House Members' Online Earmark DisclosuresApril 8, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas
Earmarks are such a hot topic because of the potential for abuse (as we’ll see below), while proponents argue they enable lawmakers to fund projects that are needed and requested by constituents. With Sen. John McCain taking his principled stand against earmarks during the 2008 Presidential Election, it’s not a surprise that the practice would fall under increased scrutiny during the 111th Congress. Turns out members of the House were required to disclose their earmark requests for 2010 this past weekend.
My colleagues at the Sunlight Foundation’s Real Time Investigations unit, Bill Allison and Anupama Narayanswamy, have been chronicling the process since Friday. They began by highlighting earmark requests by lawmakers who received campaign contributions from PMA Group, a once-powerful lobbying firm that is now under investigation for possible campaign finance violations.
Over the weekend, Bill spent time reviewing each House member’s Web site in a search for their earmark disclosures. He ran into a few obstacles (there’s no uniform method for disclosing them, and the disclosures are sometimes buried on a lawmaker’s Web site), but found that overall most members complied with the disclosure requirement or pledged not to request earmarks this year. He compiled a database of the disclosures he could find (which has since been supplemented by a similar effort at Taxpayers for Common Sense).
As for the Senate, a similar requirement is in place — senators will have to disclose their earmark requests this year as well. I’m sure Bill and Anupama will be keeping an eye out, and I’ll update you here when it happens.
Image (used under a Creative Commons license) by Jonathan Dresner.