Sunday, January 25, 2009

Earmarks the Pig Is coming to a town near you.

AP IMPACT: Lobbyists skirt Obama's earmark ban

Obama, who campaigned promising a more transparent and accountable government, is advocating a system that will eventually let the public track exactly where stimulus money goes through an Internet-powered search engine. In addition, Democratic lawmakers have devised an elaborate oversight system, including a new board to review how the money is spent.

But none of that will happen until after the bill becomes law. Even critics of the earmarks system acknowledge that specifying projects upfront offers some measure of transparency.

"We hate earmarks, but at least it's a way of tracking where influence is had," said Keith Ashdown of the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. "There is a challenge now that projects will be added behind closed doors without a paper trail."

Indeed, some lawmakers hearing from local groups say they're doing their own lobbying of governors and state and local officials who could have say-so over the funds.

"I've talked to my governor and suggested some things I think are important in our area," said Republican Rep. C.W. Bill Young, who represents St. Petersburg, Fla. "He knows what the needs are."

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