March 17, 2010

Give me earmarks or give me death!

For as much as they are derided, Senators do love their earmarks:

The Senate on Tuesday soundly rejected efforts to impose a ban on congressional earmarks, throwing a wrench in House efforts to significantly curtail pet projects this election year.

With 15 Republicans joining most Senate Democrats, the Senate rejected by a 29-68 vote an amendment by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) that would have established a one-year moratorium on earmarks. The measure, proponents said, would restore trust in Congress at a time when ethical controversies involving earmarks have roiled Capitol Hill.

The Sunlight Foundation has been making the case that the answer is not earmark bans but greater earmark transparency. Agreed.

What Congress really needs to do is pass real earmark reform. Earmark reform that makes the process totally transparent and encoded in rules or laws. Committee imposed rules or bans can easily be changed or circumvented — this includes the committee’s imposed rules on earmark transparency.

Congress will always find a way to wriggle out of outright bans. That is just the way it is. They will shift money around or ask colleagues to request it to "hide the money trail." Emphasizing transparency will eliminate these loopholes.