Remember Barack Obama’s promise of unparalleled transparency? It’s OK if you don’t. The White House website has a page that will refresh your memory. It contains a memorandum by the president himself, who wrote early in his presidency:
My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.
In the years since that memo was drafted, the president hasn’t quite been as good as his word, but that’s all on the verge of changing thanks to a new measure in Congress.
Actually, it isn’t that new. It’s the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA), and it’s been on a back burner for nearly a year now. If signed into law, according to Opposing Views, it would create a “a pilot program to ‘research best practices’ with regard to federal financial reporting”:
The ultimate goal is to make every federal expenditure a matter of public record, open to the scrutiny of experts. According to TechCrunch.com, The DATA Act might have caught the $823,000 Las Vegas party thrown by the General Services Administration in 2010 even sooner.
It sounds like a good law. For once, you have to wonder — as the president does so often and so publicly — why the Republican-controlled House is dragging its heels.
Actually, it isn’t the House that’s stalling. In fact, the measure was sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Obama’s biggest nemesis in the legislature. So who’s holding it up? The president.
Federal News Radio obtained a copy of the bill that was marked up by White House officials for the Office of Management and Budget that shows the Obama Administration may be trying to cripple the bill. According to Hudson Hollister, executive director of the Data Transparency Coalition, they are trying to undermine both “data standardization and online accessibility in one place.”
Greogry Feinstein of TechCrunch.com knows people in the Obama administration but has “gotten nothing but a cold shoulder and boilerplate responses.” He writes, “Someone within the ranks of the White House, most likely at a senior level, is torpedoing a bill and no one seems to know why.” In a stunning bit of synergy, it is a lack of transparency that obfuscates the motivation from the White House to abandon one if its supposed core principles.
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