Jerry Brito is an expert in open government issues at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Brito was the driving force behind the excellent Stimulus Watch website. With the help of some other notable experts, he's now turned his efforts toward earmarks, another area of government badly in need of transparency and public accountability:
Since the White House has not delivered on their promise to provide a unified database of earmarks, Brito and colleagues, Jim Harper (WashingtonWatch.com) and Gunnar Helleckson (Red Hat), have organized EarmarkData.org.
“Although Congress changed its rules to require members to disclose their earmark requests online, they don’t disclose them in a consistent way,” said Brito. “You have to hunt for where each member has placed their disclosure, so there’s no way to systematically analyze earmark data.”
EarmarkData.org is a petition that you can sign, asking the president and Congress to keep their transparency promise to give us earmark information in a useable format, says Brito. It’s also a place for techies to help refine a data standard that Congress and the administration can use.
“Earmark spending may be small, but it’s an enabler for bigger spending. It's how members are often repaid for their votes,” said Brito. “Tracking earmarks allow us to make a difference, at least on the margin. A more transparent earmark process can help underscore why we need institutional reform in Washington.”