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Pork-barrel database is not digital

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Feb 14, 2008
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Scott Jagow: Congress has some new rules about pork. But today, a watchdog group releases a database of this year’s earmarks. And they’re still pretty hard to follow. Nancy Marshall Genzer explains.


Nancy Marshall Genzer: Congress has thrown out some crumbs for us to follow through the earmark forest. House members now have to file letters that say who got the earmarks they requested.

But Taxpayers for Common Sense Vice President Steve Ellis says you have to trek up to Capitol Hill to see them — they’re not online.

Steve Ellis: If you happen to be a citizen in Peoria and you wanted to know what your member asked for, you’d have to get on a plane to Washington to actually get those letters.

The Senate’s disclosure letters don’t even say who got the earmarks. Other earmarks escape the light of day if they’re part of intelligence bills.

Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation says the secrecy raises questions.

Bill Allison: Are members of Congress directing money to the most useful organizations, or are they directing money to the ones that have made campaign contributions to them?

There is one bright spot among the earmark shadows: The number of earmarks this year was down 23 percent.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

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