Obama Introduces New Transparency Legislation

On the same day that he became the presumptive Democratic nominee for President, Sen. Barack Obama introduced new legislation to expand public access to information about government spending.

The bill (pdf), known as “The Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008,” was crafted on a bi-partisan basis with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).

Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, is also an original co-sponsor of the bill, as is Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE).

The new bill would build upon and improve previous efforts by Senators Obama and Coburn to provide public access to federal grant and contract information through the USASpending.gov web site. Among other things, it would require copies of each federal contract and details of the bidding process to be published online.

The provisions of the bill were outlined in a joint press release on June 3.

“People from every State in this great Nation sent us to Congress to defend their rights and stand up for their interests,” Sen. Obama said in a prepared floor statement. “To do that we have to tear down the barriers that separate citizens from the democratic process and to shine a brighter light on the inner workings of Washington. This bill helps to shine that light.”

While most government agencies have cooperated with the contracting transparency requirements that were adopted in 2006, some intelligence agencies have dragged their heels in opposition. The Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which used to disclose their unclassified contracts, actually withheld such information from the USASpending.gov database in 2007 and 2008.

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  1. Submitted for whatever it’s worth:

    Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) are quietly working together on a good-government bill despite their campaign-trail battle over who is tougher against Washington’s special interests.
    McCain’s Senate office contacted Obama’s office Monday night asking to sign on to a bill opening federal government contracts to public scrutiny, according to three knowledgeable sources.

    Before the call, Obama had been working on the measure primarily with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), an ardent proponent of eliminating wasteful government spending and an early supporter and longtime Senate ally of McCain’s.

    After learning that Obama and Coburn were introducing the bill without his backing, McCain’s staffers immediately contacted Coburn to express concern and a desire to be named as an original co-sponsor of the update. They then called Obama’s office.

    Obama staffers were happy to comply with McCain’s request to sign on, an Obama adviser said, because they knew support from the two presumptive nominees could propel the legislation to passage in the final months of a packed legislative schedule.

    McCain’s Senate office and campaign did not return calls for comment on the matter. Coburn, however, acknowledged that the request had occurred and blamed himself for not being more aggressive in contacting McCain about becoming an original co-sponsor when the bill was introduced.

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