or the local state rep or state senator funding these measures? This isn’t a federal matter,” said Open The Books CEO Adam Andrzejewski.

OTB shows that big-ticket spending items aren’t just coming from the Democrats but also the GOP. Last summer, at one point in the U.S. House, the top 63 ear markers on the FY2024 spending bills were Republicans.

Andrzejewski said that nearly half the Caucus members are cross-dressing as fiscal conservatives. In the omnibus spending bills of 2023 and 2024, Caucus members made 210 earmark requests for a total of $957 million of taxpayers’ dollars for pet projects in their districts.

“It turns out that many are better at breaking their promises than stopping spending,” said Andrzejewski.

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