The Senate has yet to convene for its first official legislative day and thus we have to wait for them to return to Washington to pass much discussed new rules that would govern Senate operations. While most of the focus has been on potential changes to the filibuster rule, another long-standing practice appears headed for changes: the secret hold.
A number of senators are organizing to do away with the secret hold for good. Last year, more than sixty-seven senators signed a letter calling for the end of secret holds. Sunlight has long supported the ending of secret holds.
Even while we speak of a possible end to secret holds, a group of good government groups and journalists are seeking the identity of the senator who put a hold on a whistleblower protection bill. This bill would protect government whistleblowers from punishment for exposing corruption, illegality, or waste. Often the most galling examples of the secret hold come when trying to block legislation aimed at making our government less corrupt and more transparent.
Last year, I wrote about the history of these egregious secret holds on transparency bills and the work that Sunlight and others, like Porkbusters, did to expose the secret holder:
Back in 2006, the year of Sunlight’s birth, we joined a coalition of blogs and anti-government waste groups like Porkbusters to uncover the secret hold on the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) that went on to create USASpending.gov. FFATA was sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn and then-Sen. Barack Obama. It was, perhaps, the President’s chief accomplishment as a senator.
Over 2007 and 2008, there were a series of secret holds placed on a bill to require senators to file their campaign finance reports electronically. Yet again, we waged an outing campaign against the secret holder. This one was less successful than the FFATA secret hold outing as everyone denied having the secret hold.
Over at WNYC On The Media is working with the Government Accountability Project to expose the senator who placed the secret hold on the whistleblower protection bill. I encourage all of our readers to go the WNYC site and use their tool to call your senator and ask them directly.