I just had a chat with Rob Lehman, the chief of staff of Office of Management and Budget, who assured me that, contrary to this report, there is no “caving” on their announced intention to publish a comprehensive list of earmarks online.
Lehman explained that OMB’s release today will be something less than the complete database that would “identify and catalogue earmarks in all appropriations bills and certain authorization bills, including report language,” in part because the data isn’t ready. Those of us who’ve worked with federal data, especially federal data drawn from multiple agencies, would probably agree that the one week OMB gave itself to review all the data followed by one week to post it all online was probably overly ambitious.
Lehman also explained that some agencies, including Defense, have yet to turn in all their data, while other sets haven’t been verified. He added that there really hasn’t been any pressure from Congress on this one way or another, and that OMB’s intention remains to put this data up on the Web. In the meantime, OMB is posting summary data, which apparently they’re confident is accurate.
I obviously haven’t talked to Mark Tapscott’s sources, and I might be totally wrong here, but for what it’s worth, I tend to think OMB’s explanation for the delay in releasing the complete data seems entirely plausible. As much as I dislike giving anyone the benefit of the doubt, I think this is a case where OMB deserves it.
Update: A couple of very smart emailers have said I’m being far too generous here. They may well be right–we’ll see. OMB has now posted part of the database; it looks like 7 of 27 agencies are incomplete. OMB also adds, “The information currently available is a work in progress and will be updated in the coming weeks.” I’ll keep a close eye on their progress over the next couple of weeks. Further bulletins as events warrant…