WASHINGTON – Democrat Barack Obama on Thursday revealed the 113 budget items he has requested in the Senate — known as "pet projects" or "pork" in the language of budget reform — and challenged his fellow presidential candidates to do the same.
Obama's more than $300 million in earmark requests range from $33 million made along with other senators for a nationwide project to promote civics among students to $125,000 to add turn lanes and traffic lights at an intersection in rural Oregon, Ill.
"As a matter of transparency and good government, Obama thinks it's important that voters know who their candidates are, what their sources of income are and whether they have any potential conflicts," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said. "We would hope that other candidates follow suit in disclosing their earmarks as well."
Obama is the first presidential candidate to release his earmark requests. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., is the only candidate besides Obama to release tax returns.
Earmarks are at the center of a partisan debate in Congress over ethics reform. House Republicans are demanding that Democrats live up to a promise of more openness in acting on these special projects.
Virtually all lawmakers say they have a right to use Congress' power of the purse to direct public money to their district and state. But the issue is that in recent years earmarking practices have risen sharply. In 2005, according to the White House budget office, there were 13,492 earmarks in appropriations bills totaling almost $19 billion.