Track US Congressional Earmarks Via Google Earth

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The Sunlight Foundation has released a KML file of US Congressional earmarks from the most recent House Defense Appropriations Bill. The file can be viewed in Google Earth or on Google Maps; I have embedded a map above.

The data comes from Sunlight’s Earmark Watch. As they describe the project in their FAQ:

Earmark Watch is an experiment in distributed research. We have provided a space on the Web that allows users to investigate and evaluate earmarks — spending provisions requested by individual members of Congress that target taxpayer dollars to specific projects and recipients — in two ways. First, they associate some basic information with the recipient of an earmark — including each recipient’s Web and physical addresses, whether the recipient has lobbied Congress or whether its executives have donated money to federal election campaigns. Second, they can provide additional research and commentary on each earmark, to help determine the extent to which members of Congress earmark funds to meet important local needs in their districts or states. Earmark Watch is a forum for citizen scrutiny and oversight of the thousands of earmarks inserted into federal spending measures. We hope to provide both quantitative data–a count of the number of earmark recipients that lobby Congress or have executives who’ve given to congressional campaigns–as well as a forum for lively debate over what constitutes a worthwhile expenditure of federal funds–which earmarks meet pressing needs, which are political favors, and which are pure pork.

Similar projects like Washington Post’s Votes Database and the UK’s TheyWorkForYou (API) scrape Congressional/Parliamentary sites to create structured data. Earmark Watch has a similar aim, but uses its users like Mechanical Turkers to create structured data. I doubt the data used in Congressional Acts could easily be read by machines.

I hope Earmark Watch adds syndication (both RSS and KML) to their site. These types of projects will come in handy during the 2008 elections, but their impact will be minimized if its not easy to share the data (like on projects like this US election mashup – via ProgrammableWeb)

[via CNET]

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