Is This Any Way to Treat Friends? - Pacific Standard

Is This Any Way to Treat Friends?

Our Lee Drutman recently reported on research that suggests earmarks are our friends (or at least not our enemies).
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In "We Should Care This Much About Earmarks? Really?" he quoted Amy Steigerwalt, a professor of political science at Georgia State University who has also studied earmarks:  "The thing I'm struck by is that everyone seems to be starting from the premise that all earmarks are bad. Like most things in the world, a simple black-and-white perception isn't true. There are certainly abuses ... but the reality is that earmarks are really the only mechanism that members can ensure that money goes to their districts in ways that are not part of larger bills."

A fun piece in Tuesday's The Hill shows that not everyone in the House of Representatives is proud of their friends - and c'mon, it's not like family, since we choose our friends. A "transparency" rule adopted by the current House requires representatives "to post, at the time of their request, detailed information on all their appropriations earmark requests on their official House websites."

They had until Saturday to do so.

As Jared Allen wrote in The Hill, "Scores of House members are hiding their earmark requests in obscure corners of their official websites - sticking to the letter of their new rule while shunning its spirit." And by 1 p.m. Tuesday, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, 71 members had either not created links to their earmarks or artfully disguised the links well enough to keep the TCS watch-hounds at bay.

Allen gave props to those who actually created a category on the Web site banners or menus called "Appropriations," including members ranging from Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel to freshman Republican Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania.

Not everyone was so forthcoming, with many members essentially burying the information "under an electronic rock," as Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense phrased it. If you're a rockhound and don't care to sniff through 435 separate Web sites (although not all members have earmarks), you'll have to wait. In the meantime, take a look at the tentative master earmarks database -- of disclosed, and, ahem, undisclosed FY09 earmarks -- being put together by the Taxpayers here.* You can also see the portal to the Taxpayers complete database for Fiscal Year 2008 here, and a federal government's version of past budget's earmarks here. TCS's view of what makes an earmark differs from that of the Office of Management and Budget, so don't expect complete similarity. (We'd guess the TCS definition passes the duck test with a higher score than the OMB's ...)

* An earlier verion of this posting indicated the federal earmark database was for the Fiscal Year 2010 budget that the representatives are 'fessing up about now. In fact, as the post now reflects, that database is for past years. There is no FY10 database yet/

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