Isakson joins call for earmark database

A Georgia senator is joining a bipartisan effort to create a user-friendly, online database to allow citizens nationwide search congressional earmark requests.

“One of the problems we have in Congress with spending is spending money on projects that shouldn’t be funded with tax dollars,” Sen. Johnny Isakson said in a news release. “We must establish transparency and disclosure in the appropriations process.”

The so-called Earmark Transparency Act of 2010 would include information about the request, including the request’s amount, the amount a Congressional committee approves and the amount approved in the final version of the approved legislation, according to the senator. In addition, the data would include the any letters that members of Congress send requesting the earmark.

“Taxpayers often hear from their elected officials that earmarks are good and bring back federal dollars to their district,” The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) said in a letter supporting the bill. “They ignore the basic fact that earmarks are awarded outside of the normal budget process, without competition, and often based on political power. This comprehensive database will allow taxpayers to see exactly how earmarks are awarded and where their hard-earned dollars are being spent.”

Isakson contends the proposed legislation falls in line with President Obama’s previous commitment to publicize earmarks before a final vote.

“Earmarks that members do seek must be aired on those members’ websites in advance, so the public and the press can examine them and judge their merits for themselves,” Obama said in March 2009. “Each earmark must be open to scrutiny at public hearings, where members will have to justify their expense to the taxpayer.”

In the 2010 Congressional Pig Book, Citizens Against Government Waste said it identified 9,129 earmarks totaling $16.5 billion.

“Despite new rules that require members to post earmark requests on their websites, CAGW still identified 81 anonymous earmarks worth $6.5 billion,” CCAGW, the lobbying arm of Citizens Against Government Waste, said in its letter. “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.”

Isakson is co-sponsoring the bill with Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Wis.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; and Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

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