Senators Introduce Earmark Database Bill

U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), John McCain (R-AZ), Russ Feingold (D-WI), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) today introduced the “Earmark Transparency Act of 2010,” a bill that meets President Obama’s call for Congress to create a single, searchable database of all congressional earmark requests.

In his January 27, 2010 State of the Union address President Obama said, “Tonight, I’m calling on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single Web site before there’s a vote, so that the American people can see how their money is being spent.” 

“While Congress has taken some steps to make the earmark process more transparent, some members and special interest groups still prefer to keep the process a secret.  The American people should not have to obtain search warrants to understand how Congress is spending their money.  I’m pleased my colleagues on both sides of the aisle have come together to answer President Obama’s call to establish a single, searchable database of all congressional earmark requests,” Dr. Coburn said.

“Earmark reform is also important because our nation is on an unsustainable fiscal course,” Dr. Coburn added.   “Earmarks are the gateway drug to spending addiction in Congress.  Earmarks not only take away dollars from more important priorities, they also take away a member’s time and attention from more pressing national priorities.  This database will help the American people make more informed judgments about how members of Congress are setting priorities.”

“Our current economic situation and our vital national security concerns require that now, more than ever, we need to prioritize our federal spending,” said Senator John McCain.  “It is abundantly clear that the time has come for us to eliminate the corrupt, wasteful practice of earmarking.  While we work toward that end – it is important that we give the American people the ability to see how their money is being spent.  Congress is accountable to the American people – this bill will go a long way toward ending the secrecy surrounding the practice of earmarking.”

“Far too often, taxpayer dollars are wasted on unnecessary projects for groups or individuals simply because they have close ties to lawmakers.  Making it easier for the American people to see who is behind these earmarks and how exactly their tax dollars are being spent will help curb wasteful spending, while exposing potential corruption.   The database created by this bill will provide the kind of transparency the American people deserve and is part of our continued effort to end the abusive earmarking process,” said Senator Russ Feingold.  

“This is not about partisan politics.  This is about making government more accountable.  I am proud to team up with Senator Coburn and my other colleagues to shine more sunlight on the earmark process.  As I work to secure New York’s fair share of federal funding to rebuild our economy and create new jobs, I’ve been proud to lead by example, and post all of my federal funding requests on my own website.  This bipartisan legislation will make this the new national standard to bring openness and transparency to the process and let all Americans evaluate the choices lawmakers are making,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.   

The Earmark Transparency Act of 2010 would do the following:

•   Create a user-friendly, online database that would allow citizens to sort, search and download earmark data;

•   Provide new details of projects.  The database would include all relevant information, including the amount of initial request, amount approved by the committee, amount approved in final legislation, sponsor name, sponsor state or district, project name, and other pertinent facts;

•   Allow the public to see what Congress sees.  The bill would require the website to include the earmark request letter written by a member of Congress and any documents supporting the request that is sent to a congressional committee; and

•   Make information available faster.  The bill would require all requested earmarks to be made public no later than five days after the request is submitted to the committee.