Due to the failure of Congress to act on President Obama’s State of the Union call for a central database of earmarks, a number of NGOs had to build one from the disjointed and disparate disclosures on congressional websites. The database of earmark requests for 2011 was diligently compiled by WashingtonWatch.com, Taxpayers for Common Sense (both Sunlight grantees) and Taxpayers Against Earmarks. They had to troll through more than 39,000 requests sprinkled across congressional websites and deal with horrible data quality issues. As Daniel Schuman expanded on earlier this year, it ain’t easy tracking earmarks.
Of course, all this labor and data inconsistency could be solved with the implementation of the Earmark Transparency Act. The bill is currently stalled in the Senate and is an important piece of legislation to update the reporting of earmarks by making the process efficient and public in a central online location. The Earmark Transparency Act could eliminate the current system of shoots and ladders that outputs crummy data and forces intrepid folks to make some sense of the approximately $130 billion of requests for this year.