Transparency on a platter

Could it be any easier for Congress to enact some pretty ideal transparency legislation now? Last year I lamented on how the ethics reform bill (that Obama now touts as one of his best achievements) was a laundry list of updates to existing rules with only a few actual nuggets of real transparency reform. Well, if they want real reform, Sunlight is serving it to them on a platter at, as John noted last post. Modulo a few small modifications that have been suggested, there is really no reason anyone should oppose the bill. (IIRC and IMO, the most controversial section is about making CRS reports publicly available. I personally don’t feel so strongly about that section and can see why some would oppose it.)

While we were drafting the Open House Project report a year ago, it seemed like a good next step would be to just write the legislation that would achieve what we wanted changed — and see if we could get it introduced like other advocacy and industry groups seem to be able to do. I’m glad Sunlight took the time to formulate those recommendations (and more) into their proposed bill.

One of the most interesting sections in Sunlight’s bill is the incorporation of the 8 Principles of Open Government Data ( drafted at a conference in December. Rather than including in each provision or specifying explicitly how data should be made available (although some provisions are explicit, inconsistently), the bill would require the GAO to annually assess the implementations of each provision of the bill according to the principles (section 901). It’s an interesting choice to put the principles in an assessment rather than a requirement (and thinking back, I can remember this type of idea coming up in some of John’s posts). An assessment can keep up with the times, and can place ongoing pressure after initial compliance has been reached. It does seem to allow new data to avoid the principles, though. Could the principles be both mandated and audited? Are the principles specific enough to mandate? (Could we make them specific enough?)

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