Transparency for Wyden and Merkley

Jeff Alworth

After eight years of secrecy and back-room deals, this kind of transparancy is a delight to behold:

Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley announced they will post requests they receive for federal spending earmarks to allow Oregonians a chance to comment on them.

Now that the Republicans no longer control spending, we're hearing a lot about how evil earmarks are--but actually, they serve an important function in government.  They allow states to get important projects funded, projects that often provide huge benefit for relatively modest cost to the Federal government.  Being able to see what's in Oregon's hopper is a great service.

Of course, they're not all beneficial; some, like Ted Stevens' famous "Bridge to Nowhere" are pure political kickbacks.  (Evidence that the current GOP position on earmarks, following their historic binge, is hardly a moral one.)  That's why transparency is so important.  Light is a great disinfectant.

“We are now experiencing a very difficult economic stretch where tax dollars are extremely scarce at the very time that they are desperately needed to stimulate and stabilize the economy,” Wyden announced this week. “We believe that a truly transparent, inclusive appropriations process will help restore the public’s confidence in the role of Congress in rebuilding our economy and preserving our communities.”

Under the new process, organizations seeking federal funding through either senator will be asked to fill out a standardized form, which is then posted on a Web site.

 Good for you, Ron and Jeff!

  • genop (unverified)

    Isn't the process flawed though. The problem with "ear marks" is they are tacked on to often unrelated Bills which are sure to pass. They are not subject to debate and often find their way into legislation at the eleventh hour. Why not have omnibus state spending bills which contain all pet projects which could be debated and retained or eliminated on the merits?

  • (Show?)

    This is an improvement. But there is no good reason, IMHO, to fund earmarks at all. Democrats should end the practice.Better budgeting. Better politics.

    Also, since they will have earmarks, I have ideas for some. But they sent the letters, and presumably the standard forms, "to all cities, counties and prior appropriations requesters." The usual requesters have been part of the problem. New ideas and projects are needed. I could not find the application forms online. And the February 23rd deadline is a bit tight.

    Again, it is an improvement. How about BlueOregon putting the requests online for comment and priority voting.

  • LT (unverified)

    Dave, if your town is ruined by a natural disaster (think Vernonia), how would you suggest federal funding be voted on? Or beyond a presidential declaration is it tough luck for the destroyed town?

    It is one thing to fund a Bridge to Nowhere without public discussion.

    It is another thing to say no public money will go to rebuild a bridge in Minn. because it was their own fault it collapsed.

  • Anton (unverified)

    Jeff, what happen to the transparency regarding the stimulus bill? Seemed to be the same ole backroom deals and secrecy that occured during the last administration as you claim in your article. Is this just more of the same and change was only a campaign promise that would be slowly forgotten as time went by. I really don't feel like being taken for another ride. However, I will hope for the change and expect nothing different.

connect with blueoregon