Notta lotta attention.
As near <$Ad$>as I can tell, there's only one article (by Matt Yancey of the AP) that's appeared so far devoted to the Istook Amendment, the provision in the new omnibus spending bill which would allow the Chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to review the tax return of any individual, business or organization in the country with no privacy protections whatsoever.
Yes, there are a few references to it here and there in other pieces, but only one on that topic specifically and only one that refers to its apparent author.
On the other hand, here's an exchange on the matter between Tim Russert and John McCain this morning on Meet The Press ...
MR. RUSSERT: In the House version of this spending bill, there was a provision which said that the Appropriations Committee should have access to taxpayers' tax returns. How did that happen?
SEN. McCAIN: What happens here is that they slap these omnibus bills together--as you mentioned, this one's nine bills that we should have passed separately--nobody sees them or reads them. It was a 1,630- page document yesterday that was presented to us sometime in the morning, and we voted on it in the evening. The system is broken, and everybody, of course, wanted to get out of town, understandably.
MR. RUSSERT: Why should Congress have access to citizens' tax returns?
SEN. McCAIN: According to--Senator Stevens' explanation on the floor last night was that two staffers put in this provision and no one knew about it until another Senator Conrad staffer discovered it.
MR. RUSSERT: What was their motive?
SEN. McCAIN: That should--you know, I don't know. I can't imagine. But the fact that our system is such that that would ever be inserted and passed by the House of Representatives--if there's ever a graphic example of the broken system that we now have, that certainly has to be it.
MR. RUSSERT: House...
SEN. McCAIN: How many other provisions didn't we find in that 1,600-page bill?
MR. RUSSERT: That provision won't become law ever.
SEN. McCAIN: No. No. No. We worked out a procedure where the House--it doesn't matter but it'll be fixed, but the fact that it got in there in the first place is chilling.
First, can someone ask Rep. Istook about this?
Second, it's a huge problem that these bills get voted through without most of the Senators and Representatives (or their staffers or relevant committee staffers) ever knowing all the provisions in the them. In most cases, the offending line items and provisions are pork barrel spending projects and special breaks for favored interests and constituents. But as big a problem as that is, it seems we've got a separate issue here because of the specific nature of this provision, no?
Yes, it would have been a bad thing if Rep. Istook had slotted in an item for some contributor from his district. But it would hardly have been uncommon. This seems rather different.
: Thanks to TPM reader CK for the first tip on this matter yesterday evening.]