Meanwhile, Congress Makes Some Moves


Lots of activity in Congress about issues that Sunlight cares about.

First, the bill sponsored by Senator Tom Coburn and Senator Barack Obama that would create an online searchable database for government grants and contracts is scheduled for mark-up today. According to CQ Reports, Sen. Tom Coburn said that the bottom line is: "Why shouldn’t Americans know where their money is being spent?"

We couldn’t agree more. We’re particularly excited about this bipartisan legislative initiative because we have had a sneak preview at the grants and contracts database that OMB Watch is preparing to release in the early fall. It’s a wow — an information powerhouse. (Yes, I feel badly about mentioning it here and not giving you a link to it, but I guess it’s OK to tease our readers once in a while.) When I saw it, I thought of a hundred ways to find out more about who’s getting how much money from government, and for what projects, than I ever thought was possible. OMB Watch’s team has done an amazing job in putting it together. They are looking for some citizen beta-testers, so if you’re interested let me know and I will pass your name along to them. This database will be live in six weeks or so.

Maybe our enthusiasm for the Coburn bill comes from the fact that if it passed, OMB Watch wouldn’t have to create its database (or continue to maintain it). Sunlight funded this project. So not only would an official government database save Sunlight some of its grant dollars, but it would likely save citizens a whole lot more money because once folks got a handle on the spending there will likely be alot of questions about what government is spending taxpayer dollars on. Anyway, it seems to me that making information about how our government spends its money ought to be the government’s job, not the job of nonprofits. Today’s Washington Post story on waste and fraud in Homeland Security contracts should be sufficient to illustrate why this is important information that every citizen should have.

Meanwhile, back in Congress, Rep. John Boehner, House Majority Leader, announced that he will offer a rules change in the fall that will include more disclosure for earmarks in appropriation, authorization and tax bills. Looks like this is going to move quickly since Rep. J. Dennis Hastert, and Rep. Boehner, and Rep. David Dreier (according to BNA’s Money & Politics Report) said they are committed to "extending these reforms to all committees and implementing them during the current session of Congress, before any spending or tax bill for the upcoming fiscal year goes to the president’s desk." No more real details on this yet, but this is certainly a good move.

And it’s probably a move that signals that the so-called ethics reform bill, still stalled in Congress, is in its final death throes. That is not good news. Though it is predictable.