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From Earmarking to Lettermarking

December 28, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Disclosure in the earmarking process has never been state-of-the-art. Earmark requests and funds secured for projects are released to the public in clunky, non-machine processable PDF files that are often more than hundred pages long and are not sortable in any way, for example by sponsor, recipient, or amount. The disclosures are a far cry from being truly open government data.

But at least it's something. As Ron Nixon at the New York Times reports today, when there's not a formal earmarking process (e.g. the earmark-free government funding arrangement we're operating under right now), Congress' work to direct federal funds to their pet projects doesn't actually stop, it just becomes much more secretive.

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TPM reports on an emerging strategy for corporations that want to use the recent Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court ruling to funnel unlimited amounts of cash to congressional candidates without having to reveal their identity and expose themselves to public backlash. But there is already a bill in Congress to thwart the strategy.

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House Members' Online Earmark Disclosures

April 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.

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Second Try for Speedy Senate Disclosure

March 11, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

Sen. Russ Feingold has reintroduced the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, legislation that would force the Senate to provide speedy access to campaign finance information. Efforts to approve the bill during the 110th Congress were stifled by Republicans attempts to attach non-germane amendments and hold other bills hostage. In the 111th Congress, Sen. Pat Roberts is insisting on an amendment that would require outside groups to disclose their donors when filing ethics complaints against senators.

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