Paul Jacob

Full disclosure is all the rage in Congress these days. Congress makes increasing demands on the presidency for full disclosure on all sorts of matters . . . most especially on matters that embarrass the president. Further, Congress wants full disclosure of campaign contributions — made to themselves, their opponents, and groups daring to run ads close to elections. In fact, they've made it the law.

But when it comes to the machinations of Congress itself, full dislosure is not exactly the preferred method.

Oh, sure, C-SPAN gives the House and Senate floor "debates" full coverage. And a lot of committees are open to cameras and (by definition at least) audiences, too.

But some of the most important work still goes on behind closed doors. And the oldest hands in the House and Senate like it that way.

I could stop right there. Any reader of Washington political journalism could probably now supply a few examples off the top of the head, from recent history.

And I could probably just let the no-disclosure cabal off with a shrugh (combination of shrug and "ugh"): no one wants to see how sausages are made, it is said. Just so, no one really wants to see how legislation is made.

Unless, of course, one cares about law. And the republic. And where our money goes.

The old Sausage Excuse is especially apt right now, though, not because it excuses a thing, but because it brings up ground meat, and the handy distribution thereof. Yes, I'm talking about pork.

Politicians, to get elected, may try to pitch the old "Chicken in Every Pot" ploy for votes, but what really greases the wheels of modern Incumbent Democracy is Pork. By which I mean the careful distribution of money to favored donors and constituents in the easy-to-use form of special projects.

It's not wealth Congress gives away, it's Good Things To Which Surely No One Can Object.

But, after years and years of this, and especially after a record-breaking porkfest binge, Americans have begun to figure that a million here and a million there really can add up. To billions. Ultimately trillions.

Into this environment and the current Congress, enter Senators Tom Coburn and Barack Obama. They had a simple idea: disclose to both public and legislators the contents of bills that go up for vote. Require some review time. Require public listing on the Web, with full searchable features, and the tracking of the author of every section of every bill, at least as they relate to local expenditures.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.