Super Congress must be a transparent Congress

Ilyse Hogue brings up an excellent point in her latest piece in The Nation. In discussing the debt deal, most of the commentary has focused on how much money for essential programs happens to be on the chopping block while ignoring the subversion of our democracy. For example, although large majorities of Americans, including Republicans, favored raising taxes over cuts, the deal had trillions in cuts and no revenue increases at all. It wasn't for a lack of pressure, either - Hogue tallied up an impressive amount of action to directly pressure Congress to raise revenue from the wealthy and avoid cuts, and stacked that against the paltry public display to pressure Congress for cutting spending. It's mind-boggling that the debt deal Congress refused to reflect the American consensus on revenue over cuts in any way. But in a way, it's not surprising. It's what has been happening for years now. Whether it's a normal day in office or in times of deep crisis, Congress continually struggles to come up with real solutions. Somehow those who can afford well-connected lobbyists end up getting the good end of the deal while the average person ends up holding the bag. Accordingly, faith in Congress is at an all-time low. And so it very well could be with the so-called Super Congress, the committee of 12 that will decide what to slash and from sources revenue might be drawn. The super committee will be drawn from both parties and both houses of Congress, and will have enormous power over the budget. If they vote for a budget cutting plan, it will come to the floor to be voted on by each house of Congress, and no amendments can be added. That immense power over the nation's budget will draw an equally massive swarm of lobbyist attention and present new opportunities for untold fortunes in fundraising. Even the appearance of impropriety will further depress public trust in our government. To combat the corrosive taint of backroom deals between the well-connected, our friends at the Sunlight Foundation is calling for the Super Congress to be super transparent with the following demands: All meetings of the committee should be streamed online and archived for easy review. There's no reason the public shouldn't be informed as to how the committee is proceeding in their decision making. Additionally, the super committee should make public any recommendations that they receive from other congressional committees. And the committee should post its final report for 72 hours before taking a vote on it. Rather than the normal rules of lobbyist disclosure, which only require quarterly reports, members of Super Congress should report online each and every meeting with both registered lobbyists and those connected to powerful interests, along with any materials received. Staffers for the committee should also disclose their personal finances to avoid any sense of impropriety. In addition, committee members should post campaign contributions in real time on their campaign websites, rather than waiting to file quarterly reports. Same goes with any campaign fundraisers being held between now and the time committee members vote on a budget. Sunlight will continue to track all congressional fundraisers online at their website Party Time. Sunlight Foundation is calling for folks to sign a petition to demand accountability and transparency. Please sign it, tweet it, share it on Facebook, whatever you can do to get the word out. If you're tweeting about it (and I suggest that you!) please use the hashtag #opencongress.

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