There's more earmark money in Defense appropriations bills than anywhere else, and the members of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee have their hands on the spigots. Over at RealTime, Anu finds something surprising: While three members, Rep. John Murtha, Rep. Jim Moran and Rep. Pete Visclosky took in an average of more than $100,000 in political donations from employees and PACs of the companies to whom they directed earmarks in the first half of 2007, the remaining members averaged a paltry $12,800. Why the disparity? Will the contribution totals from earmark recipients to the campaigns of their benefactors increase when the Federal Election Commission receives the next round of disclosure reports? Are Murtha, Moran and Visclosky more beloved by their earmark recipients? Find out who gave to the politicians, who got the earmarks and what they were for. Anu relied on earmark data from EarmarkWatch.org (generously supplied by our partners, Taxpayers for Common Sense), campaign finance data from both the Center for Responsive Politics and the FEC.Continue reading
The Cincinnati Enquirer shines a light on the federal dollars hauled in by Greater Cincinnati's nine-member House and Senate delegation. When it comes to delivering the pork, the paper found that Sen. Mitch McConnell is the area's most powerful member. McConnell, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, hauled in $391 million in federal funding for local projects in budget bills being worked on in Congress, more than 1½ times the amount that the area's other eight lawmakers got -- combined.
In a dramatic contrast, House Minority Leader John Boehner is a teetotaller. He doesn't believe in earmarks and hasn't asked for any money for local projects in the 13 spending bills that make up the federal budget.
The Enquirer built their own search engine that allows readers to search what earmarks local members have gotten in spending bills that are pending in Washington. Update: It bears mentioning that the database shows just how lousy the new Senate disclosure requirements on earmarks is. There are no company names. Just a general description of what the money should be spent on. The Enquirer writes about Earmark Watch, a joint project of Taxpayers for Common Sense and the Sunlight Foundation.
Kudos to The Enquirer. Hopefully more papers will do the same and start following what their congressional delegation is doing with our money.
Looks like our colleagues over at Taxpayers for Common Sense are getting fed up about earmarks. In the case of Rep. Don Young’s $10 million earmark to benefit a Florida political contributor, they have filed a complaint with the House Ethics Committee. TCS raises the question over how the earmark found its way onto the 2005 transportation bill after it had passed both houses of Congress.Continue reading
Wondering where the Senate Defense earmarks are in EarmarkWatch.org? Though our collaborators and friends at Taxpayers for Common Sense have compiled a list here, one thing you'll notice is that, unlike the House Defense earmarks contained in Earmark Watch, the Senate disclosures don't list the actual recipient of the earmark, but rather generic project names. So while we know that Sen. Maria Cantwell and Sen. Patty Murray earmarked $2 million for "U.S. Army Extended Cold Weather Clothing System [ECWCS] Hand Protection System" (gloves, presumably), we don't know who will be making those gloves, whether the glovemaker hired lobbyists or had its executives contribute to Cantwell and Murray's campaigns, or were otherwise hand-in-glove with their earmark bestowers. That's because of a slight change in wording that was made in the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, one that the Senate, apparently, prefers--and which all but does away with meaningul earmark disclosure. Read on for more details...Continue reading
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
Every private entity that Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) favored with an earmark in this year’s defense bill recently has given political money to the lawmaker, according to an analysis of House Appropriations and federal elections records by Roll Call and Taxpayers for Common Sense. PACs and employees of those 26 groups together have contributed $413,250 to Murtha since the beginning of 2005. He collected nearly a quarter of the sum — $100,750 — in the two weeks leading up to March 16, the original deadline for lawmakers to file their earmark requests.Murtha's not alone in this. Anu ran contribution numbers from earmark recipients favored by Rep. James Moran, a fellow appropriator, for the current election cycle: companies that are in line to receive some $24 million in earmarks contributed $75,800 to Moran's campaign committee. We didn't even get around to running the numbers for his leadership PAC yet. [Update: After running the PAC numbers, Anu found that contributions figure rises to $99,900...] Continue reading
Check out this Bill Moyers expose on earmarking in Congress (unfortunately this is not the whole video). Steve Ellis, from Taxpayers for Commonsense, is interviewed and the Sunlight Foundation's earmarking data is used in a graph at the beginning of the video.Continue reading
Taxpayers for Common Sense, a grantee of the Sunlight Foundation, last week released the first of two reports on what can only be described as the good, the bad, and the ugly of earmark reform. Their first analysis gives a roundup of what actions the House took and didn't take.
TCS gives credit to the House for the volume of information now available but takes the House to task for the way it has provided it. The data dumps allowed TCS to get its its excellent databases up before the final vote on almost every bill but frankly they had to work too hard to do it. I mean, if the House and Senate are going to provide this infomation why not just do it in a database form themselves? Why do nonprofits have to take raw data and put the data in a form so real people can actually use it?Continue reading
Talking Points Memo's Muckraker has a stunning post from Laura McGann and Paul Kiel about U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) and his cross-country money fundraising tour. In 2005, a huge transportation bill was being assembled in Congress, and Young, as chair of the House Transportation Committee, used the opportunity to travel the country reaping in campaign cash. Developers and other business executives from Florida to Wisconsin turned the famous line from the film "Field of Dreams" on its head, "If he comes (and we give him loads of cash), they will build it."A $40,000 fundraiser in Florida resulted in funding for an interchange. A series of contributions totaling $22,000 from a Wisconsin trucking company executive and his associates resulting in the chairman inserting favorable trucking legislation in the bill. Arkansans contributed $66,000 to Young and were rewarded with a $72 million extension of an interstate. Also in Arkansas, Wal-Mart's PAC and execs gave Young $14,000 and suddenly a $35 million widening of the street leading to Wal-Mart's headquarters in Bentonville found its way into the bill. And the New Jersey Alliance for Action held a luncheon for Young, where he collected $29,500 in contributions. The Garden State was rewarded with 179 earmarks totaling $550 million, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense. Now that's a lot of action!
I don't know what databases TPM used to explore these connections beyond those of earmarks at Taxpayers for Common Sense, but I'd wager they were looking at numerous ones at the Center for Responsive Politics too. There's gold in those numbers.
Obviously, this type of legal bribery is not unique to Young. But it is shocking, nonetheless, when it's exposed in all of its gore. The temptations are great to misuse the power that resides with committee chairs. This is why openness and transparency is key to keeping Congressional leaders honest. We hope the new earmark disclosure requirements help. Congress can and should take other important steps. Both parties, on taking control of Congress, pledged to end corruption. But history has shown the temptations too enticing to resist. Transparency is the means for Congress to protect itself from...Well, itself.Continue reading
Just before I left town for a two-week break, Sunlight announced its first round of grants for 2007, totaling just over $200,000. On my return, I realized that we hadn't posted anything about them -- other than a press release -- and so our readers might have missed the news. We are staying the course in terms of the kind of investments were are making with the money going to organizations that are using new "Web 2.0" technology to further the organization's mission of putting information into citizens' hands to increase transparency in Congress. We believe that our grantees are on the cutting edge of work that will open up our legislative branch.Continue reading