- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2006

American citizens outraged over the uncontrollable spending habits of Congress and the White House have no better ally in Washington than Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn. The junior senator from Oklahoma, elected in 2004, has been waging a rather lonely battle against spending earmarks, which have soared under the Republican-controlled Congress. The number of spending earmarks in appropriation bills alone has risen from 4,155 in 1994 (when Dr. Coburn was elected to the first of three terms in the House) to 15,887 in 2005, according to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service.

A world-class multi-tasker who delivered nearly 400 babies during his six years in the House, Dr. Coburn has now embraced a new cause to complement his ongoing assault against earmarks and other porkbarrel spending. In April, he introduced the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006. Fellow Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Democratic Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois and Thomas Carper of Delaware are co-sponsors. The legislation would shine much-needed sunlight throughout the federal budget in a way that simply was not possible before the advent of the Internet and today’s sophisticated search engines.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2007, the bill would require the White House Office of Management and Budget to provide for the “operation of a single updated searchable database website accessible by the public at no cost” that would identify “each entity [e.g., corporations, associations, grantees, contractors and any state or locality] receiving federal funding” during fiscal years 2006 and 2007. The required information would include “an itemized breakdown of each transaction, including funding agency, program source and a description of the purpose of each funding action.” By the beginning of 2009, the Web site would include comparable data for fiscal years 1999 through 2005. Beginning Oct. 1, 2007, which is the first day of fiscal year 2008, the database would require information on subcontractors and subgrantees. “Federal funding” would include grants, contracts, loans and awards.

What a brilliant idea. “Sunshine’s the best thing we’ve got to control waste, fraud and abuse,” Dr. Coburn told the New York Times. “It’s also the best thing … to control stupidity.”

Nobody should be under the illusion that the Web site database alone will solve America’s spending problems. Dr. Coburn certainly does not make this claim. On the other hand, no member of Congress should oppose providing the public with easily accessible information detailing which corporations and organizations are receiving contracts and grants and what they are doing with the money.

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