It’s been a rough few weeks for the Democrats, so here’s something to earn back a little political capital—and credibility. House Democratic leaders issued a ban on handing out multimillion-dollar, no-bid contracts, known as earmarks, to private contractors Wednesday. "We have made some real progress. The negative noise out there is at almost a deafening level," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said Tuesday. "And it drowns out, too often, the facts." In recent years, lobbyists have made earmarks part of their standard practice when dealing with corporate clients. They have also elicited a fair deal of scrutiny, particularly in ethics and corruption investigations. Not so long ago, there were only a few hundred earmarks being issued each year, but 2010 spending bills included $16 billion worth of earmarks to public and private entities. The Democrats were commended by Republicans for the move.