An Effort to Restrict Classified Earmarks

01.18.07 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The use of the national security classification system to conceal “earmarks” — targeted allocations of funds — that are self-serving or corrupt would be eliminated if a proposal by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) becomes law.

The proposal was offered as an amendment to Senate bill S. 1, the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007, which is pending in the Senate.

“The amendment prohibits any bill authorization or appropriation from containing an earmark in the classified portion of that bill or accompanying a report, unless there is unclassified language that describes in general terms the nature of the earmark. The amount of the earmark is disclosed and the sponsor of the earmark is identified,” Sen. Feinstein explained.

“This amendment would provide the public with the assurance that the classified parts of the defense and intelligence budgets–which are indeed large–are subjected to the same scrutiny and openness as everything else.”

“The need for the amendment was made clear by the actions of former Congressman Duke Cunningham. According to a report by the House Intelligence Committee, Cunningham was able to enact a staggering $70 million to $80 million in classified earmarks over a 5-year period. These earmarks benefited his business partners and were not known to most Members of the Congress or the public,” Sen. Feinstein said on January 16.

The fate of the Legislative Transparency bill was uncertain after Republican Senators objected to a Democratic refusal to consider an amendment concerning a line-item veto.