So what happens when reporters around the country investigate earmarks, digging into resources like the exhaustive compendium of fiscal year 2008 earmarks put out by Taxpayers for Common Sense and the wealth of influence data that the Center for Responsive Politics assembles on Open Secrets, and then ask members of Congress about what they've found? Well, they get incredibly revealing defenses of how earmarks work, like this one from Rep. Tim Holden that was reported by the Republican Herald of Pottsville, Pa:
“People you do business with contribute to your campaign,” Holden said in a phone interview Friday. “This was a constituent of mine who was having trouble doing business with the Pentagon, having trouble getting through the bureaucracy.”
So are some members of Congress in business with their earmark recipients, exchanging help getting through the bureaucracies for campaign cash? That's what a remarkable project that the Associated Press Managing Editors, the Sunlight Foundation, scores of reporters at dozens of newspapers tried to find out.