June 19, 2007

Open House?


From CNN: Despite promises, few in House make earmark requests public.

Despite the new Democratic congressional leadership's promise of "openness and transparency" in the budget process, a CNN survey of the House found it nearly impossible to get information on lawmakers' pet projects.

Staffers for only 31 of the 435 members of the House contacted by CNN between Wednesday and Friday of last week supplied a list of their earmark requests for fiscal year 2008, which begins on October 1, or pointed callers to Web sites where those earmark requests were posted.

Of the remainder, 68 declined to provide CNN with a list, and 329 either didn't respond to requests or said they would get back to us, and didn't.

"As long as we are not required to release them, we're not going to," said Dan Turner, an aide to Rep. Jim McCrery, R-Louisiana.

Seven members of the House said they had no earmark requests.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Illinois, released a list of his earmark requests on Monday.

In 2006, Congress approved a record $29 billion in earmarks -- those spending requests derided as "pork" that fund everything from road construction and research grants to ski lifts and minor league baseball diamonds. Legislators view these projects as important proof that they are serving their constituents back home.

The 2006 total was 6.2 percent more than 2005's $27.3 billion.

When Democrats regained control of Congress last fall, they promised to create the most honest, open Congress in history.

"We will bring transparency and openness to the budget process and to the use of earmarks," Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi said in December 2006, "and we will give the American people the leadership they deserve."

Democrats said that Republicans had corrupted the earmark process while they controlled Congress.

Earlier this year, the House implemented rules changes that require greater disclosure of earmark requests, and the Senate passed a bill that would require lawmakers to post a list of their earmark requests on the Internet. The bill, however, has not passed the House.

Posted by Forkum at June 19, 2007 03:23 PM