And the Antidote to Corruption Is….?


A CNN exit poll showed that 42 percent of voters said corruption was an extremely important issue in their choices at the polls yesterday. It led terrorism, economy and Iraq as the national issues that drove voters choices.

Can there be any doubt that more transparency is in order? When we launched the Sunlight Foundation, we found huge support among the public for greater disclosure of the inner workings of what goes on in Congress

The most popular proposals included: requiring public disclosure of all money raised for a campaign by registered lobbyists and creating an independent ethics commission to review complaints, conduct investigations, and report on unethical conduct by lawmakers and their staffs. Just behind were proposals requiring public disclosure of any attempts to secure earmarks in budget bills that directly benefit lobbyists or campaign contributors, requiring lawmakers to file reports on legislation they have introduced that would benefit their campaign contributors, requiring public disclosure of all contacts with regulatory agencies pressing for action that benefits campaign contributors, requiring lawmakers to report publicly all of their contacts with lobbyists, and prohibiting former members of Congress and senior staff from working as lobbyists in Washington for five years after they leave Congress. Every single one of these proposals got support of 59 percent or higher!

Now's the time to move forward with this. With a little bit of foresight, the Democrats will heed the calls to clean up Congress. The message couldn't be more painfully clear today that voters want change. What better place to start than making the activities of lawmakers more open.

Will greater transparency for the actions of Congress solve the problem of corruption? While there's no silver bullet for cleaning up the institution there's no question that greater transparency will keep some bad things from happening (that's the they 'do it' because they can get away with it school of corruption). It will put all members on notice that their actions will be scrutinized by the public and the media, and it will give citizens new information that they need to know who's doing what, for whom here in the Capital. The Internet makes it oh so easy. That's the beauty of the opportunity the Democrats now have. Let's see if they seize it in truly meaninful way.

This is a special moment: the combination of the concern the public has about corruption combined with the maturing of the Internet leads to all kinds of new possibilities for transparency. It's time for Congress to begin a serious conversation with the American people about it.