Congress and the Executive Branch should focus on making the work of lobbyists and other paid influencers more transparent.
Money in Politics Disclosure
To uncover the levers of access and influence in Congress and the White House, real time online disclosure of money in politics must become the standard.
- Enact Legislation to Disclose Dark Money in Elections
- Appoint FEC Commissioners Committed to Transparency
- The IRS Should Tighten and Enforce Rules Regarding Electioneering Activities of Nonprofits
- The SEC Should Require Companies to Disclose Political Spending
- Improve the FCC's Political File Database
- Mandate Disclosure of Tax Returns and Bundlers by Presidential Candidates
- Enact Legislation to Disclose Corporate Political Spending to Shareholders
- Require Senators to Electronically File Campaign Finance Disclosure Reports
There is a wealth of government data that must be made accessible to the public.
- Create an Index of Federal Agencies' Major Datasets
- Enact the Public Online Information Act
- Enact the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act
- Make Congressional Research Service Reports Publicly Available
- Implement the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act
- Adopt FOIA Reforms
- Review the Personal Financial Disclosure System
- Report Earmark Requests from Congress Online
Report Earmark Requests from Congress Online
Executive Order 13457, requiring written earmark requests to be put online, should be enforced by the current administration. In addition, a draft Obama EO calling on agencies to make communications about earmarks public in a searchable format within 30 days of receipt should be adopted.
Rather than eradicate earmarks, a congressional “ban” has instead moved the practice further off line and out of public view. Members of Congress and their staff informally pressure agency staff to provide funding for specific projects, undermining merit-based criteria for the allocation of federal resources.
In 2008, the Bush administration issued EO 13457 to make the process more transparent. The order prohibits agencies from considering an earmark request unless such a request is in writing. It also requires that communications regarding earmarks “shall be made publicly available on the Internet by the receiving agency, not later than 30 days after receipt.”
The Obama administration appeared ready to enforce and strengthen the Bush EO, floating a draft that would have imposed stronger reporting requirements and searchable online formats. Unfortunately, the Obama draft EO has never been issued and there is no pressure for agencies to post congressional correspondence about spending decisions online.
As long as Congress continues to ban legislative earmarks, the administration should ensure any efforts by legislators to informally acquire earmarks should be transparent.