Transparency Recommendations for the New Congress

The Sunlight Foundation, which arduously tracks campaign spending, lobbying rules, and all things of and pertaining to political transparency, has issued some recommendations for the Republicans who will control the House of Representatives starting in January.


The full list of recommendations can be found at Sunlight's website, but find below the executive-summary version e-mailed by Sunlight to reporters this morning:

  • Post public ethics filings online. These documents -- which include personal financial disclosures, travel reports and recusals, as well as congressional ethics reports -- should be made available free to the public and digitized in a structured data format.

  • Strengthen congressional ethics. The Office of Congressional Ethics annual budget should be doubled, and its written reports to the public should be posted online. Additionally, all House Ethics Committee meetings should be open to the public unless it pertains to specific allegations against an individual lawmaker.

  • Post bills online for 72 hours. The House has routinely followed the 72-hour rule, but it should be required for all non-emergency legislation and Conference Reports.

  • Create an Earmarks Database. All earmarks, earmark requests and related documentation should be posted online in a centralized database.

  • Open Congressional Committees. The following committee information should be posted online: vote records in XML files; official transcripts within 21 days of a hearing and unofficial transcripts within 24 hours; advance notice of hearing schedules; and streaming video of all committee meetings, among others.

Republicans, particularly incoming Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, have signaled that they want added transparency in the new Congress--a stance that's vaguely reminiscent of when Democrats took power in 2006, pledging sweeping transparency reforms in the wake of Republican ethics scandals that helped Democrats win a landslide victory in the 2006 midterms. Now it's Republicans' turn, but instead of a series of scandals, they're up in arms about the way Democrats crafted legislation and hammered out deals in closed-door meetings. Regardless, transparency is one of the watchwords, and this is how Sunlight thinks it should be implemented.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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