Bingaman Gets Paid to Flout Disclosure Rules

Judging by his earmark disclosures, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) seems to have said “To hell with you!” to the Senate Appropriations Committee and its earmarking rules. But the committee is doling out money to him anyway. It seems rules were made to be broken.

In March, the committee issued a press release reiterating its rules about earmarks—funding requests for special projects that go into Congress’ annual spending bills. Among other things, the rules say:

The Appropriations Committee will consider no request for spending on congressionally directed items … unless a description of the items proposed—including their purpose, location, the recipient of the funds, and an explanation of why the spending is in the interest of the taxpayers—is made publicly available on the Senator’s office website…

bingaman earmark disclosureTake a look at Senator Bingaman’s earmark requests [ugly PDF image] for the Energy & Water appropriations bill. It’s a day-late, dollar-short disaster! (Bingaman’s disclosures for other approps bills are collected here.)

Take one funding request, identified only as “Central NM 593.”

The location of the project is “Bernalillo, Valencia, and SandovaNM1 [sic] Counties.”

Its purpose and benefit to taxpayers? Just two words: “Water Supply.”

Nowhere does Senator Bingaman say who will receive the money. It’s something taxpayers might like to know, and the Senate Appropriations Committee requires its disclosure.

Based on that justification, Senator Bingaman got a million dollar payout. A million dollars for a two-word justification!

(There’s another that asks for funding in the amount of ‘8.00%’. What does that even mean?! Luckily it wasn’t funded…)

Senator Bingaman’s disclosure for the Energy & Water approps bill is just three pages long. Three pages cover 65 earmark requests, adding up to over half a billion dollars (and eight percent of something). Can a half-billion dollars in spending be justified in under three pages?

This should have received a “Stop—Do Not Pass Go—Do Not Collect $200” from the Senate Appropriations Committee. He obviously flouted their rules, denying the public visibility into his earmark requests as the committee required.

But Senator Bingaman got 14 earmarks in the Energy & Water bill, worth over $16 million. That’s $16 million for three uninformative pages.

This is transparency done wrong.

S. 3335 is a bill to require Congress to produce a database of earmark requests and earmarks. It has been reported to the full Senate by committee.