Delving into OMB’s Earmark Data


After fooling around with it for the last half-day or so, I feel confident I can pronounce the new OMB earmark database a great tool and a success for OMB, and I can’t wait for the updates going forward.

One thing I wanted to try was to see if one can match companies that get earmarks with members of Congress through campaign contributions. For example, DSD Laboratories got a few 2005 earmarks (see here and here and here and here ). A check of the Senate Office of Public Records site shows that the firm hasn’t reported or hired anyone who’s reported any lobbying expenditures. However, I ran the name of the company’s chairman and founder, Bart Guerreri, through OpenSecrets, and came up with $68,200 in contributions since 1993 to a handful of members–including some who sit on the House Appropriations Committee. Running just “DSD Lab” in the occupation field turns up $110,000 to pretty much the same handful of lawmakers going back to 1993. It appears that Rep. John Murtha ($22,000) and Rep. Alan Mollohan ($16,150)have gotten the bulk of the contributions, with Rep. Marty Meehan ($14,000) coming in third. If I were curious about who inserted each earmark for DSD Laboratories, I might begin by asking those three members.

It also occurs to me that maybe the Earmark Database could provide fodder for a good distributed research project–how many earmark beneficiaries either hired lobbyists or had employees who made contributions to members of Congress. I don’t know whether waiting for 2008 data makes more sense than starting with the 2005 numbers.