One Step Forward for Transparency

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Last month, I blogged about the Center for Public Integrity‘s brilliant expose’ “Shadow Government,” dealing with federal advisory committees, the secret, multi-layered and unaccountable bureaucracy that influences much of the federal government with precious little oversight and largely no record of their activities. There are over 900 committees, boards, commissions, councils and panels that advise the various agencies of the Executive Branch and the White House, meant to offer government expert opinions on various topics.

To recap, the Center’s investigation found:

– committees packed with industry representatives;

– members are added or removed for political reasons;

– subcommittees and working groups are created allowing decisions to be made behind closed doors; and

–         records are sealed if they exist at all.

Steven Aftergood at Secrecy News blog reports that, on Wednesday, the House passed a bill that would amend the Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972 (FACA).  The new reform is meant to strengthen the public disclosure provisions of FACA, which was itself a reform devised to bring more openness to the advisory committee process.

Aftergood quotes Rep. Henry Waxman, one of the bills sponsors, as saying the purpose of the bill is to put an end to White House task forces operating in total secrecy.  If passed, the bill will require the White House “…disclose whom they meet with and what recommendations they receive from special interests,” Waxman said.  Specifically, “This bill says that task forces like the Vice President’s energy task force must come out from the shadows.”

We’ll keep an eye on this important piece of reform legislation as it heads over to the Senate.

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