Tester pushes next step for earmark transparency

Senator backs bipartisan bill to compile all earmarks in free, online clearinghouse

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester is again pushing to strengthen transparency in government by backing a bill to create a free, online, searchable database of all congressionally directed funding—commonly known as “earmarks.”

Tester is cosponsoring the bipartisan Earmark Transparency Act.

Tester calls the new legislation a next step in his effort to clean up Washington and boost government accountability.  The measure builds on the sweeping ethics and earmark reform law Tester supported in 2007, which ended anonymous, “dead of night” earmarks immediately after Tester took office.

“When I took office, our first order of business was cleaning up earmarks and ending abuse, bringing transparency to the process,” said Tester, the first member of Congress to post his daily public schedule on his website.  “We did that.  Now the next step is to make sure every earmark stands the scrutiny of American taxpayers in an accessible online database.  This bill isn’t just some symbolic move.  It’s real reform that will help shine a little more sunlight on our government.”

The Earmark Transparency Act—available on Tester’s website, HERE—would boost transparency by:

  • Creating a free, online, searchable clearinghouse where taxpayers can view all earmark requests and information,
  • Allowing taxpayers to search earmark requests by particular members of Congress,
  • And requiring extensive information on each earmark, including:
    • The member of Congress requesting the funding,
    • The amount of funding requested,  the amount approved by the Appropriations Committee, and the amount included in final legislation,
    • The description of the project being funded,
    • The justification for how congressional spending would benefit taxpayers.

In addition the reforms he helped pass upon taking office, Tester already posts all Montana funding requests on his website, where Montanans can track the projects and their progress, HERE.

Earlier this month Tester introduced The Public Online Information Act, which would require the Executive Branch of the U.S. government to post all public documents and records in a free, searchable online database.  The bill would also establish an independent, bipartisan watchdog advisory committee to issue guidelines for making public information accessible online.


What are earmarks?
  • An earmark is not additional spending.  It is simply a requirement to use money that already exists on a certain project.
  • The idea is to let members of Congress who are familiar with funding needs in their states make these decisions instead of unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.
  • In order to ensure that only the most worthy projects are funded, spending on earmarks has been cut in half since 2006.
What do they do?
  • Earmarks create jobs and invest in infrastructure, education, research and military bases in Montana.
  • Banning transparent earmarks does not cut the deficit.
  • Without congressionally directed spending, the funding would go somewhere else (like urban areas in California and New York) since formulas used to distribute these funds would otherwise be based on population.
How have earmarks changed since Tester took office?
  • Upon taking office, Tester helped pass the most sweeping ethics reform since Watergate, which:
    • Banned anonymous earmarks,
    • Ended “dead-of-night” earmark drops,
    • Required members of Congress to post earmarks on their websites.
  • Tester also fulfilled campaign promises by publicly posting all of his own earmarks on his website, along with his daily public schedule.
The next step: The Earmark Transparency Act:
  • Creates a free, online, searchable clearinghouse for all earmarks.
  • Allows taxpayers to search earmarks by particular members of Congress.