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Tag Archive: porkbusters

Rep. Moran Says Earmark Reform is a Passing Fad

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There's been a whirlwind of earmark activity of late, with the two Democratic presidential candidates joining the all-but-nominated Republican candidate in backing an effort by Sen. Jim DeMint to institute a one-year moratorium on earmarks. In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is considering a similar ban, and Rep. Jeff Flake, as anti-earmark as any member of Congress, takes it seriously enough to worry that Democrats will get the credit for ending earmarks rather than Republicans. Independent bloggers and organizations like Porkbusters, Americans for Prosperity, the National Taxpayers Union, Citizens Against Government Waste and of course Taxpayers for Common Sense deserve a tremendous amount of credit for driving this issue so hard and so long.

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When It Comes to Pork, Suspension of the Rules Means Just That

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So, on Sept. 14, the House passed a rule that aimed to bring some transparency to the earmarking process: Members names would have to be attached to the earmarks they sponsored. While the goal is worthy, it seemed to me that this particular rule was fairly modest at best, and potentially even counterproductive; since then, we've learned just how modest a reform the rules change is--it doesn't apply to earmarks already inserted in 10 of the big appropriations bills.

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Bridges to Nowhere Update

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I've noted before that the original bete noir of the anti-earmark movement, the Alaska Bridges to Nowhere, were alive and well and still receiving federal funding. Today Matt Volz of the Associated Press reports that in May 2006, the Alaska state legislature approved spending $93 million in federal money on the Knik Arm Bridge (the official site for the bridge authority is here), and then, a month later, the board of the bridge authority voted, in a closed-door meeting--some fairly large pay raises for its top executives:

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Earmark Reform Faltering

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Members of the House Appropriations Committee appear to be balking at the prospect of change in House rules that would attach the names of lawmakers to the earmarks they've inserted into spending bills. As the Times article notes, this rather modest change would apply only to the House (not the Senate), and would exempt defense earmarks (where the real money is) from scrutiny. I've noted before that there are ways around the disclosure provisions proposed in the rules change, which potentially could make it harder to identify who's getting earmarks, because lawmakers could use obscure descriptions--any company incorporated in Harrison, N.Y., in 1923--to avoid the rule's requirement that they take credit for their earmarks. Still, with all it's limitations, this measure would shine a little light on spending bills already drafted but not yet passed--even a modest disclosure measure is better than none.

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House, Senate Agree on Federal Spending Database; Bill Must Still Pass House

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The House and Senate have agreed on a version of S. 2590, the Coburn-Obama database bill. The press release indicates that the publicly available database that the legislation will create will include both federal contracts and grants (an earlier House bill, Blunt-Davis, would have disclosed grants but not contracts). The bill still has to pass the House, but it looks like it's moving forward. Here's the release:

WASHINGTON---House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.), U.S. Senators Tom Coburn (Okla.), Barack Obama (Ill.), and Tom Carper (Del.), and Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis (Va.) today announced that they have reached agreement on legislation to increase accountability and transparency by establishing a public database to track federal grants and contracts.

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