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Congress' Chief Admin Officer Orders Change to GOP Earmark Web Site

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Breaking News from Roll Call (sub required):

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is protesting a decision by Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard to shut down a Web site designed to bring attention to the effort to enact earmark reform.

Boehner launched the Web site, earmarkreform.house.gov, on Feb. 12. The site features news links to articles about earmark reform, along with press releases from Republican leaders calling for reform and a link to Boehner's leadership Web site.

The CAO's office had given Boehner permission to use the domain name in August 2007. But Beard sent Boehner an e-mail message on Feb. 21 informing the Minority Leader that the Web site needed to be shut down and moved to a different location with a different domain name.

Boehner sent Beard a letter protesting that decision on Thursday afternoon, asking for "a detailed explanation of the events that led your office to make this dramatic reversal."

"Changing its address now will inevitably hamper the effectiveness of the new website, much to the convenience of the majority that runs the House," Boehner writes.

In the letter, Boehner notes that the decision comes after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declined to support a Boehner-initiated call for a moratorium on all earmarks. It also comes after reports that out of the $263 million spent by House freshmen on earmarks, $237 million of that was spent by Democratic freshmen, Boehner writes.

"The leaders of both parties in the House have discussed the need for greater transparency and ‘sunshine' in Congress, particularly with respect to the process by which our institution spends taxpayers' hard-earned money," Boehner writes. "By serving as a public clearinghouse for real-time information on legislative efforts to reform the earmark practice in Congress, www.earmarkreform.gov contributes to this goal and helps to increase accountability in use of taxpayer funds. Transferring the website to a different address now - nearly two weeks after its successful launch - will inevitably cause confusion."

A spokesman for Beard said the CAO's office would respond shortly to Boehner's letter.