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Tag Archive: Citizen Oversight

Omnibus Bill Thwarts Transparency, Accountability

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Regardless of what happens to the Omnibudgetbusterblusterbus bill -- sorry, my fingers slipped -- the Omnibus spending bill (made searchable by our friends at the Heritage Foundation), it's fair to say that citizen oversight of Congress (and congressional oversight of Congress, for whatever that's worth) took a shot to the chin today. The Hill's Alex Bolton reports that the bill's 3,565 pages contain somewhere between 8,983 earmarks (according to Taxpayers for Common Sense), 9,200 earmarks (according to a Senate staffer) and 11,402 earmarks (according to Heritage's excellent Ominibuster blog). There are hundreds of new earmarks previously undisclosed--115 worth $117 million in the previously "earmark free" Homeland Security bill--that have been "airdropped" in at the last minute. Rep. Marsha Blackburn just noted on C-Span (I'm watching as I type) that the bill weighs in at a hefty 35 pounds when printed. Members have only a few hours to digest all that paper before voting. The bill will appropriate something like hundreds of billions of dollars in funds. In what other arena of life do you make such momentous decisions with so little time to think? "Rush into that subprime mortgage," "buy that stock of a company you'd never heard of before," "a week is plenty of time to find out if someone is worth marrying," -- thus does our Congress decide how to spend our money. This is primarily a failure of the majority (regardless of which party is in the majority--the Republicans were equally opaque) and of leadership, which prefers to dump a monstrosity of a bill--stitched together behind closed doors--on their colleagues with no time for debate, and no time for their constituents to make their opinions known.

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Investigate Earmarks with EarmarkWatch.org!

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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.

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AFP Offers Rep. Obey Citizen Help, Oversight for Earmarks

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Via Mark Tapscott comes word of this excellent offer from our friends at Americans for Prosperity: Citizen oversight of the earmarking process. Let's all offer some our time, plus our common sense and good judgment, to Rep. David Obey, his fellow appropriators and the House Democrats so that they don't have to labor in secrecy to evaluate all those earmarks all by themselves. In a June 6, 2007, letter addressed to Obey, AFP president Tim Phillips writes,

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N.Z. Bear Opens Immigration Bill to Comments

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Via InstaPundit comes word of the latest innovation from N.Z. Bear--an annotatable online presentation of the very controversial Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007. Maybe my search skills are slipping, but I couldn't find the text of it on Thomas, Govtrack or Open Congress. Bear not only has the text, he's set it up in a way that users can comment on the text and link to specific passages, plus he's provided a table of contents. He writes,

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Are Congressional Web Sites Tools for Transparency? — 3rd Update

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Roughly 143 hours after releasing our latest citizen journalism project, we're approaching the half way mark: 265 members have been investigated by citizen journalists, 271 remain to be done. The average score has crept up over to a hair over 31 (the precise figure is 31.0471), while the average time to complete an investigation is remaining steady at seven minutes. Of the various citizen journalism projects we've launched, this one seems to require a little more patience and effort on the part of researchers, and I think I can safely say that I speak for all my colleagues here when I thank everyone who's taken on part of this project. We greatly appreciate your efforts.

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