As required by rules instituted last year, members of Congress are posting their earmark requests online. And in a small improvement over past practice, the House Appropriations Committee is posting links to all those pages (in alphabetical order and by state). The Senate Appropriations Committee is doing the same.
So, great. You can go line-by-line and figure out what requests your member of Congress has put in. But what’s the total number of your members’ requests? What’s the total amount of his or her requests? Who requested the most earmarks, in dollars or in number? Where in your district is the money supposed to go?
HTML pages and PDF documents are very hard to work with and don’t allow us to answer these questions. The Earmarkdata.org project is asking Congress to produce information about what it’s doing in formats that are useful for public oversight. Cato’s December 2008 policy forum on this topic was called “Just Give Us the Data!”
The Earmarkdata.org site has a petition people can sign to ask their representatives to produce good earmark data.