Obama Administration Seeks to Head Off Spending Transparency

Congratulations to Cato’s media staff who worked though the night last night to produce an excellent Cato response to the State of the Union speech. It’s a lot of work, and they make it look easy.

At minute 10:00, my appearance in the video pivots from NSA spying and secrecy to a transparency issue that is just as important to the long-term maintenance of freedom in our country. It’s an issue you might not have heard about.

Leaked documents revealed this week that President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget is seeking to gut spending transparency legislation that is making its way through Congress. The DATA Act is intended to transform the U.S. government’s spending information from inaccessible documents buried in the executive branch into open data, available for the public to use. The House has passed one version. A Senate committee has forwarded another version of the bill to the floor.

Open spending data has potential to improve public oversight of the government massively. You can see a hint of that potential at the Washington Examiner’s “Appropriate Appropriations?” web page. There, for the first time ever, you can easily find what bills in Congress would spend taxpayers dollars. You can look up who from your state has introduced bills that plan to spend your money. The page is powered by Cato data.

While bipartisan support for spending transparency has built up over years in the House and Senate, the Obama Administration has never taken an official position on the DATA Act. Now we’ve learned that the Obama OMB is working to undercut this transparency legislation. The chief Senate sponsor of the DATA Act, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), has rejected the administration’s moves in no uncertain terms.

President Obama didn’t talk about transparency in the State of the Union, but it’s a 2008 campaign promise he could still deliver on. His OMB is working behind the scenes to prevent that.