2006_11_porkking.jpgIt's pork barrel time. Earlier this week, the State Legislature made its $170 million in pet projects public, only after Hearst, which publishes the Times-Union in Albany, sued them and a state judge ruled the Legislature had to disclose spending. The Legislature spends on these projects without public approval, so in the recent past, your politicians were doling out money to places unknown.

The Legislature did release the data, not that it made it easy. From the NY Times:

In the afternoon of the day before Thanksgiving, the State Senate posted lists of member items from two and three years ago on a Web site, but many reporters could not open the files. On Monday at 5 p.m., the Assembly made public its most recent four years of member items, but in computer files that were configured so they could not be searched using conventional computer software.

And on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m., the State Senate released a partial list of member item spending for the current fiscal year, again in a format that could not be searched. The list did not include a single item from the Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, who controls the chamber’s purse strings and is widely thought to dole out more member items than any other senator.

That Bruno! The Times-Union described the initial data dump as the "online equivalent of a 3,000 page fax." The Legislature made the data navigable only when the Times-Union threatened to go to court again.

Many of the gifts do seem to go towards groups that help politicians. The NY Times had a graphic of what Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver gives out; he gave out the most - $7.5 million - and many gifts are to Jewish and Chinese groups in his district. Here are some more local pork-barrel spending projects from the Daily News. Incidentially, Governor-elect Spitzer wants to introduce ambitious reforms in Albany, including publicly naming where pork-barrel spending is being made before it's approved in budget votes.

In other political news:
- Three staffers in Governor Pataki's Iowa office have quit, suggesting that his presidential dreaming might become a nightmare
- Pataki and Governor-elect Spitzer support the hospital cuts recommended on Tuesday
- And Room 8's LunchBox is Totally Foreign Policy today

Photograph by Dan Dickinson on Flickr