Washington Times: "Sunlight reforms for Congress" (1/8/07)

“The solution is simple: All bills …, with their sponsors identified, should be posted online at least 72 hours before the vote. Then all members, and the press and interested citizens, could read the bill and know who sponsored it before it’s too late.”

The Washington Times
January 8, 2007, p. A17

“Sunlight reforms for Congress”
By Michael Klein and Ellen Miller

[…]
If serious, and required by the moment, Congress will focus on reforms dramatically increasing the transparency of its activities.

Why focus on transparency? Because a major cause of voter mistrust is a feeling special interests are served by those who do their bidding in the belief they will not be detected. The best cure for this is increasing transparency and thus the risk of detection. Louis Brandeis wrote years ago: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the best policeman.” His wisdom is even more apropos today.
[…]
Here are three powerful transparency reforms that Congress should enact promptly:
[…]
(3) Stop secret, last minute, special interest legislation. Surreptitious earmarks and the late insertions of special interest provisions are the major scourge of Congress’ reputation because they invite the perception of corruption. Many present and former members bemoan how often they voted on bills with provisions they hadn’t read, when other members used the late hour and sheer weight of legislation to tuck in favors for the people who finance their campaigns, without anyone knowing who did what or why.

The solution is simple: All bills and amendments, with their sponsors identified, should be posted online at least 72 hours before [floor debate begins]. Then all members, and the press and interested citizens, could read the bill and know who sponsored it before it’s too late.

[…]

Michael Klein is chairman and Ellen Miller is executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, which advocates more transparent, accountable government.