Monday, November 13, 2006

Earmark Reform

Nancy Pelosi promises that House Democrats will require sponsors of earmarks to be identified. This would maintain a GOP rule that was adopted but had not taken effect in the Congress about to end.

In the meantime, it's suddenly big news that Harry Reid has been sponsoring legislation that enriches people close to him. In this case, the enriched person is himself.

This brings to mind a reform that House Republicans should push for: require earmark sponsors to answer whether they themselves, or any individual or interest known to them, will gain financially by the earmark requested. Require lawmakers also, to specify any personal connection to the recipient of the earmark.

This would make it harder to request earmarks, as lawmakers would need to 'scrub' the request more fully before making it. They would need to do a little due diligence to determine if they had any personal connection to the grantee. Further, in cases where they are already aware of a clear connection (such as that the grantee is a campaign donor), they might think twice before making the request.

Critics might say that lawmakers could not be expected to list every potential connection that they might have to an earmark recipient, and I think that could be true. But if it the public learned after the fact that a lawmaker failed to disclose some connection, the voters themselves could decide whether the explanation passed the 'smell test.'

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