Congress passed the economic stimulus bill in early 2009, but with the unemployment rate still above 9 percent, the bill is a prime target of criticism and contempt on the 2010 campaign trail.
That doesn't mean lawmakers haven't been trying to get their hands on some stimulus money for their districts. Indeed, an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity finds that some of the bill's biggest critics worked behind the scenes to get a slice of the pie.
One of the major selling points of the stimulus bill was that it was supposed to be free of congressional earmarks — those little flags lawmakers plant in legislation claiming money for pet projects. President Obama celebrated the bill on its anniversary.
"I'm grateful that Congress agreed to my request that the bill include no earmarks," he said, "that all projects receive funding based solely on their merits."
But the Center for Public Integrity has discovered that lawmakers, instead of going through the congressional earmark process, have written directly to federal departments with backdoor requests for stimulus funds. It's a practice known as lettermarking, says John Solomon, an investigative journalist for the center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research group.
"The letters one day were on my desk, and they were a foot high. ... I couldn't look over my desk and see my colleagues across the hallway," he says, "because literally there was a mountain of paper."
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Source and Center for Public Integrity's in-depth entry about the lettermarks.