Phonemarking is a process in the United States of America by which Congressional lawmakers directly contact a federal department or agency which is a recipient of federal appropriations to secure money for their favorite causes outside of the congressional appropriations process. On some appropriations Congressional members are not permitted to attach earmarks, or explicit instructions that a department or agency purchase specific good or services, usually from a company owned by a constituent, a donor, or both. Lobbyists and Congressional staffers refer to a new practice in the 110th Congress as "phonemarking", where a member calls the department or agency and tells them what a great idea it would be to spend money—money which is already appropriated although not designated by name—on a Congressional member's pet pork project.
When the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives passed one of its first spending bills in the 100th Congress, it made the claim that the legislation contained no money earmarked for lawmakers' pet projects and stressed that any prior congressional requests for such spending "shall have no legal effect." Within days, however, lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid of Nevada began directly phonemarking certain federal departments.
- In the Democratic Congress, Pork Still Gets Served 'Phonemarking' Is Among Ways Around Appropriations Process, By John Solomon and Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, Washington Post, May 24, 2007; Page A01.
- Earmarks debate turned around on Democrats in Congress Now that the party controls both houses, Republicans are crying pork, pointing fingers at Pennsylvania's Rep. Murtha, By Richard Simon, L.A. Times, May 23, 2007,