Policy Group Calls for Earmark Transparency

Policy Group Calls for Earmark Transparency

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Tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer monies are routinely funneled to congressional districts each year, earmarks directed to cover the cost of a special project or destined for an organization in the state or district where a member of Congress serves.

Piggy BankThe Sunlight Foundation, an educational organization who goal is to increase transparency in the United States Congress, describes an earmark as, “…an item that is inserted into a bill to direct funds to a specific project or recipient without any public hearing or review.” They also note that one of the problems is that there is no transparency or accountability in the system as it currently stands.

Taxed Taxpayers

Americans are fed up with wasteful spending and are pressuring their representatives to do something about this. Critics have lobbed their complaints at both sides of the political aisle, letting Democrats and Republicans know that they’ve seen enough.

The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, the lobbying arm of the Citizens Against Government Waste group, is applauding a pair of House and Senate bills co-sponsored by Republicans and Democrats, designed to put more stringent transparency on Congressional earmarking. S. 3335 and H.R. 5258 comprise The Earmark Transparency Act of 2010 that would create an online, searchable, user-friendly database allowing taxpayers to view all earmark requests in a centralized location.

Billions Earmarked

In their letter of support for the bill, the CAGW identified 9,129 earmarks worth $16.5 billion in the 2010 Congressional Pig Book. Although new rules that requiring members to post earmark requests on their websites are in place, the CAGW managed to identify 81 anonymous earmarks worth $6.5 billion. The CAGW says, “It is time lawmakers take full responsibility for their profligate behavior. Making the earmarking process more transparent will be a step in the right direction toward increasing accountability and minimizing reckless spending.”

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), and Reps. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) are behind the legislation ready for consideration. Thanks to groups such as the CAGW and the Sunlight Foundation, perhaps earmarks will eventually become an uncommon occurrence, but only if taxpayers remain vigilant.

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