And the Earmarks Contest Winner Is . . . !
When it started back in mid-July, I had no idea of the response our earmark hunting contest would get. But people showed up to this party! Earmarks have definitely touched a nerve across the country.
With the help of some good articles and blog posts, and plenty of word of mouth, people went to work chasing down the earmark requests that members of Congress and senators were required to post online this year. They posted them in such an odd collection of formats that the data was no good.
By collecting them in our database, we made this information useful. Now you can sort earmark requests by state and member of Congress/senator. Take a look at who your representative is seeking dollars for.
Have we finished the job? Not entirely. We’re still working to correlate the earmarks that were requested to the earmarks that made it into bills. Approved earmarks were reported without any reliable link to requests, so there are a lot of judgment calls about which earmark requests were granted.
Our data is also imperfect. We’re still missing a few earmark requests, for example, and some earmarks were entered in our database multiple times. But on the whole, we’ve brought a lot more transparency to the earmarking process.
Take a look at the Commerce/Justice/Science spending bill. All the Senate earmarks are in there—and there are a lot!
Best of all, our example has been recognized by the White House. The Office of Management and Budget announced in August that it would track earmarks starting with the next budget cycle. They can do a better job of requiring and tracking earmark requests all the way through the process.
But let’s talk about those top earmark hunters! They and many others invested an extraordinary amount of time so that all Americans could have a more transparent government. The winners cited below—and everyone who helped out—deserve our thanks and praise.
So let’s get to the thanking and praising! The winners are . . .
Top of the heap—by quite a margin—is “ArtsyAndi.” Andrea Osiek is a 29-year-old new mom. She and her husband Jason live in Joplin, Missouri. They met online in 2002 and were married in June 2005.
For the past five years, Andi has worked as the Marketing and Public Information Director for Economic Security Corporation, an anti-poverty not-for-profit in Southwest Missouri. It was this work that contributed to her interest in earmark reporting.
“Our agency runs over 37 assistance programs for homeless and low-income individuals and families,” she told me, adding that none of them are earmarked. “If we can eradicate excessive (and unnecessary) spending, it will free up more money for programs who work hard to prove their value. On both a professional and personal level, mandatory and truly transparent reporting just seems to make sense.”
I couldn’t have said it better. Andi entered over 13,500 earmarks in our database. Ars Technica featured her in a story on our earmarks project (using her maiden name, Brown).
Andi is also the co-founder of (and web designer for) a Kansas City-based web site called BabyBumps.net. Go there now! Tell all your friends!
Our second place winner prefers to remain anonymous (and I didn’t lean on him for info like I did Andi). The iPod shuffle goes to “doi76.”
His brief comment about the contest? “I am glad I could be a part of it. It was interesting to see how the money will be wasted.”
Doi76 entered over 8,500 earmark requests.
Third place—the deluxe fruitcake—goes to “lgist.” His motivation for participating was his firm commitment to public service, which has deepened since the loss of his daughter, and he asked that recognition for his work go to her memory. He entered more than 6,000 earmark requests. We thank him for his work and offer our condolences on his profound loss.
On the lighter side, lgist asked that his winnings be donated back to WashingtonWatch.com or delivered to the Speaker of the House of Representatives. I may just send that fruitcake over to the capitol!
The remaining honorable mentions in our contest are:
#4 – Transparency Guru: curlymanster
#5 – Open Government Maven: sdwalker
#6 – Accountability Czar: ZachV
#7 – Earmark Stalker: bgarst
#8 – Pursuer of Good Government: bias
#9 – Congressional Conscience: HansP
#10 – Fully Qualified Data Entry Clerk: jwbjerk
Again, thanks to everyone who participated in the contest. The project will make available to millions of Americans information about how their money is spent in Washington, D.C. Together we are improving the way our government works. Thanks to the White House commitment to take this project over, here’s to not doing it again next year!