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Draping Transparency Over the TARP

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Since the passage of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 authorized the $700 billion bailout of the financial sector there has been a consistent refrain from critics that the program is shrouded in secrecy and only nods and winks at the notion of transparency. Just see my colleague Anupama Narayanswamy's attempts to figure out who is running the program -- known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

A trio of senators are trying to change that by mandating a bit of transparency for the TARP program. Sens. Mark Warner, Mel Martinez, and Sherrod Brown introduced the TARP Transparency Act today. Here's the details:

The TARP Transparency Act directs the U.S. Department of the Treasury to more aggressively compile and disclose how TARP funds have been used – information that currently is submitted in a variety of formats to several federal agencies – for review by the TARP Inspector General, the Congressional Oversight Panel and the public. The TARP Transparency Act will allow regulators and Congress to use a single database, in a standardized format, to provide a more complete picture of the actions of TARP fund recipients and contractors.  The information could be collected and disseminated in near real-time, enhancing its value as a regulatory audit tool and also as a preventative oversight tool.

This sounds like a great idea. It does remind me that Treasury promised to do something similar through their FinancialStability.gov site, but has so far failed to do so. A legislative mandate, with stronger disclosure provisions, would be useful in getting information about this oft opaque program.

You can read the actual bill text on Sen. Warner's blog (where he uses Scribd to embed a pdf of the bill).