Delegation leads in openness
By IR staff - 12/13/07Naively, no doubt, we were hoping that the Montana congressional delegation’s practice of posting their daily schedules on the Internet might catch on in Washington.
After all, it’s an easy way for members of Congress to show their commitment to transparency in government and maybe even help repair that institution’s tattered image.
No such luck. A national watchdog organization called the Sunlight Foundation recently applauded U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and Sen. Max Baucus and U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg for being among only eight of the 535 members of Congress to post their schedules.
A foundation spokeswoman said congressional members often say they don’t want to reveal their schedules for reasons of security. That’s a particularly lame excuse. All they need to do is post their scheduled a day late, as the Montana delegation does. Yesterday’s schedule isn’t of much help to any bad guys lurking out there. The real reason so few are willing to make their schedules public is that they probably fear political operatives will be poring over their itineraries, searching for any ammo they can find for future attacks. Continue reading
Today we were alerted to the very impressive schedule from Montana Senator Max Baucus. Now for the first time Montana citizens know who all of their members of Congress are meeting with. I have to say Sen. Baucus has done the right thing by his constituents.Continue reading
This could not have happened without the dedication of the Montana blogging community; especially Don Pogreba from Intelligent Discontent and Jay Stevens and Matt Singer from Left in the West. Montana bloggers understand that openness and transparency are worth fighting for as practices that are important for elected officials to embrace.
Montana is currently the only state whose entire congressional delegation posts a daily schedule. Constituents can now track the meetings of both Senators and their representative to make sure that they are working hard for Montana.
Congratulations, this is a great day for Montana - and for transparency.
With the advent of Rep. Rehberg (MT) posting his schedule to his official congressional Web site, Montana bloggers and newspapers have asked if Sen. Baucus would join his fellow lawmakers and post his schedule, as well. Lawmakers who agree to share their schedule show that they’re responsive, open, transparent and above all accountable to their constituents. When citizens can find out who has the ears of their lawmakers they can fairly determine if those lawmakers are making fair decisions. The information is vital to a strong democracy because it allows, for the first time, a voter to engage in the daily life of their elected official. The Montana Standard agrees -- on Sunday they printed an editorial making the point thatWith just three people representing the fourth largest state in the country, our congressional delegation already faces a great challenge in trying to stay in touch with Montanans, and this one relatively easy way to keep people in the loop.Given the distance between Washington DC and Montana it could be frustrating to a Montanan to feel connected to their representative. But, with a schedule, people know that members of Congress are, in fact, meeting with people in the district and keeping those needs in mind daily. Bloggers are also asking, Don Pogreba’s blog Intelligent DiscontentIt's time for Senator Max Baucus to do the right thing. Following the lead of Senator Tester and Representative Rehberg, it's time for Max to start telling Montana voters how he spends his days in Washington.and Jay Steven’s Left in the West "So you know what this means! Max Baucus is the only Montana federal-level representative hiding his business behind a cloud."
The value of a daily available schedule is not lost and constituents actually see the value and want to see all their Representatives do the right thing. We have seen the power that Montana Bloggers have in demanding accountability from their elected officials, and I am confident that Sen. Baucus will do the right thing by his constituents. There’s hope he’s already considering it. Today, the Billings Gazette published an editorial citing, Sen. Baucus’ spokesperson, Barrett Kaiser stating “…said last week that the senator is considering posting his schedule.”Continue reading
Rep. Dennis Rehberg is the 7th Member of Congress (and the second from Montana) to put a daily schedule online. Montana freshman, Sen. Jon Tester, made a campaign promise to post his schedule and he has been posting it since the beginning of his term. The existence of Tester’s schedule prompted the Helena Independent Record to ask Rep. Rehberg and Sen. Baucus if they were thinking of posting one also. Rehberg’s spokesman said his schedule was available to anyone who called his office and asked but when bloggers decided to take him up on that offer they found out that his schedule was available only if you were in Washington (more responses here). Later, an article in the Missoula Independent quoted Rep. Rehberg’s chief of staff saying that when the website was redesigned Mr. Rehberg’s schedule will be posted daily.Continue reading
The state Republican Party has filed a complaint with the FEC charging that the Montana Democratic Party did not fully disclose their finances to the Federal Election Commission. According to the Associated Press, the state GOP is arguing that, “Democrats should have been filing monthly reports for being engaged in campaigning against Sen. Conrad Burns, a federal candidate under FEC rules.” The Democratic Party claims that it filed a six-month disclosure and does not need to file monthly, but did not elaborate.Continue reading