April 04, 2007

OMB Earmarks Database

Glenn Reynolds notes the availability of OMB's earmark database. He also complains that one cannot search by member. What he doesn't note is that OMB has generously made screen scraping unnecessary by putting the data into CSV file and allowing private entities to do the datacrunching themselves. I don't have the $$ to put up a server to do this though if push came to shove I'd probably have the skills. No doubt somebody will. It would even be possible to create a community around the earmarks to get at the ultimate achilles heel of congressional attempts to obfuscate whose feeding at the trough. For members to get the benefit of earmarks they have to tell their constituents about them, to brag that this or that project was "brought home" by the member. In order to gain the advantage of the franking privilege, such communication really needs to be district-wide. Once you have porkbuster volunteers (preferrably multiple ones) covering every congressional district, the congressmen and senators themselves will spill the beans.

These methods can be evaded by the member using his own money for postage in bragging but that dilutes pork's positive effect on reelection and even paid communications are going to be unreliable at maintaining anonymity. For all my present problems with the Bush administration's competence, this is certainly good work and well thought through. Nobody can protest that the data's being released in CSV format and all the deadly analysis work (so far as porkers are concerned) is going to be done outside the political system. Nice.

Posted by TMLutas at April 4, 2007 11:56 AM