Cheese Factories on the Moon: Why Earmarks Are Good for American Democracy

Book Info

  • Length: 224 pages
  • Trim size: 6" x 9"

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  • ISBN: 978-1-59451-731-0
  • Publish date: April 2011
  • List Price: $32.95
  • Your Price: $28.01


  • ISBN: 978-1-59451-730-3
  • Publish date: October 2010
  • List Price: $133.00
  • Your Price: $113.05


In recent years, special congressional appropriations--“earmarks”--have become synonymous with wasteful government spending and corruption. In this timely, provocative, and highly-readable book Frisch and Kelly challenge the conventional wisdom arguing that earmarks are good for American democracy. They argue that the Founders of the American republic invested the power of the purse in the U.S. Congress to ensure that spending would reflect the priorities of constituents and to balance the legislature against the executive branch of government. Using extensive interviews with Washington insiders and well-developed examples they:

• Illustrate how earmark projects that were highly pilloried responded to the needs of local communities that would otherwise go unaddressed by unelected bureaucrats.
• Demonstrate how the “selfish” motives of members of Congress can produce spending that benefits the nation.
• Argue that lobbyists—far from corrupting the earmark process—provide valuable services to groups seeking earmarked funds, and help members of Congress and their staff navigate the appropriations process.
• Take a critical look at media coverage of earmarks and argue that trends in media coverage lead to superficial and hyper-dramatic coverage of the earmark process.
• Explain why the number of earmarks has surged over the last fifteen years.
• Assess recent reforms in Congress and explain why recent reforms aimed at increasing transparency will not result in greater public trust.

Cheese Factories on the Moon is a much-needed challenge to a widespread but deeply flawed “consensus” about what is wrong with congressional appropriations earmarks.

Please visit the authors' website here: Cheese Factories on the Moon

And don't miss Professor Sean Kelly's appearance on the PBS News Hour: PBS News Hour

Author Info

Scott A. Frisch is Professor of Political Science at California State University, Channel Islands. He and Sean Kelly have coauthored several books, including, most recently, Jimmy Carter and the Water Wars: Presidential Influence and the Politics of Pork (Cambria Press, 2008).

Sean Q Kelly is Professor of Political Science at California State University, Channel Islands. He earned his BA in Political Science from Seattle University in 1986 and his PhD in Political Science from the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 1992. He is a former APSA Congressional Fellow serving as a policy analyst for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee.


"This is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in earmarks, the federal deficit, and the role of Congress and congressional spending decisions in the larger government/political picture. Highly recommended. General readers and undergraduate students at all levels." —CHOICE

“I’m a fan and am delighted to see such a book—at just the right moment in the debate about earmarks.”
Mickey Edwards, Aspen Institute and former U.S. Representative (R-Oklahoma)

“One of the highest callings for political scientists is to puncture conventional wisdom using data, historical context, and logic. In Cheese Factories on the Moon Scott Frisch and Sean Kelly do just that by demolishing the easy rhetoric and demagoguery on earmarks that are employed regularly by politicians and editorial writers across the country. One doesn’t have to agree with every element of their thesis to see that the reality is nowhere near as simple as that conventional wisdom has suggested.”
Norm Ornstein, Resident Scholar American Enterprise Institute

Cheese Factories on the Moon counters popular criticisms about earmarks. Frisch and Kelly have written a unique and balanced book about congressional earmarks and the appropriations process generally. Every student of Congress and especially journalists covering Congress should buy this incisive analysis about the realities of earmarks. The book will become a classic on how and why earmarks are adopted and what their consequences are for the public good.”
James A. Thurber, American University

“Scott Frisch and Sean Kelly, unlike many academics, really ‘get it.’ They are also smart enough and brave enough to challenge conventional wisdom when it comes to politics and public policy. This book, like their previous work, should be must reading for students and instructors of political science for sure, but it would help a lot of pundits, too—if they’d just quit talking long enough to read it!”
Leslie C. Francis, Washington Media Group and former Deputy Chief of Staff for Jimmy Carter

"Frisch and Kelly's book is a valuable counterpoint to those who exaggerate and misconstrue the nature of earmarks." — Congress & the Presidency

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