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On Monday, S. 223, the Senate electronic filing bill was blocked for a third time, this time by Sen. John Ensign who offered an amendment that would require outside organizations filing ethics complaints to disclose their funding sources. This non-germane amendment did not originate from Ensign’s offices.
Sunlight has learned that last week Democratic offices were given a Unanimous Consent agreement that would have allowed the Senate to move to S. 223 only if they agreed to take up a an amendment identical to the one introduced on Monday by Senator John Ensign. The consent agreement came from none other than the offices of Sen. Mitch McConnell, whom the Sunlight Foundation has targeted as a culprit in covering up the identity of the anonymous Senators previously blocking the bill. That the “McConnell amendment” is now being offered by Senator Ensign comes as no surprise to long time McConnell watchers, who are well aware that when it comes to reform, McConnell is often hiding behind the scenes, pulling all the strings. .
The document shows that the effort to block S. 223 originates not from the offices of Sen. Ensign but from the Minority Leader’s office. So, McConnell wasn’t hiding the identity of a fellow senator, he was hiding himself!
Wondering where the Senate Defense earmarks are in EarmarkWatch.org? Though our collaborators and friends at Taxpayers for Common Sense have compiled a list here, one thing you'll notice is that, unlike the House Defense earmarks contained in Earmark Watch, the Senate disclosures don't list the actual recipient of the earmark, but rather generic project names. So while we know that Sen. Maria Cantwell and Sen. Patty Murray earmarked $2 million for "U.S. Army Extended Cold Weather Clothing System [ECWCS] Hand Protection System" (gloves, presumably), we don't know who will be making those gloves, whether the glovemaker hired lobbyists or had its executives contribute to Cantwell and Murray's campaigns, or were otherwise hand-in-glove with their earmark bestowers.
That's because of a slight change in wording that was made in the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, one that the Senate, apparently, prefers--and which all but does away with meaningul earmark disclosure. Read on for more details...
Our social app to identify and clean up the data around government earmarks - EarmarkWatch is live. Props to Kerry and James for all the hard work they did in getting it ready.
Moments ago Sens. Russ Feingold and Dianne Feinstein attempted to pass S.223, the Senate electronic filing bill, and were blocked by Sen. John Ensign who objected and attempted to offer a poison pill amendment. This is the third time the bill has been blocked by the Republican side although this is the first time that the hold was not anonymous. We now know that Sen. John Ensign is the one blocking this "no-brainer" bill that would simply require senators to file their campaign finance reports electronically. Sen. Ensign has some nerve opposing a bill that has near unanimous public support and which would simply move the Senate into the 20th century. Now that we know what McConnell was hiding I have to ask what is Ensign, the director of the National Republican Senate Committee, hiding in those campaign finance documents.
Every week I climb into the depths of the local political blogosphere to find the Sunlight. I use this series to highlight local blogs that do a great job of convering local, state, and Congressional political news. This week I have highlights from Arizona, Indiana, Maine, Nebraska, and South Dakota.
Wondering who's getting all the earmarks? Who's giving them and why? Do earmarks meet pressing needs or pay off political favors? And which are pure pork? EarmarkWatch.org, an innovative new tool from the Sunlight Foundation and Taxpyers for Common Sense, lets you find out for yourself. Using EarmarkWatch.org, you can exercise citizen oversight of Congress. Dig into the 47 earmarks worth $166,500,000 that Rep. John Murtha inserted (and figure out which benefit campaign contributors). Or take a close look at the $100,000 earmark that Sen. David Vitter secured for an organization that promotes creationism in Louisiana schools. Or the $37 million in earmarks that include defense giant Northrop Grumman as a beneficiary. Right now, you can investigate earmarks from the House Defense Appropriations Bill and the House and Senate versions of the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bills. Using a host of online resources, you can find out whether recipients of earmarks hired lobbyists, made campaign contributions to members of Congress, or won federal contracts and grants. You can also add information to eamarks others have researched, or comment on what others have found. EarmarkWatch.org provides you with powerful tools to scrutinize and evaluate thousands of earmarks. To get started, create an account and pick an earmark.
This could not have happened without the dedication of the Montana blogging community; especially Don Pogreba from Intelligent Discontent and Jay Stevens and Matt Singer from Left in the West. Montana bloggers understand that openness and transparency are worth fighting for as practices that are important for elected officials to embrace.
Montana is currently the only state whose entire congressional delegation posts a daily schedule. Constituents can now track the meetings of both Senators and their representative to make sure that they are working hard for Montana.
Congratulations, this is a great day for Montana - and for transparency.
Where would we be without the Internet? The very thought of not having open, free and equal access to the information, entertainment, and the myriad of ways it makes our lives easier, makes me gasp. Without it, Sunlight certainly would not exist. And while it would not be impossible for diligent researchers to bring to light the of influences affecting Congress, with the Internet and the new technologies that have grown up with it, we – the people – would have to rely on experts to spend many more days, months, years digging through dusty boxes of old paper documents in basement offices of government buildings. And we’d have to rely on the mainstream journalists to tell us what they thought we should know. The Internet changes all that.
Connected by the ‘Net, so many more of us can unite to pool our intelligence to contribute to, share and sift through massive amounts of political information. Bonded by the common interest of making Congress more accountable, geographic and social boundaries cease to exist, and just as importantly, information is broadcast to the rest of the community without relying on traditional gatekeepers.
The interconnectivity the Web provides us makes possible the kind of instantaneous collaboration we have become so accustomed to via APIs, social networking and blogging. We are only bound by the limits of our creativity and willingness to get involved.
In that spirit, Sunlight’s team created an ode to how the Web makes government transparency possible in celebration of tomorrow’s second annual OneWebDay. Taking inspiration from Earth Day, Susan Crawford, professor at the Cardozo School of Law and on the Board of Directors of ICANN, organized OneWebDay to observe the significance of the Web and what it means to individuals, organizations and communities.
We couldn’t do the work we do without an open Web. How are you celebrating?
Special thanks to Kerry, Nisha and Lawrence for creating the awesome video!
The other day a good friend reminded me that transparency only works if people use the information. Brian Faler of Bloomberg News does just that.
The $2 million earmarked for the Samueli Institute for Information Biology, started by Broadcom Corp. Chairman Henry Samueli and his wife Susan, was inserted into the measure by Democratic Representative Peter Visclosky. The Samueli family has contributed thousands of campaign dollars to Visclosky, whose Indiana district is nowhere near either the Alexandria, Virginia, institute or Broadcom, the Irvine, California-based maker of chips for wireless phones and other devices.
It's a good thing that earmarks allow members meet the needs of their districts. (In fairness to Visclosky, some to the money he's funneling to the Samueli Institute will be funneled by them to the School of Medicine Northwest of Indiana University, which is in Visclosky's district. It's also worth noting that stories like this are possible largely because of the new rules that the House of Representatives adopted in January, bringing more transparency to earmarks.)