Earmark request disclosures show chaotic inconsistencies

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A while back, I wrote about the House and Senate plan to make members release earmark requests on their sites without specifying any format.

Sen. Smedley Smith does it like this:

Sen. Smedley Smith secured from the Defense budget $18 million to purchase state-of-the-art $600 hammers from Springfield-based Boondoggle Inc. as part of the Army’s Operational Management account.

Not exactly easy to turn into data. Rep. Rube Ryan does it like this:

$1 million: To the University of Shelbyville Systems Material Management Institute in Shelbyville, to develop crunchless potato chips for MREs, from the Army RDTE budget.

While you probably wouldn’t end up with 535 different formats, it’s unlikely that you’d end up with earmarks disclosed in a uniform format that could be easily scraped from member Web sites and loaded into a database.

Add to this the likelihood that these disclosures would be disclosed in different places by different members — Sen. Porkbragger puts them on his home page, Rep. Limelighter posts each disclosure as a separate press release while Rep. Fillibluster likes to hide the link in his 72 screen long list of legislative accomplishments (helpfully labeled, “other actions”), and you begin to see what you’re up against.

After looking at some of the postings from Rep. Norm Dicks, Rep. John Murtha and Rep. James Moran, I think it’s fair to say that some of my fears are being borne out.

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  • I just checked a handful of requests from John Shimkus (not my own rep). For the most part, he has posted copies of letters to Reps. Obey and Lewis as scanned unsearchable PDFs. Well, I don’t have the software to search them, anyway. And, except for defense authorization requests, the letters do not contain dollar amounts for the requests. What good is it if they don’t put the amount of money?