Here's something that hasn't gotten much attention that should. Late last week, OMB Watch released a valuable background brief on earmarks that gives a good overview of the earmarking process.
Dana Chasin says that the real issue for earmarks is the lack of transparency in the process that has led to corruption. The most effective earmark reforms, Dana writes, would be timely disclosure, revealing to the public what earmarks are being proposed by what lawmakers. He makes a strong case that an outright ban on earmarks won't reduce federal spending...and that really shouldn't be the real focus since earmarked funds are a tiny fraction of the federal budget.
We at the Sunlight Foundation agree that transparency is the needed reform. The Honest Leadership and Government Act of 2007 made some important reforms by providing some of the needed transparency, particularly for the House, but there is so much more that needs to be done.
This document from OMB Watch provides some very useful guidance a set of reforms that could be achievable first steps and that might actually provide some transparency and accountability. Those are good initial goals and they might just prove sufficient.