Ezra Klein argues that conservatives are right on this. “[Earmarking] feeds D.C.‘s massive lobbying complex, and in general, it’s not a wise way to spend federal money,” he writes. It is true, lobbyists lobby Congress way more often than they lobby agencies. But lobbyists can and do lobby agencies, and as agencies get more power over the federal budget under the moratorium, they will undoubtedly start lobbying the agencies more. The earmark moratorium will not curtail the lobbying complex, it will change how and where lobbyists do their work. When Congress has passed limited moratoriums in the past, this is exactly what has happened.
In fact, lobbyists looking for funds might prefer working with agencies because, unlike Congress, the people making decisions in agencies are not accountable to an electorate. They’ll also still be able to lobby members of Congress to lobby agencies and ask for money to be spent on their pet projects. Believe it or not, this happens, and it’s totally secretive and undisclosed.
With Mitch McConnell finally getting the hint, we will see a vote on the DeMint proposal to ban earmarks.
While I'm for it, I don't think it is a panacea. I also take seriously the chance that there could be some perverse outcomes from the ban. Something that, on its face, has merit.