Referring to the benefits of openness in government, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant."
He was right.
Since I was first elected to Congress in 1982, I have gone beyond what the law required when it comes to disclosing my financial records, my tax returns and the projects I have supported for federal funding.
Recently, Congressionally directed spending for projects - also known as earmarks - has come under scrutiny. Critics say the secrecy of the earmarking process can invite backroom deals and unethical - or even corrupt - behavior. In some well-publicized cases, they are clearly right.
Although earmarking represents less than one percent of total federal spending, these dollars have helped rebuild the infrastructure and improve the economy of communities throughout Illinois. Earmarks helped rebuild Chicago’s shoreline, protecting us from waves and floods while increasing green space along Chicago’s lakefront. Earmarks have helped improve our national security by expanding and improving the Rock Island Arsenal and Scott Air Force Base. And earmarks have helped small communities throughout Illinois receive access to health care from grants funded through my office.
I have always pursued these earmarks with transparency and honesty. Each year I requested earmarks, I would release my list of spending requests -- regardless of whether it was a $150,000 request for equipment to help a community police department or millions of dollars for biotech research that will benefit the entire nation – and put those projects funded by Congress out in public press releases for all to see.
This year, the President has stated that he will veto any legislation containing earmarks, and the House of Representatives will not pass any bills that contain them. Given these realities, the Senate Appropriations Committee has stated it will not accept earmark requests in Fiscal Year 2011 or Fiscal Year 2012. At a time of economic uncertainty in Illinois, it is regrettable that our state government and other local organizations will lose out on this funding.
However, there still exist many needs at the local level that the Federal Government may be able to help with. Please do not hesitate to contact my staff or visit one of my offices to let me know how we can be helpful in advocating on your behalf.
United States Senator