Tester Rolls Out Government Transparency Bill

Posted May 6, 2010 at 11:52am

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) on Thursday introduced a bill that would require the executive branch to post all public documents on a searchable online database.

This isn’t his “first rodeo” on transparency, he told reporters on a press call as he unveiled his bill.

“When it comes to transparent government, I always try to lead by example,” Tester said. “I was the first Member of Congress to post my daily public schedule, expense reports” online.

The measure would require the online, searchable publication of all public documents revealing executive branch officials going on junkets paid for by a third party, lobbying activities of government contractors and financial disclosure forms by administration officials.

It also would set up an independent watchdog committee that would issue guidelines about making information available. Tester’s measure is a companion to a bill introduced in March by Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.).

Tester said the legislation is necessary because it would make readily available information that is already public but that is often difficult to get in the public’s hands. The transparency bill comes just days after Tester signed on as a co-sponsor to legislation that would ban lawmakers from becoming lobbyists and increase the cooling-off period before staff could register to lobby to six years.

Tester said that he has gotten “favorable input” from the Obama administration on the transparency bill.

Groups like the Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for more government transparency, praised the bill’s introduction.

“The Sunlight Foundation applauds Senator Tester’s leadership and commitment to government transparency,” Sunlight Foundation Executive Director Ellen Miller said in a statement. “Senator Tester has put down an important transparency marker: In today’s world, for information to be truly public, it must be made available online.”