Skip to content

Analysis: Schatz, Hirono Secured More Earmarks Than Most

Hawaii’s senators obtained hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds for special projects in the islands, including major upgrades to military infrastructure.

WASHINGTON — Among Democrats, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz is the earmarker-in-chief, at least according to a new analysis from the New York Times.

The newspaper ranked lawmakers for their ability to secure federal funds for special projects in their districts through a process known as congressionally directed spending.

The rankings found that Schatz, who sits on the Appropriations Committee, requested $530 million in earmarks in the fiscal year 2023 budget bill, which was signed into law late last year.

That amount was enough to place him third among all his senate colleagues, and first among Democrats. U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono wasn’t far behind — second among Democrats — with $449 million in earmark requests, some of which overlapped with Schatz.

Bringing home the bacon has long been considered a key measure of success for island politicians, dating back to the days of late-U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye, who was the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and self-proclaimed “King of Pork.”

Schatz has followed a similar path and has even incorporated an interactive map on his official website that allows constituents to track where he’s allocating federal funds.

Some of the biggest ticket items Schatz and Hirono secured through earmarks in the fiscal year 2023 budget included $87.9 million for new housing quarters at Marine Corps Base Kaneohe to update 50 year old facilities.

Hawaii Congressman Ed Case and former U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele also ranked among the top money-getters in the House in part because they joined Schatz and Hirono in advocating for funds to bolster military infrastructure in the islands, including $38 million to upgrade the water system at Tripler Army Medical Center.

The New York Times analysis found that Hawaii joined Alaska, Vermont and Maine as receiving the most earmarks per capita.