The Super Committee Needs to Be Super Transparent

Posted: Aug 17, 2011 11:59 AM

The Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit nonpartisan organization that works to increase government openness and transparency, has launched a new campaign highlighting the importance of ultra-transparency when it comes to the activities of the 'Super Committee', a.k.a. the 'Super Congress.' Super Congress is probably the more accurate term, because the breadth of legislative authority of both the House and Senate is being condensed into a committee of twelve Congresspeople, whose recommendations cannot be amended and have a one-way ticket to a vote on the floor. That's a tremendous amount of power, and one of the biggest problems is that these twelve committee members are Congressmen and women just like all others - politicians beholden to the interests of their constituents and their campaigns - and lobbyists/special interests will be waiting in the wings. The debt ceiling bill requires the Super Congress to figure out how to cut $1.5 trillion in spending, but it doesn't do much to specify exactly how the Super Congress should operate. Plus, other Representatives and Senators are both prevented from making any good suggestions they may have, as well as given a free pass to keep quiet on the whole issue if they like. This whole idea is pretty much just a public policy, constitutional, and political mess.

Vampires, gangsters, and zombies aside, the situation is completely serious:

Addendum: Heritage's Rob Bluey summarizes the Sunlight Foundation's transparency recommendations into five succinct steps:

  1. Live webcasts of all official meetings and hearings
  2. The committee’s report should be posted for 72 hours before a final committee vote
  3. Disclosure of every meeting held with lobbyists and other powerful interests
  4. Disclosure of campaign contributions as they are received (on their campaign websites)
  5. Financial disclosures of committee members and staffers