Update: Exposing Earmarks

It has been nearly two weeks since our first post on earmarks, and there are some interesting updates to report. The Sunlight Foundation has continued to employ new and innovative tools in its quest to expose earmarks, which often glide into law without legislative or executive review. Sunlight, which cosponsors Congresspedia with the Center for Media and Democracy, has teamed up with Human Events Online, Citizens Against Government Waste, Porkbusters.org, The Heritage Foundation, The Club for Growth, Townhall.com, and the Washington Examiner (and Mark Tapscott) to sift through the 1,867 earmarks which were inserted into the 2007 Labor-Health and Human Services appropriations bill (H.R. 5647) (an increase from only 51 last year). The collaborative effort has led to the development of a comprehensive database of the earmarks, tracking the money to the designated state and program.

Before getting into some of the specific earmarks found in the $141.9 billion bill, we first wanted to note that one or more senators have put a "secret hold" on a bill that could put some heat on the pork. The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (S. 2590), introduced by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), and John McCain (R-Ariz.), would create a database listing the name of each entity that receives federal appropriations, the amount of funds they receive, and the location of the entity. The bill has received the support of both Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), as well as Sens. such as Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.). The hold has thus far prevented the measure from coming to the floor for a vote. To read more about the search for the anonymous senator, check out the handy repository at Porkbusters.

Returning to the Labor-HHS bill, Sunlight and its partners have exposed some interesting earmarks in the 60-page piece of legislation over the past several weeks. These include:

  • $300,000 to the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame for the "Play it Smart" program in Morristown, NJ (an academic "coaching" program for high school football players).
  • $200,000 to Rhode Island College for the development of a Portuguese and Lusophone Studies program.
  • $100,000 for Cyber Seniors (specifically, the Experience Senior Power program) in Detroit, MI.
  • $1,175,000 for the Friends of the Congressional Glaucoma Caucus Foundation in Lake Success, NY.
  • Two separate earmarks totaling $700,000 to Vanguard University (a Christian college of roughly 2,000 students in Costa Mesa, CA) for facilities, equipment, and teacher training.
  • Two separate earmarks totaling $400,000 to San Francisco, CA for KIPP college-preparatory schools-----in Helena, AR and Oklahoma City, OK, respectively.
  • $80,000 to the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids, IA for upgrades to the current collection of materials.
  • $970,000 for B.J. Stupak Olympic Scholarships, designed to provide assistance to U.S. athletes who are training for the Olympics while pursuing a postsecondary education.