“Sunlight Before Signing” was President Obama’s 2008 campaign promise to put all bills Congress sent him online for five days before signing them. It was a measurable promise that I’ve monitored here since the beginning of his first term, and I will continue to do so in his second.
It was the president’s first broken promise, and in the first year he broke it again with almost every new law, giving just six of the first 124 bills he signed the exposure he promised.
With his first term concluded last month, we can now assess how well the president did with Sunlight Before Signing. Compliance with the promise got better, but it’s still not great. The president gave 413 of 665 bills five days of public review (and one he acceptably did not give five days due to emergency).
The easy bills almost always got five days review—few bills to rename post offices haven’t gotten sunlight. But more important bills often didn’t. Recent examples are the controversial FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization and the “fiscal cliff” bill.
|Number of Bills||Emergency Bills||Bills Posted Five Days||%|
Would five days of public review have magically produced transparent government? Of course not. But imagine if the president had implemented and enforced his five-day promise from the beginning, and with every law.