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House GOP Earmark Transparency Website Goes Dark

Updated: 8:10 p.m.

A House Republican website that provided a searchable database of federal earmark requests has disappeared.

The Web address, sunshine.gop.gov, now links only to a March news release about the House Republican Conference’s one-year earmark ban.

Republican aides who were asked Wednesday afternoon about the website’s disappearance were puzzled about what had become of it, and none could explain why it went dark.

A spokeswoman for the Sunlight Foundation said the site had been “laying low” for a while, seemingly replaced by other GOP initiatives, and had not functioned off the Hill for “some time.”

Republican Conference Vice Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), who spearheaded the project for the GOP, had high hopes for sunshine.gop.gov when it launched in August 2009.

At that time, she told reporters she hoped the site would be the “Google for major government spending programs” and a go-to site for those who wish to monitor where money goes from costly legislation, such as the stimulus bill and the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

McMorris Rodgers also pointed to the site in response to President Barack Obama’s call for disclosure of “all earmark requests on a single website” in his State of the Union address Jan. 27.

“As Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference, one of my top priorities is to increase transparency and accountability in government,” McMorris Rodgers said in a Jan. 28 statement posted on her House website. “That’s why I launched a website which enables citizens to track earmark requests by every member of Congress.”

A spokesman for McMorris Rodgers was not available for comment.

“Washington Republicans have already broken several of their ‘Pledges,’ indicated they are going to abandon their earmark moratorium next year, and are now scrapping this website,” said Doug Thornell, a spokesman for Assistant to the Speaker Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

Earmarks have been a tough issue for the GOP and one that will likely continue to plague them should they win back the majority in November.

Leaders persuaded Members in March to abstain from earmarks for one year but were criticized for largely ignoring the earmark reform issue in the “Pledge to America” governing agenda they released last month.

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) addressed earmarks briefly during a speech on government reform at the American Enterprise Institute last week but stopped short of guaranteeing a ban on the practice.

Boehner told listeners that Republicans would make a collective decision next year on whether to extend the one-year moratorium.

“I believe it is our obligation to end earmarking as we know it and bring fundamental change to the manner in which Washington spends taxpayers’ money, and I will continue to be an advocate for reforms to ensure that happens,” Boehner said.

House Democrats have largely dismissed the Republican earmark message, saying that the GOP’s past record on pork projects and spending speaks louder than any of their recent initiatives.

House Republicans led by Rep. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday asking for Democrats to leave earmarks out of any year-end appropriations bill in order to ensure taxpayer funds would not go to projects that were not properly vetted.

Editor's Note: Oct. 12, 2010

Following publication of this article, the House Republican Conference reopened a link to the archived version of the earmarks website. The site includes data from fiscal 2010 earmark requests, but not current requests.

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