Via Mark Tapscott comes word of this excellent offer from our friends at Americans for Prosperity: Citizen oversight of the earmarking process. Let’s all offer some our time, plus our common sense and good judgment, to Rep. David Obey, his fellow appropriators and the House Democrats so that they don’t have to labor in secrecy to evaluate all those earmarks all by themselves. In a June 6, 2007, letter addressed to Obey, AFP president Tim Phillips writes,
Chairman Obey, I share your concern about unworthy projects receiving federal funding due to a lack of careful and thoughtful evaluation, and I agree that one individual working alone would have a very hard time completing this task in a timely manner.
However, I also think that thousands or millions of individual taxpayers working together could greatly aid you in completing your earmark request evaluations before you resort to sticking earmarks into un-amendable final legislation behind the closed doors of a conference committee. That’s why, on behalf of the thousands of Americans for Prosperity members from coast to coast, I’m writing to offer our help to you and your staff in evaluating this year’s earmark requests.
As you know, Internet technology has made research faster and easier than at any previous time in human history. By releasing your 36,000 earmark requests to Americans for Prosperity, our allies in other pro-taxpayer groups and to concerned bloggers, we would be able to unleash taxpayers across the country in a cooperative effort to determine which Members of Congress may have financial conflicts attached to their earmark requests, which local projects may be unworthy of federal funding and which may have value to the taxpayers.
The Sunlight Foundation would be happy to join in that effort.
Actually, now that I think about it, at one time we were kicking around the idea that all requests for earmarks ought to be public, filed electronically with Congress, in a searchable, downloadable database. I can’t believe that organizations request hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars from Congress, and there’s no publicly available paper trail.