[T]he scorekeeper on earmarks, the Library of Congress's Congressional Research Service (CRS)–a publicly funded, nonpartisan federal agency–has suddenly announced it will no longer respond to requests from members of Congress on the size, number or background of earmarks. "They claim it'll be transparent, but they're taking away the very data that lets us know what's really happening," says Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn. "I'm convinced the appropriations committees are flexing their muscles with CRS."
Indeed, the shift in CRS policy represents a dramatic break with its 12-year practice of supplying members with earmark data. "CRS will no longer identify earmarks for individual programs, activities, entities, or individuals," stated a private Feb. 22 directive from CRS Director Daniel Mulhollan.
When Sen. Coburn and Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina submitted earmark inquiries recently, they were both turned down. Each then had heated conversations with Mr. Mulhollan. The director, who declined to be interviewed for this article, explained that because the appropriations committees and the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) were now preparing their own lists of earmarks, CRS should no longer play a role in the process. He also noted that both the House and Senate are preparing their own definitions of earmarks. "It is not appropriate for us to continue our research," his directive states.
In related news, the DC Examiner finds that Maryland pols seem awfully disinterested in another earmark transparency measure, modeled after a law Coburn passed with Barack Obama. State pork is mildly less objectionable than federal pork (better that Montgomery County tax dollars pay for a bridge in Anne Arundel than tax dollars from San Bernadino or White Plains), but the bigger picture is of politicians trying to stuff the earmark genie back in the bottle and hope no one remembers how ugly it looked.