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Mysterious fund allows Congress to spend freely, despite earmark ban!

• Cole Deines, CNN

Washington (CNN) -- The defense bill that just passed the House of Representatives includes a back-door fund that lets individual members of Congress funnel millions of dollars into projects of their choosing.

This is happening despite a congressional ban on earmarks -- special, discretionary spending that has funded Congress' pet projects back home in years past, but now has fallen out of favor among budget-conscious deficit hawks.

Under the cloak of a mysteriously-named "Mission Force Enhancement Transfer Fund," Congress has been squirreling away money -- like $9 million for "future undersea capabilities development," $19 million for "Navy ship preliminary design and feasibility studies," and more than $30 million for a "corrosion prevention program."

So in a year dominated by demands for spending cuts, where did all the money come from?

Roughly $1 billion was quietly transferred from projects listed in the president's defense budget and placed into the "transfer fund."

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