Policy Letter

An Open Letter to the United States Senate: Support a Full Accounting of Federal Grants!

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the millions of taxpaying citizens represented by the groups signed below, we strongly urge you to support S. 2590, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. The bill, sponsored by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and co-sponsored by colleagues John McCain (R-AZ), Barack Obama (D-IL), and Tom Carper (D-DE), would direct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to create a publicly-available website that would list every entity receiving federal grants or contracts and the totals awarded for the last ten fiscal years. Such a website would entail very little cost and would greatly increase transparency in the distribution of government funding. At last, those who most deserve to know about this process – the American people – would have the tool they need to conduct their own evaluations of Washington 's priorities.

It is essentially impossible for the average citizen to obtain such an accounting today. According to the General Services Administration, the federal government provides roughly $300 billion in grants to 30,000 organizations, ranging from rail and transit security to youth theater troupes. Information is spread across innumerable agencies, frequently lacks specificity, and is not always available to the public. All too often, one must resort to filing a request under the Freedom of Information Act to truly determine the extent or duration of funding. Americans should not be forced to navigate the treacherous waters of bureaucracy just to find out who is receiving their tax dollars.

In the past, it was not feasible to have a centralized listing of the kinds of organizations and activities that received government monies. The effort needed to calculate, coordinate, and print such a listing would have been enormous, and the final product may well have required a forklift to transport. But today, with incredible increases in computing power and the advent of the Internet, such an undertaking is far less daunting. In fact, a precedent has been set by ExpectMore.gov, a website launched by the OMB to monitor the performance of more than 800 federal programs. ExpectMore.gov has made program review more transparent and accessible to the public.

Advocates from all points on the spectrum of opinion share the common notion that transparency of and public access to government information is vital to the health of our political system. It is for this reason that S. 2590 has broad appeal. Budget watchdogs can support the legislation because it would reveal duplicative or superfluous federal funding. Environmentalists can support it because it would detail exactly how much federal money goes to organizations and practices they deem to be ecologically harmful. Traditional values groups can support the legislation because it would allow them to track funding for causes they hold to be inimical to their own. The list of those with a stake in S. 2590, from civil libertarians to defense and foreign-policy reformers, goes on and on. Reasonable people of all political viewpoints should unite in support of S. 2590, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, in the interest of good governance.


John Berthoud, President

National Taxpayers Union

Danielle Brian, Executive Director

Project On Government Oversight

Jon Coupal, Chairman

American Tax Reduction Movement

Tom Devine, Legal Director

Government Accountability Project

Steve Ellis, Vice President of Programs

Taxpayers for Common Sense

Matt Foreman, Executive Director

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Patrick C. Guerriero, President

Log Cabin Republicans

Doug Kagan, Chairman

Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom

Michelle Korsmo, Executive Vice President

Americans for Prosperity

William Lauderback, Executive Vice President

The American Conservative Union

Jeff Mazzella, President

Center for Individual Freedom

Thomas McClusky, Vice President of Government Affairs

Family Research Council

Jane Orient, MD, Executive Director

American Association of Physicians and Surgeons

Michael D. Ostrolenk, National Director

Liberty Coalition

Richard O. Rowland, President

Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

Gary Ruskin, Director

Congressional Accountability Project

Thomas A. Schatz, President

Council for Citizens Against Government Waste

Phyllis Schlafly, President and Founder

Eagle Forum

Samuel M. Slom, President

Small Business Hawaii

William Westmiller, National Chairman

Republican Liberty Caucus

Timothy M. Wise, President

Arlington County Taxpayers Association