From the NY Times:
Congress pledged to usher in a new way of doing business in recent months when it banned earmarks, the widely criticized provisions that lawmakers insert into huge federal budget bills to pay for pet projects back home without much, if any, public oversight. The ban was one of the promises made by a newly elected class of conservatives in the House.
But, as it turns out, lawmakers still have a way to get their favorite projects funded: appealing directly to federal agencies for money that is already available. And agency officials seem to be paying attention, though an executive order has directed agencies not to take on projects based on the recommendations of members of Congress. In some cases, that may be the result of the clout certain lawmakers have over how much money an agency receives.
Some lawmakers say the earmark ban has left them no choice but to go directly to the agencies. “We have to make an end run around the roadblocks we are facing,” said Mr. Ackerman, a 14-term incumbent. “Those of us who are fast on our feet will have the advantage of being able to deliver for our constituents.”