WashingtonWatch.com Earmarks Project Drives Obama Administration Reform

I was very pleased to read in Federal Computer Week this morning that the Office of Management and Budget will begin tracking earmark requests next year for the fiscal 2011 budget cycle.

OMB makes available some years’ approved earmarks, but not the earmark requests put forward by members of Congress. Tracking and publishing requests will shed light on the whole ecosystem of congressional earmarks—the favor factory, if you will.

OMB’s move follows a project WashingtonWatch.com has conducted this summer: asking the public to plug earmark disclosures into a database. The site now maps over 20,000 earmarks. (Well, technically, that much data breaks the mapping tool, but you can see state-by-state earmark maps.)

Earlier this year, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees required their members to disclose earmark requests. These disclosures—published as Web pages and PDF documents—were not useful, but public interest in this area is strong, and the public made them useful by entering them into WashingtonWatch.com’s database.

The project isn’t over, by the way, and the current focus is collecting earmarks requested by Appropriations Committee members.

It’s great news that next year the Obama Administration will track and disclose earmarks, from request all the way through to enactment. Given his struggle in the area lately, this is a chance to score some transparency points. President Obama campaigned against earmarks, promising reform, and this is an important step toward delivering on that promise.