We've been reporting on all the debate over earmark requests. At issue is when and how members of Congress would tell the American people what they've requested.
Many of their projects are worthwhile, at least in the districts where they are needed: road projects, funding for a library, etc...
But then again, a lot of those earmarks are really just good old-fashioned congressional pork. We've told you about a few: bridges to nowhere, and renovations at a fancy Florida hotel, even a $500,000 facelift for a ski lift in Alaska.
Before Democrats came to power in the recent election, they vowed to fix the broken earmark process. They promised complete transparency. No secret spending, no backroom deals, and presumably no more bridges to nowhere.
Wisconsin Democrat David Obey, head of the House Appropriations Committee, even said on the house floor that he is "trying and so is our leadership to reduce earmarks by at least 50 percent."
Watchdog groups have told me the best way to reduce earmark requests (requests for your tax money) is to expose them early and often. The theory is that a member of Congress would think twice about what he or she is requesting, if the request itself would be made public.
Enter our intrepid interns. Their task: Call every member of congress and ask them to hand over their earmark requests.
After three days of actually calling each and every House office, 34 members of congress -- just 34 -- sent us their earmark requests.
But since then, a wave of pressure has apparently changed some minds. Our report caught the attention of political bloggers demanding Congress release its requests, The Chicago Tribune ran an editorial asking why members of the Illinois delegation were being so secretive, and today, Barack Obama raised the stakes in the presidential race by being the first in the race to release his requests.
Our results as of this writing:
- 45 have turned over their requests.
- 68 flat out refused.
- 6 told us they did not request any earmarks.
- But the majority, 316, never responded.
Want to see how your Representative responded? You can check them out in our web listing. And do me a favor. If your congressperson hasn't gotten back to us, you might want to send them a note asking why. After all, it's their plan for your money. Shouldn't you know what they want to do with it?
-- By Drew Griffin, CNN Correspondent