January 12 2011

30 Ideas for 30 Days: Day 6

Nicole Kurokawa Neily

In 1913, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”

Throughout the 2008 Presidential campaign, that theme was echoed by President (then-Senator) Barack Obama – who had great standing on the issue, having successfully passed the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act with Senator Tom Coburn! President Obama came into office promising the most transparent administration in history.

Alas, this never really came to fruition – as even The New York Times pointed out. (And when you’ve lost the Times, you’re in real trouble, Mr. President.)

The underlying principle still holds true, however: transparency leads to better, more accountable government, because it’s less appealing to stick in earmarks and handouts when people know what you’re up to. Accordingly, serious transparency is something that the new Congress should take up with gusto, to further demonstrate their commitment to a new style of governance.

Suggestion #6: Improve Congressional transparency.

The 112th Congress has a golden opportunity to draw a real distinction between their leadership and that of the previous Congress (and, to be honest, the current administration). From greater Freedom of Information Act compliance to posting their records online, there’s a lot that can be improved upon. Unfortunately, there’s already been a misstep along the way in the first week – so it’s really time to buckle down and demonstrate that they’re committed to transparency. The Washington Examiner had an editorial over the holidays featuring a comprehensive list of recommendations, all of which are excellent.

Giving the American people access to information about how their money’s spent, what transpires in Congressional meetings, and who’s meeting with our officials Is just common sense. Public officials need to conduct their business in public, not behind closed doors. After all – they work for us!

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