Transparency Agenda Update

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There is a lot happening in the Senate today. By the end of the day, we will likely know where our efforts to get contemporaneous online filing of Senate reports stands. We have a new, part time lobbyist, Lisa Rosenberg, to push our short term agenda. In the context of the reform bill currently in the Senate, this means she is working to ensure that the following provisions are included:

  • All earmarks are online prior to a vote with the names of the sponsors of the earmarks;
  • All travel documents are online in a searchable and sortable format;and,
  • Personal financial disclosure forms are online immediately after being filed.

As you know, the Senate voted yesterday to put earmarks online 48 hours before a vote. We think this is a major victory for transparency and for citizens, and applaud everyone that made this possible. Bloggers' response to the much weaker version of this was important in ensuring that the stronger version passed. Thank you. Senator Cardin has proposed an online disclosure amendment to the reform bill that includes our proposals to get travel reports and personal financial disclosure forms online in a searchable format. We have reason to think there is strong enough bipartisan support for the travel reports disclosure to get it passed, and a mixed attitude towards getting personal financial disclosure reports online. However, because Cardin’s amendment also includes a requirement that Senate Campaign finances must be filed online, the < ahref="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parliamentarian_of_the_United_States_Senate">parliamentarian may decide that the amendment is not "germane,"– that is, that the amendment is not related to the substance of the bill to be considered at this time. Campaign finance amendments, according to most Senate staff that we have talked to, dont belong in this bill – and they believe that Cardin’s amendment will not be put up for a vote because of this “germaneness” issue. If Cardin’s amendment does not get considered, it remains possible that versions of the travel and personal financial disclosure provisions will be accepted in a manager's amendment. We believe the leadership is supportive of the fuller disclosure provisions and Senator Cardin's office is working hard to have the increased disclosure provisions accepted. Senator Coleman has also offered an amendment to put travel gift receipts online in a searchable database. On Personal Financial Disclosures, there has been some concern that it will be impossible to get 15,000 pages of information online in 48 hours. We are, at a minimum, pushing to get the information online when the paper documents are made public. So where does that leave us? We’ll know at the end of the day. A strong Republican supporter, or more support from Democratic Senators could make a big difference. We’ll keep you posted.

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