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While Strolling Through the Pork One Day...

Dana Milbank, Columnist
The Washington Post

There is an unwritten rule in Congress: Don't touch another man's earmarks.

You support my Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska, I'll support your New York goose-control program. You vote for my North Carolina Teapot Museum, I'll vote for your Seattle sculpture garden. Give me my beach nourishment, you can have your parking garage.

This is how it all works in the Capitol -- which explains why the number of earmarks for pet projects has quintupled in a decade, to about 15,000 a year.

The truly excellent earmarker can make a career of it, as demonstrated by Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Pa.), the "cardinal" who presides over the powerful Appropriations defense subcommittee. He secured more than $200 million for his pet projects in the 2006 fiscal year alone, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group.

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