OMB will track phonemarks, but last-minute-marks present more of a problem
Christin T. Baker, the associate director for communications in the Office of Management and Budget, voicemails and emails that OMB already tracks “nontraditional sorts of ways of getting projects funded” in its database, something they’ll continue to do in 2008. Here’s one example from 2005, gotten by downloading the CSV data from the site into an excel spreadsheet, sorting on the field called “Citation_Source” and looking for the ones that aren’t bills or conference reports.
Source: Senator Stevens’ colloquy
Reference: Congressional Record S12030
Method: User entered excerpt
Citation Excerpt: The Following Language is from Congressional Record S12030 December 8, 2004. Senator Ted Stevens Comments on FY 05 Omnibus Appropriations Bill: I would like to take this opportunity to clarify a few points in the bill to provide guidance to those who will implement it. Denali Commission: The conferees provided $67,000,000 for the Denali Commission. In addition to the allocations outlined in the bill itself, there are a number of other projects to which the Denali Commission should give priority consideration: $2,000,000 for the Tok/Chistochina Intertie project; $500,000 for the Fire Island extension; $146,000 for Chenega Bay Utilities
Kind of amazing that one senator’s floor speech can have the force of law. And here’s another exmaple of earmarks made, not by statute or conference report but rather by a May 17th, 2005, letter that redirects some HHS funding for fiscal year 2005 (the link takes you to a PDF).
As to the news that Rep. David Obey and House Democrats intend to sidestep their own rules by not disclosing earmarks until the last minute (that is, after the House and Senate conferees have agreed to a final version of the bill), Baker says, “It’s a very short time frame from when the conference report is filed and then voted on so it definitely makes our jobs a lot harder in terms of tracking the earmarks.” OMB had planned to track them through each step of the committee process–if Obey and the House Democrats keep them secret, well, as Baker says, “That certainly makes our jobs much more difficult.”