The Washington Post has melded a few bits of internet technology and produced something both interesting and useful for fiscal hawks this week. Titled, Capitol Assets: Mapping the earmarks, this handy little tool combines previously published news articles on potential earmark corruption with Google Maps to lay out a visual display of some of the worst possible offenders around the nation. It defaults to whichever subject is closest to where you are viewing it from. For example, in my case, it defaults to the soon to be retired Congressman Maurice Hinchey and his Partition Street Project.
In Saugerties, a village in upstate New York, Hinchey in 2005 earmarked $960,000 to upgrade downtown streets. In 2009, he secured $800,000 to overhaul sewer lines. Hinchey is a partner in a hotel development in the heart of the village and values his interest at $250,000 to $500,000. Hinchey’s spokesman said “the congressman has a less than 1 percent stake” in the project and it “is several blocks from the crosswalks and does not connect to the sewer lines set to be repaired …. There is no conflict of interest.”
I don’t know why the Post would want to give me indigestion this early in the day, but that one is certainly a familiar story to me. When I was helping to orchestrate the campaign of his opponent in the 2010 election, we were beating the drums on this story pretty much non-stop. The media, however, took a mysteriously hands off approach to the subject with only one or two exceptions in local outlets. But when the book Throw Them All Out by Peter Schweizer was published, no less than three different reporters called me to ask if I had any good information on it from our previous battle. (My response was a likely less than charitable bit of grumbling about how it might have been nice if they had displayed that sort of curiosity when Hinchey was still running for office.)
There are plenty of other politicians on the map, though, including an interesting tidbit on $50M in earmarks by Nancy Pelosi.
Over the past decade, the House minority leader helped secure $50 million in earmarks toward a light-rail project that provides direct access to San Francisco’s Union Square and Chinatown for neighborhoods south of Market Street. Pelosi’s husband owns a four-story commercial building blocks from Union Square. These earmarks were reported in the book “Throw Them All Out.” A Pelosi spokesman said the project was requested by community leaders and that the new stations on the line will be farther away from the building than those on the existing line.
There’s plenty more where those came from, so flip through and find the ones closest to your neck of the woods. You never know what might come in handy this summer.