It’s earmark season–the time of year when the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approve the major spending bills that fund the government, and start rolling out the lists of earmarks in the reports that accompany each bill. While who’s asking for what in this earmark el Dorado on the Potomac is already known to the insiders on the Appropriations Committee, the public is left in the dark. National Journal’s CongressDaily recently reported that the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee knows there are about 100 earmarks in their bill, how much they cost, and who asked for them, but chooses not to share that information just yet. The public, apparently, will have to wait until the subcommittee is ready to share its spending handiwork.
So let’s see if, while we’re waiting for the official disclosures from the committees, we can prevail upon members to be a bit more forthcoming. Sunlight, in conjunction with Taxpayers for Common Sense and Citizens Against Government Waste is asking for your help to reveal which lawmakers post their earmark requests online.
There are a small number of lawmakers—some 46 of them—who have posted some information about their earmark requests to their official Web sites. We are providing a list of them that includes links to the their requests. We also list the names of 46 other members who say they won’t request any earmarks. Is your member listed? If not, why not? Call your members of Congress and ask them to fully disclose all their earmark requests for next year’s budget on their official Web sites. After you have spoken with your lawmakers (or, most likely, their staff), use the embedded form as to what they said and we’ll update the chart on daily basis.
We think, at a bare minimum, lawmakers–both Senators and Representatives–should release the same information that House rules require them to send to the Appropriations Committee. They should disclose the recipient of the earmark, a description of the project the earmark would fund, and the address of the recipient. They should additionally disclose the amount of money they asked for. See if you can get them to post a list, or find out why they choose not to, then let us know what you find. Be sure to include the name of the person you spoke to in the office.
Lawmakers have broad discretion on the requests they make for earmarks, and often justify them by saying earmarks serve their constituents. So we encourage constituents to call their members and ask what’s being done to benefit them. (To look up contact information for Senators, go here, and you can find contact info for Representatives click here, then click your state, then the member’s name, and go to the member’s site.
(For a definition of earmarks, see Section 521 of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, available here.