Transparency, the Latest

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Craig Jennings, the federal fiscal policy director at OMB Watch, still has concerns about the level of transparency in the stimulus bill. Tracking on will be 'pretty useful,' he says -- 'but not ideal.' For example the level of disclosure only requires contract summaries down to the subcontractor level. Say New York gets federal money (making New York the contractor) for a bridge. The contractor building the bridge -- e.g. ABCXYZ Construction -- is the sub, and the contract summary stops there. If ABCXYZ hires Concrete Boots to provide the asphalt, we won't necessarily know. Moreover, if the state gives money to the city, the city is technically the sub, and that contract trail ends.

Not only that, but we won't actually get to see the contracts, only contract summaries. Jennings says there's still more to work out -- Peter Orszag at OMB is still developing the reporting criteria -- but it certainly concerns OMB Watch (and us!). Also something to watch: federal lobbying law doesn't require agency lobbying to be reported. President Obama might -- he's directed his staff to look at this. But, as of now, if ABCXYZ hires a lobbyist to speak to say, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, we may not know. Keep an eye on this space for more.


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