[Congressional Record: January 28, 2009 (Senate)]
[Page S990]                       


  Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, it is no secret that I have worked for 
decades to bring greater transparency and accountability to all facets 
of Government operations. If there is one thing I have learned over 
those years, it is that you cannot achieve the goal of greater 
transparency and accountability without the access to information.
  Today, we are experiencing the greatest financial crisis of our 
Nation's history. Daily we hear of more companies failing and the need 
for many more billions of Federal funds to save this bank or that 
investment company. In response to this crisis, the Treasury Department 
unveiled an initial plan to buy stakes in banks and other financial 
firms. That program is known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program known 
to all of us around here by the acronym TARP, T-A-R-P, and it is 
costing the American taxpayers nearly three-quarters of $1 trillion.
  In an effort to bring maximum accountability to the people for the 
TARP funds, Congress created a strong Inspector General with the broad 
powers to investigate and oversee the program, including access to the 
records of TARP fund recipients. Similarly, in an effort to provide 
maximum transparency, Congress required the Government Accountability 
Office, known around here as GAO, to monitor and oversee the TARP 
program as well. The Government Accountability Office's mission is to 
look at the overall performance of the initiative and its impact on the 
financial system.
  The Government Accountability Office is also required to prepare 
regular reports for Congress. However, the Government Accountability 
Office cannot do its job without access to information, and I have 
learned that it does not have all the access it needs. Although the 
Government Accountability Office can examine the records of the 
Treasury itself and of any of its agents or representatives, the 
Government Accountability Office does not have access to the books and 
records of private entities that receive TARP funds. The connection 
there is public dollars. The public ought to have the right to know.
  Believe it or not, the Government Accountability Office can't have 
access to information from the banks and investment companies that 
receive billions of taxpayers' dollars; that is the problem. This 
legislation I am introducing is intended to fix that as well. The 
Government Accountability Office is supposed to be the eyes and ears of 
the Congress of the United States. Well, it can't do that job wearing 
blinders and ear plugs.