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After more than three months in office, Rep. Brian Bilbray has introduced the Budget and Transparency Act, a bill that will force members of Congress to reveal their identities when they insert earmarks into legislation.

Earmarks are the secret funding mechanism that Randy “Duke” Cunningham, Bilbray’s predecessor, abused to reward defense contractors who plied him with millions in bribes.

Bilbray’s proposed legislation comes just as Congress is scheduled to adjourn tomorrow.

So why is Bilbray suddenly getting around to addressing an issue that was a major plank in his platform during his campaign against Francine Busby earlier this year? And why is he throwing the legislation out there now when it has little chance of passing?

Skeptics might say that Bilbray’s hustling to get an attempt at earmark reform on the books before he heads west for a rematch against Busby on Nov. 7. Those same skeptics would probably add that he might be overreacting as Busby doesn’t appear to pose much of a threat this time around. A recent poll sponsored by KGTV has her trailing Bilbray by 14 percentage points.

Kurt Bardella, the congressman’s spokesman, said Bilbray’s last minute effort is the result of making the Mount Soledad Cross and opposing the Senate’s proposed immigration reform his top priorities after taking office.

Bardella also said that it’s “not the kind of legislation that you draft overnight and drop the next day” and that Bilbray’s bill, which would also move Congress from an annual to a biennial budget cycle, “isn’t designed for the Congress that is in session now.”

That’s a pretty good indicator that Bilbray is confident that the voters of California’s 50th Congressional District will view his legislation as a genuine reform attempt, and he’ll return to Washington, D.C. next year.

DANIEL STRUMPF

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