Roll Call is reporting that Rep. David Obey and Sen. Daniel Inouye, the chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations... View ArticleContinue reading
Noted curmudgeon David Obey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, yesterday issued a disobliging statement towards the cause of transparency.... View ArticleContinue reading
Sen. Ted Stevens has served as senator from Alaska for most of his life and nearly all of the state’s... View ArticleContinue reading
Call it the Opaqueness in Government Act. A provision slipped into H.R. 3074 of the Transportation/Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill would bar the Department of Transportation from "using any funds from this Act to provide a congressional budget spending any delay public access to the budget justifications--which provide specific descriptions of and reasons to spend taxpayer money on specific projects--for several months after they're released. Members of the Appropriations Committee, by contrast, would get the documents right away. In other words, congressional appropriators are saying, "Now we see it, now you don't." Well, it's not as if average citizens across the country have much of an interest in finding out if adequate funds will be available to maintain the roads and bridges, airports and so on in their own districts... Some more background on the provision is available here.
Wondering who's getting all the earmarks? Who's giving them and why? Do earmarks meet pressing needs or pay off political favors? And which are pure pork? EarmarkWatch.org, an innovative new tool from the Sunlight Foundation and Taxpyers for Common Sense, lets you find out for yourself. Using EarmarkWatch.org, you can exercise citizen oversight of Congress. Dig into the 47 earmarks worth $166,500,000 that Rep. John Murtha inserted (and figure out which benefit campaign contributors). Or take a close look at the $100,000 earmark that Sen. David Vitter secured for an organization that promotes creationism in Louisiana schools. Or the $37 million in earmarks that include defense giant Northrop Grumman as a beneficiary. Right now, you can investigate earmarks from the House Defense Appropriations Bill and the House and Senate versions of the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bills. Using a host of online resources, you can find out whether recipients of earmarks hired lobbyists, made campaign contributions to members of Congress, or won federal contracts and grants. You can also add information to eamarks others have researched, or comment on what others have found. EarmarkWatch.org provides you with powerful tools to scrutinize and evaluate thousands of earmarks. To get started, create an account and pick an earmark.Continue reading
(Cross-posted from the Open House Project blog.)
The Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill (reported out of committee on June 21st) provides a revealing look into the priorities that Congress sets in funding its own operations. The House and Senate pass separate appropriations bills; this page on THOMAS organizes the appropriations bills for each fiscal year in a remarkably useful manner.
While the majority side of the Senate Appropriations committee did include a brief review of their bill (as did their House counterpart), I’d like to give my impressions of the appropriations from the perspective of an advocate for public access and transparency, using the Senate report as a guide. (The Republican websites don’t feature any press releases, which isn’t surprising, given the minority’s smaller staff and budget, comparative lack of clout in controlling committee functioning, and their opportunity to add dissenting views to the report, as I discovered in reading the House report.)Continue reading
Andy Roth of the Club for Growth quotes Sen. Robert Byrd on the Senate floor: "Hear me now! There is nothing, nothing, nothing inherently wrong with earmarks." Absolutely, Senator, so it would go without saying, one would presume, that no member of Congress could conceivably have any reason to object to taking responsibility for his own earmarks by attaching his or her name to each and every one of them, as well as the name of the beneficiary of the taxpayer largesse. Does the Senator, in other words, agree that there is nothing, nothing, nothing inherently wrong with transparency and accountability?Continue reading
What caught my eye in this morning's Washington Post puff piece on just how much of a maverick Senator-elect James Webb will be was the tidbit that he's hired Paul J. Reagan, a registered lobbyist and former staffer for Rep. Jim "earmark the s--- out of it" Moran. The McGuire Woods LLP bio of Reagan tells us, "In addition to managing Moran’s staff and offices, Paul also handled press and coordinated appropriations issues." (emphasis added.) Reagan's new job with Webb will be to "help his boss navigate the intricacies of Washington and Capitol Hill without losing the essence of his personality," as the Post's Michael D. Shear effervescently puts it.Continue reading
Robert Novak has more on the backdoor maneuvering and dust-up between Sen. Tom Coburn and Sen. Ted Stevens over the issue of disclosing earmarks that he'd alluded to earlier. Coburn sponsored a measure that would require the Pentagon to issue report cards on the utility and effectiveness of projects earmarked by members of Congress; Stevens didn't care for the scrutiny. The intra-party squabble doesn't interest me so much as the bottom line:
The earmark process enables the congressional-industrial complex to fund projects the military does not want. This year's bill appropriates money to buy 10 unrequested C-17 Globemaster cargo planes from Boeing. It also funds 60 F-22A Raptor stealth fighters, not supported by the Pentagon and opposed by McCain and Sen. John Warner, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman. F-22A appropriations are guaranteed for three years, reducing leverage with contractor Lockheed Martin. Continue reading