Last month, after Portfolio revealed that Sens. Chris Dodd and Kent Conrad received favorable loan deals from mortgage giant Countrywide,... View ArticleContinue reading
Today's edition of the New York Times has an op-ed highlighting a provision that's buried within the newly enacted Honest Leadership and Open Government Act that compromises the intended transparency.
As we know, members of conference committees often secretly inserted earmarks and other items into already finalized bills. To combat this, the Senate instituted new rules saying that any individual senator can object to such provisions, threatening the whole bill. In the category of giving with one hand and taking away another, the Senate also said that they could vote to waive all objections to any bill. If 60 senators agree, all the provisions are approved.
No great surprise that this gives new power to the majority party especially if the majority has close to 60 votes. A dissenting senator would have to muster 41 votes to stop the process. In the very bill meant to open up the bill writing process , we have a new technique to thwart openness and transparency. Harumph.Continue reading
While Sunlight is mostly focused on Congressional transparency we can't help but notice that there is a presidential campaign going on. Sen. Barack Obama announced his positions last week for ethics and transparency reform.
Obama's reform agenda uses the Web in a significant fashion. There are lots of things I like in his proposal including the core concept of "Google for Government (information)," which in my mind means creating searchable, online databases as a requirement for government agencies' work. (Let's hope that as president Obama would also champion legislative changes that will allow for citizens to learn more about Congress' activities -- expanding what is currently reported and making it all available online in searchable databases.) Given the fact that Obama is a leader on government transparency issues in the Senate now, his willingness to talk about these issues demonstrates his commitment to them and his understanding that the public strongly favors more transparency by the government.Continue reading
The New York Times editorial that was very supportive of Sunlight's transparency agenda for Congress led with the mention that Representative-elect Kirsten Gillibrand has already decided to post details of her work calendar on the Internet at the end of each day. This afternoon I had a conversation with Matt McKenna, who is working on the transition team of Senator-elect Jon Tester, who told me that Tester has promised to do the same. In addition, Tester will institute a total gift ban for himself and his staffers, will prohibit any staff that leaves to work as a lobbyist from returning to work for him, and will ask a judge to conduct an ethics audit of his office every year. The office is considering other proposals too.Continue reading