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Tag Archive: Taxpayers for Common Sense

More on Stevens’ earmarks

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The Washington Post notes that Alaskans are fretting the potential fallout of the indictment of Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, for not disclosing more than $250,000 in gifts from VECO Corp. Taxpayers for Common Sense sums it up more succinctly:

Taxpayers for Common Sense has released the last four years of earmark data for Alaska to help create an understanding of how powerful Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) has remained as an appropriator. The new research has found that Senator Stevens has secured or played a significant role in securing more than 891 earmarks worth $3.2 billion, which comes to ...

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How confusing are earmark disclosures?

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When Rep. Neil Abercrombie requested an earmark in the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill to fund "Saddle Road Phase 5," he listed (on page two of that mega file courtesy of Taxpayers for Common Sense), the "U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii, located at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii" as the entity that was the recipient of the funds. Search the spread sheet Taxpayers compile for the list of earmarks in that bill, and only one Abercrombie request turns up: a $9 million earmark for "Access Road, Ph 1" in Pohakuloa TA.

The only thing that connects the two is the ...

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TCS makes Milcon letters available

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Last Friday, Taxpayers for Common Sense updates us on where the House is on the Appropriations process (a few weeks back the process could best be described as "nyah nyah nyah," and "I'm rubber and you're glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you,", to use the parliamentary terms favored by most members of Congress).

In that update, they posted a link to their downloadable database of earmarks from the House version of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, they've also put the request letters online.

(This is what happens when you ...

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Taxpayers for Common Sense Releases ‘Encyclopedia’ of 2008 Earmarks

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Taxpayers for Common Sense has released the ultimate compendium of 2008 earmarks available for download, accompanied by an authoritative report on the 110th Congress' earmarking practices and proclivities. I found this bit particularly noteworthy:

Lawmakers in the 73 House districts deemed “competitive” by the Cook Political Report took credit for $1.9 billion in earmarks, an average of $26 million each--about 14 percent higher than the average for non-appropriations committee members. Democrats in competitive races fared much better than their Republican counterparts, averaging $29.4 million to $23.4 million for Republicans.
The Washington Post's take on the study is here, while the New York Times weighs in here, complete with links to congressional earmark request forms. TCS' study won't be the last word on 2008 earmarks, I suspect -- just looking at the list of them, in a file aptly named bigkahuna.xls, raises all kinds of questions -- but it's definitely the can't-do-without research tool for digging into them.

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A Little More Accountability, Please

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Three watchdog groups have sent a letter to House appropriators urging more oversight of the oil and gas royalties owed to the federal government.  Friends of the Earth (FOE), Project on Government Oversight (POGO), and Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) sent the House Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations a letter calling on the appropriators to set aside additional funding to hire auditors to oversee what they called the Department of the Interior's (DOI) troubled oil and gas royalty programs.

DOI made two increases to the offshore royalty rates over the past year.  Those rate increases are ridiculous the groups say if effective auditing and enforcement functions are not in place to keep the oil companies honest, who over the past decade have been forced to pay almost $600 million in settlements for shortchanging the government in royalty payments.  Since 2000, DOI has cut the number of auditors by 45 or 15.7 percent (from 287 to 242). As the groups say in their letter, "With fewer watchdogs minding the store, oil and gas companies have fewer incentives to pay up."

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Grantees Musing

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Some of grantees are stepping out...two of them have interesting pieces published within the past several days. The (Salida, Colo.) Mountain Mail ran a column today by Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, on the total disarray the budget process is in on Capitol Hill. In June, the paper published a very informative column Ryan wrote on mining reform, which the House passed last week.

Also last week, The Chronicle of Philanthropy published Gary Bass' piece "Advocacy is not a Dirty Word". In the piece, Gary, founder and e.d. of OMB Watch, makes the case that non-profit organizations, as well as the foundations that fund them, should engage public policy as advocates. It?s a message he more fully outlines in his new book "Seen but Not Heard: Strengthening Nonprofit Advocacy".

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Earmarking: The Good, the Bad, the…..

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Yesterday, President Bush followed through on his threat to veto the Water Resources Development Act (H.R. 1495), a bill that would authorize $23 billion be spent on dam, levee and waterway projects throughout the country. Because the projects are so numerous and widespread, almost every member of Congress has a special project included, this veto might not stand.

A few weeks ago, The Politico listed all the various players have lined up pro and con on the bill and a veto. Our friends at Taxpayers for Common Sense say that the bill is ladened with earmarks making it fiscally irresponsible and applauded the president's veto. Maybe so. But this bill gives me a chance to make a point about earmarking. Just because a project is 'earmarked' doesn't mean it's bad, or wasteful, or a payoff to a political contributor. We've seen lots of stories about such questionable earmarks in recent days, but it's really, really important to remember that some earmarked funds really do go to critically important projects. Sunlight has been working with TCS on a new databases that will let you go through these earmarks easily and decide for yourself whether they are good, bad, or ugly.

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Seattle Times Creates Earmark, Political Contributions and Lobbying Database

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Sunlight's Real Time Investigations' Project has done partial investigations into the connections between earmark recipients and their political contributions, but the Seattle Times has launched a database of 2007 defense earmarks for every member of Congress compared to the political contributions they received from the recipients of those earmarks. They also included how much was spent on lobbying by the recipients. (The campaign finance information only goes back six years. It's unclear what period the lobbying money covers.) You can search by lawmaker's name or by the name of a company or nonprofit that got the earmark. You can also browse lawmakers or earmark recipients by state. (Click on the corporate names for the information on how much was spent on lobbying.)

The reporters were able to tie only about half of the 2,700 earmarks in the 2007 defense spending bill to members of Congress. And they included only items Congress funded that the military did not ask for. Even so, they found some 45,000 matches.

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