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Oberstar sets earmark wish-list rules

WASHINGTON, D.C — Rep. Jim Oberstar, who chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, will not require members to post their earmark wish lists at the time their requests are made, according to Roll Call.

Oberstar’s counterpart on the House Appropriations Committee, David Obey, D-Wis., however, has passed more stringent guidelines, requiring members to post a link to the request at the same time the request is submitted.

The difference in approach between to the two power-wielding Democrats prompted the Sunlight Foundation to ask this question: Do deadlines make a difference?

As any journalist will attest, they sure do. But this matter may be different.

First of all, Oberstar has set a “recommended” deadline of May 14. Transportation Committee Communications Director Jim Berard told Roll Call: “We are fully expecting members to comply. Members of Congress who do not [comply] are going to be called on it.”

The committee will also continue to follow other earmark reforms, including disclosure of the names of the sponsors and recipients and requiring members to certify that they have no financial interest in the earmark.

Still, as the committee prepares to take on the mammoth transportation authorization bill this session, it is well worth remembering the now infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” and “Coconut Road” earmarks, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

So, Thursday after 4 p.m. the Sunlight Reporters will begin searching through member websites for requested earmarks for the transportation reauthorization bill.

“We’ll tweet as we go along (hashtag: #wheremark), and see whether deadlines make a difference,” wrote Sunlight senior fellow Bill Allison in a blog post today. “When I looked for appropriations earmark requests, I found earmark request disclosures or indications that members weren’t requesting earmarks for 320 members). Let’s see if we find as many without the deadline.

Let the tweeting begin.

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