Earmarks are a notorious vehicle for pork, in part because they lay nestled inside opaque legislative prose. In the FY2010 budget, WashingtonWatch’s crowdsourcing effort identified 40,000 separate earmarks — about 75 for every elected official.
There was a lot of talk about earmark prohibitions earlier this week, and each party swears it will be responsible with earmarks this year. But how do we hold elected officials accountable to these pledges?
Well, we can start by ensuring that earmarks see the light of day. A coalition of transparency advocates, including Sunlight Foundation, Americans for Tax Reform, OMB Watch, and OpenRegs.com all call for earmark data to be published in a standard format, so they’re easy to find, easy to understand, and easy to analyze. You can show your support here: http://earmarkdata.org/petition/
And if you’re a developer, take a look at the schema. What kind of applications could we build on top of data like this? What if I could get an RSS feed of earmarks for my elected officials as they’re reported? What if we could automatically rank the worst earmark offenders? What if we could correlate earmarks with campaign contributions automatically? The mind reels.