Sunlight has compiled a list of House earmark requests–available here–for fiscal year 2010 which were disclosed this year for the first time under new rules, but scattered across hundreds of Web sites and in nearly unusable formats.
Sunshine.gop.gov, a new House Republican site, houses a machine-readable version of the database, but the site does not allow viewers to obtain all earmarks at a glance, instead forcing them to search for terms or browse a few at a time and making analysis impossible.
By writing a computer program to automatically access the site thousands of times, the Sunlight Foundation culled the 20,000 line-items into a file usable for mining for tidbits.
Although most earmarks are special directions from particular lawmakers to an entity in his or her district, the database also includes some defense requests and other projects that, while requested by particular lawmakers, don’t directly benefit the district. Because those requests can be disproportionately large, it wouldn’t be fair to use these numbers to determine who sought the most pork.
In addition, these are requestsnot approved earmarksso they don’t represent money that’s already been spent, only indicate that steps were taken to secure funds. Still, it can be interesting to see which projects made lawmakers’ cuts.
A sample of the database:
- Three million dollars for a proposed recreation center in Ohio named after Representative Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, who passed away last year while in office, requested by Ohio Reps. Dennis Kucinich and Marcia Fudge. Earmarks for projects named after (living) lawmakersspecifically those requesting the fundshave been a sensitive subject on the Hill in the past. New York rep Charles Rangel faced an ethics inquiry in part due to a college building named after him. Maxine Waters and appropriations chairman Dave Obey got into an unusually testy argument, the Hill reported, when Obey became incensed at Waters’ insistence on an earmark for a training center previously named after her.
- Nearly $19 million in funding for ethanol plants, despite the fact that many facilities are now sitting empty, suffering from failed business models and a growing skepticism of the technology’s potential. Heavily-subsidized corn ethanol mandates are set to shrink, and second-generation “cellulosic” ethanol has so far failed to scale to production levels. Forty-eight requests totaling $70 million contain the words bio fuel, biomass or ethanol, including requests for advanced technologies such as those that would use algae to produce fuel.
- The perhaps unfortunately-named “Bridge to ER One.” While the project is designed to bolster safety in downtown Washington, DC in case of an emergency, it invokes perhaps the most infamous earmark request of all time, that for an isolatedbut expensive–“bridge to nowhere” in Alaska.
Update 9/1: The spreadsheet has been taken offline temporarily while a new field, recipient name, is being added, and while the data is vetted for accuracy. It will be posted again shortly; we regret the inconvenience. This post has also been updated to reflect that the earmark requests are for House members only.
Update 9/4: The spreadsheet is back online and now includes recipient name in addition to project title. This data source CORRECTS the previous one, which inaccurately attributed some earmarks requested by lawmakers who share last names with other members.