Our friend N.Z. Bear has a new sign up page on the Porkbusters site that allows citizens to volunteer to evaluate some of the 36,000 some earmarks flooding the House–so many that Rep. David Obey, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, announced a while back that they couldn’t possibly publish them all until the absolute end of the process–when it would have been too late to do anything about them–because of the time needed to vet them. It appears Obey is now saying that lists of earmarks will be published “in The Congressional Record a month before they come up for final approval.” Of course, there’s no reason to wait that long — lists of earmarks and earmark requests are sitting around the committee offices for months now; why not make the whole process transparent by making the requests publicly available the moment they’re sent to the committee?
I think Steve Ellis from Taxpayers for Common Sense characterized and summed up the shortcomings of the plan quite well in the above linked Times piece:
…under Mr. Obey’s new plan, the final decision on each earmark would be made by the handful of leaders of a House and Senate conference. Mr. Ellis called that “the proverbial smoke-filled room.”
In any case, having a crack team of citizen earmark evaluators ready to roll whenever these lists are published is a great idea.