To the editor:
Last month, I posted to my congressional Web site a list of my 2008 federal appropriations requests, making me one of only a handful of the 435 members of Congress to publicly disclose this information. Frankly, my friends and colleagues in the House of Representatives told me that this was a dangerous move. They said that releasing my requests would leave me vulnerable to political potshots, that the smarter idea would be to sit quietly on my earmark requests, cutting off the public from the budget process and shielding myself from debate.
Keeping quiet would certainly have been the political safe ground, but I felt it would be a violation of the public interest. So I posted the list to my Web site, hoping to promote a public discussion of the earmarking process. On that point, I seem to have succeeded.
A special interest group called the Americans for Prosperity has called attention to one particular request to help fund a proposed Kansas Regional Prisons Museum. After carefully reviewing the group's claims, I continue to believe that the Regional Prisons Museum is in the best interest of Kansas. Prison guards work a dangerous, difficult law enforcement job, and they deserve recognition for their sacrifices. The prison industry is vital to the economy and culture of northeast Kansas, and it too deserves recognition. And the museum would generate good-paying jobs in Lansing, something I believe every Kansan supports.
Even though I disagree with the Americans for Prosperity's opposition to the Regional Prison Museum, I appreciate their joining the conversation on earmark accountability. That's exactly the dialogue I hoped to start by releasing my appropriations requests, and I urge the four members of the Kansas Congressional delegation who have not disclosed their requests - Rep. Todd Tiahrt, Rep. Jerry Moran, Sen. Pat Roberts and Sen. Sam Brownback - to join me in opening their work to public comment.
Member of Congress