On May 11, 2010, the House of Representatives and the Senate both introduced bills to create a centralized database for earmark requests. Currently, earmark requests are disclosed in disparate fashion with non-searchable files posted to individual lawmaker websites or the House and Senate Appropriations Committee website. A centralized database will allow people to follow spending requests made by lawmakers with a simple online search.
An earmark is a directed spending request made by a lawmaker in an appropriations or other spending bill. Recent disclosure changes, beginning in 2006, made earmarks far more transparent. The missing piece is a centralized format for collecting, storing and distributing to the public over the Internet information about earmark requests. The Earmark Transparency Act will finish the job.
While earmarks account for a very small portion of the total discretionary spending budget, they are linked to a high number of congressional scandals. Transparency in earmark spending is necessary to ensure an accountable government.
The Earmark Transparency Act of 2010, a bipartisan bill introduced today by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Olka., John McCain, R-Ariz., Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., vastly improves the way in which information about earmarks is disclosed.
In 2005, Rep. David Price, D-N.C., earmarked more than $19.6 million to launch a light rail project in his district—one that he had promised to continue his “strong support for” by finding additional federal funding through his position on the House Appropriations Committee.
After it hired a lobbyist and its employees contributed to a member of Congress' leadership political action committee, a Kentucky company saw its defense business quadruple thanks to earmarks.
Three members of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee have received an average of $102,600 in campaign contributions from employees and political action committees of the companies they've favored with earmarks in the first six months of 2007.
The nation's top defense contractors were also the biggest beneficiaries of congressional earmarks in 2005, an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation has found.
The recent policies imposed by the House Appropriations Committee and the House Republican Caucus to ban for-profit earmarks and all earmarks, respectively, will reduce the ability of the public to track directed spending and do little to stem this type of spending.
In the case of the top ten earmarkers for FY 2008, the top words they used from 2007-2008 do often align with their duties in either the Appropriations Committee or in bringing home the bacon to their home state.
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert has used an Illinois trust to invest in real estate near the proposed route of the Prairie Parkway, a highway project for which he’s secured $207 million in earmarked appropriations. The trust has already transferred 138 acres of land to a real estate development firm that has plans to build a 1,600-home community, located less than six miles from the north-south connector Hastert has championed in the House.
A comprehensive listing of earmark reform measures from the previous two Congresses.