With Rod Blagojevich and Charlie Rangel in the news and under pressure from the media, now is the time for the House and Senate GOP caucuses to push a real transparency and ethics agenda. On January 6th, both Houses will meet and begin the work of passing rules. We need to have some specific proposals, and this is not something that I follow well. Furthermore, the GOP ought to shoot big here. Frankly, we aren’t going to run Congress for a while, so let’s max this out.
Imagine some proposals:
First, in both bodies, allow individuals to submit ethics complaints and require the various ethics committees to officially reject complaints.
Second, faster and more complete campaign finance proposals. All contributions down to $5, or even just all contributions, should be disclosed. Electronic contributions should be disclosed within 72 hours and checks should be disclosed within 72 hours of deposit. These would be real-time disclosed on the FEC website. This would solve the problem that the Sunlight Foundation and others have tried to address with S. 223.
Third, put video of all publicly accessible business meetings online. I am sure that C-SPAN and Google would be happy to help. I know that many committees keep video of markups, but release neither the video nor transcripts.
Fourth, I am sure that there are things that are specific to disclosure of financial interests that we have learned out of the Rangel affair. Through that in.
Only the second item needs to be implemented in law. If it got to Barack Obama’s desk, he would have to sign it, and it would be embarassing.
The others can be the basis of a rules fight at the beginning of the session. Make these new Democrats who ran on ethics vote against transparency and for their leadership or against their leadership.
Furthermore, let’s seperate Obama from the Demcratic Congress. Let’s praise his transparency measures, like disclosing meetings of his transition teams, while smacking the Congressional majorities around.