New Earmark Transparency from OMB by March 12?


Office of Management & Budget is circulating a memorandum that requires agency heads to collect information on earmarks–defined here as “funds provided by the Congress for projects or programs where the congressional direction (in bill or report language) circumvents the merit-based or competitive allocation process, or specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the Administration to control critical aspects of the funds allocation process.”

OMB will require agencies to specify the recipient of the earmark, its address, the cost of the earmark, a description of what that money will be spent on, and a citation to and copy of the relevant statutory language, among other things. Agencies will have to submit data for Fiscal 2005 earmarks (and for some legislation going back to 2002), as well as keeping track of new earmarks going forward.

The memorandum lays out a timeline for agencies to adhere to; here’s the most interesting item:

March 12 – OMB posts information to the public Internet.

It’s great that OMB is taking the bull by the horns to do this, especially putting the information online–and one can’t help wondering why they didn’t start doing this sooner. Maybe some of the bigger spending excesses of the last few Congresses could have been avoided. And it would probably have more teeth if agencies were able to identify, when they knew, the specific lawmakers who had sponsored specific earmarks. But, that said, better now than never.