The Washington Watch Web site has launched a mapping site that takes and maps congressional earmarks. Wikipedia defines an earmark as “a congressional provision that directs approved funds to be spent on specific projects or that directs specific exemptions from taxes or mandated fees.” I thought the definition was more pejorative than that, but this is fairly neutral, an objective determination whatever you may think of the actual practice.
So anyway, Washington Watch is at http://www.washingtonwatch.com/bills/earmarks/ and at this writing has over 7,000 earmarks mapped. The front page has a map you can browse, or you can choose a state and/or representative whose marks you want to browse.
Choosing a state gets you a list of earmarks that includes a one-line summary of the earmark, the name of the recipient (company or institution), and the amount of money requested. The amount of money varied a lot — I saw requests for over five million bucks and I saw one for $4. (That’s right, $4. Got to be a typo, huh?) Click on a summary line and you’ll get a Wiki page of information about the earmark, including the contact information for the recipient company/institution and a more extensive summary. And because this is a Wiki, there’s a place to edit points in favor and points against the earmark. You may also leave a comment about the earmark. (Unfortunately most of the ones I looked at did not have comments.)
To the write of the information about the earmark are lists of things you can do about it. You can vote on it (yes/no), you can send out social media alerts on it, you can contact your representative about it, or you can send out an e-mail alert. An RSS feed lets you keep up with comments on a particular earmark.
The process of gathering up earmarks and information is still ongoing. Interested visitors are themselves invited to add earmarks to the database, using the form at http://www.washingtonwatch.com/earmarks/. There’s actually a contest going on; the top three enterers of earmarks will win, respectively, a Kindle, an iPod Shuffle, and, for some reason, a fruitcake.
There’s a lot of data here — and if enough people want to win a fruitcake there’s going to be even more — but you know what I’d really like to see? Badges. It would be nice if you could take a particular earmark and get a “This sucks!” or “This rocks!” badge, depending on your point of view. Actually some of these earmarks make me think I’d like to go a little further up the indignation scale…