The Honorable John Boehner
H-232 The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Harry Reid
522 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
235 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
317 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Reid, Minority Leader Pelosi, and Minority Leader McConnell:
Our organizations strongly urge the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to operate openly to the greatest extent possible in order to earn the confidence of the American people. Despite its unprecedented role in remaking the economy, the Joint Committee as currently constituted is subject to few transparency requirements. A closed process is inimical to the committee's legitimacy and our democratic ideals.
Because the committee’s work will affect every American family, we urge you to ensure that it operates in a way that will engage and inform the public. We also urge that all efforts to influence the committee’s work must also be subject to public scrutiny. We recommend the following:
Information about the committee's legislative actions
- Post at least 48 hours in advance of a hearing all agendas, witness lists (including identifying information), and written testimony.
- Contemporaneously publish online a list of committee votes, outcomes, and the questions put to the committee, with any supporting documentation, and with the votes of each member recorded.
- Make the committee's report public 72 hours prior to the final vote. Also publish working drafts (including the chairman's mark) and amendments online.
- Publish committee legislation online 72 hours prior to the final vote along with working drafts and amendments.
- Publish proposals and supporting documentation received from standing House and Senate committees as received.
- Disclose information relied upon by the committee, including all CBO analyses and scores, and data assumptions made by the Committee, including the baseline it uses, and any related CRS, GAO, IG, or other reports and memoranda.
Information about the committee's operations
- Appoint committee members that support an open and accountable process.
- Establish a central website where committee information will be disclosed.
- Make all official meetings open to the public and the media.
- Ensure notices of upcoming hearings are posted at least seven days in advance.
- Transmit live webcasts and maintain archived video of all official meetings and hearings (including markups), and publish contemporaneous transcripts of proceedings.
- Post a list of all committee members and staff online, their titles, and financial disclosure reports.
Communications with the committee
- Ask for and publish comments from the public on both the legislative language and its accompanying report prior to a final vote.
- Provide a webform or other means to allow the public to contact members of the committee and its staff.
- Post online in real-time all meetings between lobbyists or other powerful interests and committee members or staff. The posting should include, among other things, the name, employer, and client of the lobbyist, the specific subject of the meeting, the time and date of the meeting, and who else participated in the conversation. All written materials should be published online. Any verbal communications (except regarding purely logistical matters) should be summarized and published as well.
- Post campaign contributions received by committee members within 24 hours of receipt to their campaign websites.
While this is not an exhaustive list, disclosure of this information would go a long way towards making the Joint Committee more open and transparent. If you have questions, please contact Sunlight Foundation Policy Director John Wonderlich at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-742-1520 x 234, POGO Public Policy Director Angela Canterbury at email@example.com or 202-347-1122, or OMB Watch Director of Federal Information Policy Sean Moulton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-234-8494.
Center for Responsive Politics
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
Feminists for Free Expression
Fund for Constitutional Government
Government Accountability Project
Legal Publication Services
Progressive Librarians Guild
Project On Government Oversight
Society of Professional Journalists
Union of Concerned Scientists
Washington Coalition for Open Government