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Tag Archive: Earmark Reform

Loopholes already being sought for earmark ban

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Some House Republicans are already looking for a way around the ban on earmarks imposed on the next Congress. These members are rapidly trying to come up with a new definition for earmarks, or directed spending, to skirt the ban. Politico reports, "[S]ome Republicans are discussing exemptions to the earmark ban, allowing transportation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and water projects. While transportation earmarks are probably the most notorious — think “Bridge to Nowhere” — there is talk about tweaking the very definition of “earmark.”

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Maybe We Need Some New Ideas for Earmark Reform?

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Here's something that hasn't gotten much attention that should. Late last week, OMB Watch released a valuable background brief on earmarks that gives a good overview of the earmarking process.

Dana Chasin says that the real issue for earmarks is the lack of transparency in the process that has led to corruption. The most effective earmark reforms, Dana writes, would be timely disclosure, revealing to the public what earmarks are being proposed by what lawmakers. He makes a strong case that an outright ban on earmarks won't reduce federal spending...and that really shouldn't be the real focus since earmarked funds are a tiny fraction of the federal budget.

We at the Sunlight Foundation agree that transparency is the needed reform. The Honest Leadership and Government Act of 2007 made some important reforms by providing some of the needed transparency, particularly for the House, but there is so much more that needs to be done.

This document from OMB Watch provides some very useful guidance a set of reforms that could be achievable first steps and that might actually provide some transparency and accountability. Those are good initial goals and they might just prove sufficient.

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Congress’ Chief Admin Officer Orders Change to GOP Earmark Web Site

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Breaking News from Roll Call (sub required):

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is protesting a decision by Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard to shut down a Web site designed to bring attention to the effort to enact earmark reform.

Boehner launched the Web site, earmarkreform.house.gov, on Feb. 12. The site features news links to articles about earmark reform, along with press releases from Republican leaders calling for reform and a link to Boehner's leadership Web site.

The CAO's office had given Boehner permission to use the domain name in August 2007. But Beard sent Boehner an e-mail message on Feb. 21 informing the Minority Leader that the Web site needed to be shut down and moved to a different location with a different domain name.

Boehner sent Beard a letter protesting that decision on Thursday afternoon, asking for "a detailed explanation of the events that led your office to make this dramatic reversal."

"Changing its address now will inevitably hamper the effectiveness of the new website, much to the convenience of the majority that runs the House," Boehner writes.

In the letter, Boehner notes that the decision comes after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declined to support a Boehner-initiated call for a moratorium on all earmarks. It also comes after reports that out of the $263 million spent by House freshmen on earmarks, $237 million of that was spent by Democratic freshmen, Boehner writes.

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Earmark Season Opens

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The floodgates are open in Congress as members are ready to begin work on a new season of appropriations bills. That can only mean one thing: more earmarks. This season, being an election year, will be frought with perils and politics for many members of Congress. Today, the House Republican conference released a new Web site to fight for earmark reform, and, of course, to put Democrats in politically precarious districts on the defensive on reform and spending. Many of these Democrats are freshmen, including Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak. In CongressDaily, Sestak explains how earmarks are used to help support these targeted freshmen:

But he acknowledged that his requests for add-ons were not always given the same priority as those of more vulnerable freshmen. "I do know this," Sestak said. "Because I wasn't on Frontline. I was not on the Tier One list for earmarks."

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