Transparancy Caucus Formed

Over Sunshine Week (March 2010) two members of the House Oversight Committee, including the ranking Republican minority member and an important Democrat, formed the Transparancy Caucus, a bi-partisan group who profess a belief and promotion of open government and transparancy. We hope to convince them that they must begin with the government records on the assassination of President Kennedy and have their committee fullfill its responsibilities and hold public oversight hearings on the JFK Act. Here’s their princples, the same as ours. – BK

Congress of the United States

Washington, D.C. 20515

Congressional Transparency Caucus

Our Principles

March 2010

Transparency in government is crucial to our democracy because our government derives its power from the informed consent of the governed. We believe:

1)      The American people have the right to public access to all of their government’s information. All of the federal government’s information, with a few well-defined exceptions, should be freely available online.

2)      The American people have the right to analyze their government’s information. The federal government’s information should be published in its raw format, downloadable in bulk and machine-readable, so that citizens and watchdog groups can collaborate on new ways to examine it. The government should adopt consistent data standards so that different agencies’ forms, filings, and records can be all searched together. All documents should be published at permanent Web addresses so that links to them remain valid.

3)      The American people have the right to interactive access to federal laws, regulations, and rules. All federal laws, regulations, and rules should be published online in a format that makes them easily searchable, sortable, and downloadable, so that citizens can electronically participate in the development of laws, regulations, and rules.

4)      The American people have the right to track all federal spending and scrutinize the federal budget. Data on how taxpayers’ funds are spent, and the federal budge itself, should be searchable, with every earmark and appropriation electronically identified.

5)      The American people have the right to demand, transparent performance standards for all federal agencies. Federal agencies should track their goals and achievements using a format that is electronically searchable, sortable, and downloadable, so that spending data can be associated with performance.

6)      The American people have the right to aggressive, independent oversight. Inspectors general at federal agencies should be kept independent and active, and should regularly evaluate transparency in government. The House and Senate committees on government oversight and operations should conduct regular hearings and investigations on transparency. Disclosures by regulated entities – such as filings by lobbyists, federal contractors and grantees, banks, and public companies – should be published online, in formats that make them easily searchable, sortable, and downloadable. Citizens should scrutinize these disclosures and collaborate to expose corruption, fraud, and other abuses.

7)      We must institutionalize a culture of open government. For the government’s default setting to change from a presumption of secrecy to one of openness a cultural shift must occur. Through education and outreach, Congress should strive to encourage decision-makers throughout all branches of the federal government to chose openness over secrecy.


To read the “Dear Colleague” letter introducing the Congressional Transparency Caucus, click here (PDF).


House transparency caucus vows to regain public’s trust in government

Twenty-seven House Republicans and Democrats kicked off a congressional transparency caucus on Thursday with a panel discussion on how the government can earn back Americans’ trust.

“We’re going to do a review and find out whether the public accepts the current disclosure,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., co-founding chairman of the caucus and ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

One of the group’s first actions will be to ensure that information posted on the Web from every branch of government is consistent, searchable and downloadable, he said. The uniform level of reporting would allow citizens to have a better context for comparing spending figures such as federal officials’ compensation and earmarks, or appropriations for lawmakers’ pet projects.

The goal of the caucus, which was announced in March, is to advance transparency and accountability across government. Measuring these goals will require online access to government information in formats that can be searched and downloaded for free, according to the caucus’ principles. The group plans to make such information available by educating lawmakers, taking legislative action and overseeing existing polices.

“Our greatest challenge and mandate in government is regaining the public’s trust,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., the caucus’ other co-founding chairman. “It means not just paying lip service, but taking financial responsibility, transparency and ethics as seriously as the voters want us to. If we can make the tough decisions and prove these as our priorities to the public, trust will follow.”

Thursday’s event included a dialogue among leaders from several government transparency groups, including the Project on Government Oversight and the Sunlight Foundation.

POGO General Counsel Scott Amey, who focuses on contract oversight, said he hopes the caucus will eradicate the stovepipe mentality in agencies that has created numerous databases and systems but little useful information. Too often, he said, he has to search one database to find a contract, another to locate a request for proposals and a third for the track record on the contractor’s past projects. “Due to the lack of transparency, unhealthy programs are allowed to fester for far too long . . . and that leads to waste, fraud and abuse,” Amey noted.

Following the panel, the packed room in the Rayburn House Office Building asked activists questions and commented on the formation of the caucus.

J.H. Snider, president of iSolon, a nonprofit institute focused on using information technology to bring about democratic reform, said, “You’ve got a very impressive caucus here, but I don’t see the democratic leadership,” referring to influential representatives such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.

Daniel Schuman, policy counsel at the Sunlight Foundation and panel moderator, acknowledged the caucus was a work in progress. Sunlight announced on Thursday it will serve as an advisory committee to the caucus. Schuman, who is the director of the new advisory committee, pointed out that the caucus includes about 6 percent of the House and some of its members hold leadership positions on committees.

“Doing this across party lines, across ideologies . . . I think that is an encouraging sign,” he said.

Caucus members include:

Melissa Bean, D-Ill.
Bruce Braley, D-Iowa
Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah
Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas
Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich.
Bill Foster, D-Ill.
Wally Herger, R-Calif.
Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.
Steve Israel, D-N.Y.
Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
Walter Jones, R-N.C.
Jim Jordan, R-Ohio
Doug Lamborn, R-Colo.
Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill.
Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa
Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo.
Patrick McHenry, R-N.C.
Walt Minnick, D-Idaho
Scott Murphy, D-N.Y.
Jared Polis, D-Colo.
Mike Quigley, D-Ill.
Tim Ryan, D-Ohio
Aaron Schock, R-Ill.
Mark Souder, R-Ind.
Jackie Speier, D-Calif.
Mark Steven, Kirk, R-Ill.
Greg Walden, R-Ore.

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