OMB adds more information to earmark database

OMB’s earmark database

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The Office of Management and Budget added two new features to the earmark database it launched in March, but it still doesn’t go far enough, critics charge.

OMB added all earmarks currently moving through the fiscal 2008 appropriations process and earmarks from selected authorization bills, including the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act and the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002.

Rob Portman, outgoing OMB director, said this is part of the Bush administration’s continued effort to “bring greater transparency to federal spending and to restrain earmarking.”

But Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, said that although the administration should be praised for improving the Web site, they need to address the narrow definition they are using of what an earmark is, and they need to track all earmarks through the authorization process, too.

“This is a great first step, and it is wonderful they are updating the database and [they] deserve credit for that,” Bass said. “But tracking targeted expenditures would be even better. Earmarks increasingly are becoming a narrow term for what is in the spending bill, but any targeting of dollars to an entity is an earmark. OMB should track if — through lobbying — contractors get money. That is an earmark, too.”

Bass also said OMB did not make the database user-friendly. He said you cannot search it by company or by name.

“It is all a bunch of click-throughs,” he said.

When the Democrats took over Congress and started calling for earmark reform, the White House jumped on board by posting data on 2005 appropriations earmarks, about 13,492 of them worth $18.9 billion. OMB launched the database in March and updated it for the first time earlier this month.

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