EXCLUSIVE: ‘Anti-Earmark’ Senator Tim Scott Sought Federal Funds For Pet Projects In South Carolina

Senator-Designate Tim Scott (R-SC)

Senator-Designate Tim Scott (R-SC)

Like most of the Tea Party Republican House Class of 2010, Senator-Designate Tim Scott (R-SC) ran for Congress vowing to eliminateearmarks” — the system Congressional lawmakers once used to direct federal spending to their districts. But a ThinkProgress examination of public records reveals that in his two years in Congress, he instead used an even less transparent method known as “lettermarking” to attempt to secure funding for his district.

In May 2011, just months after Scott was sworn in as a U.S. Representative and the new Republican House majority opted to ban earmarks, Scott joined four other South Carolina Congressmen in writing to Secretary of Energy Chu on behalf of a South Carolina manufacturer.

They wrote:

The purpose of this letter is to express our support for Robert Bosch LLC (Bosch) and the company’s recent response to DOE Funding Opportunity Number FOA000023900219 (Recirculated Exahust Gas Intake Sensor – REGIS). In addition, we are aware that Bosch’s partner in this application is Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research (ICAR). Bosch has been a committed and active member of the South Carolina manufacturing community since 1974.

View the letter below:

The Department of Energy approved the application as requested, giving Bosch a $550,000 federal project.

But publicly, Scott backed a ban on earmarks, arguing that they were corrupt and wasteful. “Washington is filled with politicians who promise that they will deliver goodies to the folks back home. What those politicians don’t tell us is that by playing that game, they force the taxpayers of our district to pay for hundreds of billions of dollars in wasteful pork projects all over the country,” he observed in his 2010 campaign. He told his future constituents, “The earmark system leaves us with crumbs while others get the loaves.”

According to Taegan Goddard’s Political Dictionary, “lettermarking” occurs when lawmakers send letters to federal agencies requesting money for projects in their home district. While agencies are not obligated to comply with the requests, Reason’s Jacob Sullum notes, “agencies are loath to antagonize the legislators who approve their budgets, especially when they have added extra money with a specific project in mind.” These letters are only available to the public if someone happens to request them under the Freedom of Information Act.