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Shelley Moore Capito releases list of 'earmarks'

June 21, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

TRI-STATE - Of the $92.5 million in pet-project funding that U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia is seeking, about 15 percent is for the Eastern Panhandle.

Capito's office released her list of fiscal year 2008 funding requests, or "earmarks," Wednesday, one day after the office of U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland released his.

The third House member representing the Tri-State region - U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania - won't make his requests public before an appropriations committee approves them, said his press secretary, Jeff Urbanchuk.

The Herald-Mail asked all three representatives' offices for their lists Tuesday in light of a brewing debate about divulging funding requests before they are approved. Some members of Congress have decided, for the first time, to make their request lists available.

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Bartlett, R-6th, released a statement Tuesday saying he has traditionally followed the protocol of waiting until requests were approved before letting the public know what they were.

Bartlett attributed his change of heart to "greater public interest and the support of Republicans to reform the Congressional budget process."

The $13.7 million Capito, R-2nd, requested for Eastern Panhandle projects includes $7 million for STS Technologies to carry out a "counterinsurgency biometrics" program in Morgan County. "This program establishes technology that will provide tactical forces the capability to accurately identify in real time persons of interest using biometrics," a summary from Capito's office says.

Webster's New World College Dictionary defines biometrics as "that branch of biology which deals with its data statistically and by mathematical analysis."

Also of local relevance on Capito's list are $4 million to extend Raleigh Street in Martinsburg and $1.5 million to help rebuild the Morgan County Courthouse, which was destroyed in a fire last year.

Barlett's $322.51 million in funding requests included $277.05 million for military projects and $45.46 million in other projects.

At least two projects were directly related to Washington County: $4.8 million for the improvement of Dual Highway and Edgewood Drive and $200,000 toward the reconstruction of Big Slackwater in C&O Canal National Historical Park.

On Wednesday, Capito issued a statement that said, "I am not anti-earmark, nor do I believe the word 'earmark' should be a dirty word. I do believe, however, that the earmarking process should be done in the most transparent way possible in order to allow taxpayers to hold their government accountable."

Urbanchuk said Shuster, R-9th, didn't change his stance after the other two Tri-State House members' officers changed theirs in the last few days.

Urbanchuk said the earmark process entails a review within each House member's office, then more discussion among members of the Appropriations Committee, and the list often changes along the way.

Until it's approved, "any list is arbitrary," he said.

The nonprofit watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste is posting updates of whether House members release their earmark requests at www.cagw.org.

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