The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Spending Database is a Big Victory for Taxpayers

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


On September 18, Congress finally passed S. 2590, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006.  But this victory for taxpayers was not won without controversy and confronting shenanigans caused by spendthrift porkers in the Senate.

Introduced in April 2006 by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.), this bi-partisan legislation immediately won the support of diverse organizations on the right and left of the political spectrum – from government watchdogs to organizations that advocate for social change.  The legislation will create a searchable database on the Internet for all federal contracts and grants that are awarded to any entity.  Any person with access to a computer will be able to find out who receives federal money, how much, and how the money is to be used.  The approximately 30,000 entities that receive a federal grant or contract of $25,000 or more will be in the database.

The bill was approved by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in July and was expected to move quickly to the floor for a vote.  But a secret hold was placed on the bill by then-unknown senators.  A hold is not an official Senate rule, but an old custom of honoring a senator’s request to keep a bill or nomination from moving forward.  While a senator may argue that his or her hold is being used to simply get more information on a particular bill or nominee, it can also be a tactic to prevent the bill or nominee from being voted on.

During the month of August, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, other grassroots groups, and the blogosphere got engaged to smoke out the two senators that had placed the hold on the legislation.  The effort was successful.  As expected, two appropriators and the biggest porkers in Congress, Sens. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), were the culprits.  Both said they needed more time to study the legislation and had concerns about its cost.  Considering that neither has ever had any apprehension about the cost of the pork added to appropriations bills that is directed to their states year after year, their excuse was laughable.

Thanks to unrelenting pressure put on Sens. Stevens and Byrd, they dropped their opposition on September 4.  But the next day, Stevens and yet another anonymous Democratic senator placed a second hold on the legislation, sending into doubt whether the legislation would go forward.  Once again, liberal and conservative groups got into the act to force a vote.  The demand was overwhelming, the hold was lifted, and Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) quickly called for a vote on the evening of September 7.  The bill passed by unanimous consent.

The House had a similar bill, but it only required grants to be put on the database, not contracts.  The coalition of blogs and advocacy groups had been clamoring for the House to adopt the Senate version.  Within days, the House accepted the Senate measure with a caveat: two databases, one for grants and one for contracts that would be found on the same website, and the Senate agreed.

As soon as the compromise bill passed, the White House Office of Management and Budget announced it will implement the law as soon as the President signs it.  That occurred at a White House ceremony on September 26, attended by senior CCAGW staff and representatives of the broad coalition responsible for getting the bill enacted.   

Soon, anyone with access to the Internet will be able to type in a word like Natural Resources Defense Council, National Council of La Raza, Halliburton, or Boeing and find out how much money they receive from taxpayers.  The new law will truly make government more transparent and accountable. 

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