Converging on Earmarks


The early returns to the Exposing Earmarks effort are in, and some people are asking incredibly good questions. Over at Captain’s Quarters, CQ reader TK Allen notes in the tenth comment (sorry–I don’t seem to be able to link to it directly) this interesting information:

Here is a curious one in my state (Florida): $150,000 for “Convergent Knowledge Solutions, LLC, for rural healthcare delivery in Alaska”. This one caught my eye because it seemed odd to me that a Florida company would be involved in rural healthcare delivery in ALASKA! I did a little research. Convergent Knowledge Solutions has a web site and they are involved in medical-related stuff (see but it seems a long stretch from what CKS does to rural health care delivery 4000 miles away.

He goes on to note some interesting information about the company’s headquarters, but I think we need to take a step back: If this bill passes with that earmark in it, the $150,000 contract or grant for rural healthcare delivery in Alaska won’t be opened to competitive bidding. Why not? Why did Congress pick a firm in Florida to get the contract? I emailed the company to find out.

A commenter at Room 8 notes a curious $400,000 expenditure for trainingat Agudath Israel of America Community Services in Brooklyn:

…there is something called the COPE institute, run by Agudath Israel, that says it is a two-year vocational skills training academy. Total enrollment? for the 2004-2005 school year, 34. Will someone who knows something about this explain what the deal is here?

Of course, if whichever member of Congress inserted that earmark in the bill were known, it would be easy to know who knew something about it.

One I’m sort of curious about: $275,000 for the City of Alexandria, VA, for an automobile industry workforce development and training initiative. While we certainly have a lot of cars in the area, I don’t know that we necessarily have an automobile industry. Still, I’ll try to run this one down.

One other thought, and something that we should start keeping track of: commenter Effiff on Sunlight’s site writes:

I contacted REP Gilchrest’s office and they said that he had NO earmarks in the Labor/HHS bill. I then asked for a detailed list of all earmarks sponsored by REP Gilchrest for the past two years. The Office Manger in DC said that she would prepare one for me but that was over two months ago and I never heard back from her after repeated emails.

I think it’s important to add to this effort a tote board which allows everyone to track the responses of members of Congress–including people who promise to reveal earmarks but don’t come through. Something like a “Deadbeat Disclosure” tally of members who refuse to be transparent with the public about their earmarks. It’s our money, after all, and it’s outrageous that Representatives and Senators refuse to go on the record about how they’re spending it.