January 6, 2009

To: President-Elect Obama; cc all Members of Congress
Re: Transparency and the “Stimulus” Package

Dear President-Elect Obama:

We are pleased to hear that you responded favorably to House Republican Whip Eric Cantor’s suggestion that transparency and accountability are paramount in the debate and subsequent likely implementation of the yet-to-be-drafted stimulus package, and that any such bill should be put up on the Internet a week before Congress votes on it.

Creating a “Google-like search function to show every program funded by the stimulus package,” as your incoming chief of staff has suggested you would do, is an important step in the right direction. However, in order to achieve full transparency and accountability in this process, the following conditions should be met:

  • While Republican Whip Cantor raises an important transparency requirement in calling for a week of public scrutiny for the bill, any such spending proposal of such magnitude deserves a longer “time-out” during which the bill must be posted but cannot be voted upon. No member of Congress should even consider voting for such a “stimulus” package until after the bill has been posted on the Internet for a minimum of ten business days. Only then is an honest and open debate on the merits of the package’s components feasible. Furthermore, any change to the package should set back the clock and kick off another ten-day review period.
  • Your administration has indicated that a searchable website for the stimulus package would show whether a program funded by the stimulus package comes in under- or over-budget, whether it is meeting its intended purpose and how many jobs it is creating. However, since taxpayers are footing the bill for these programs, they should be able to follow the money dollar for dollar right on the website. Consequently, the site should provide access to all checks written and the wording of all bids and the actual contracts and subcontracts let in a searchable form.
  • Furthermore, if you are looking to count how many jobs are created by taking money out of the economy and productive use on one end to pour it in on the other, you will also need to list the number of jobs lost due to this procedure.

We would also urge you to work with Members of Congress to address the dangers of corruption lurking in the process. The following suggestions would provide important taxpayer protections:

  • Any group, company, or institution that receives such “stimulus” spending should be legally barred from contributing to any political candidate, party or other political entity (i.e. ACORN) for ten years.
  • Lastly, any U.S. Representative or Senator who votes to hand out taxpayer dollars in the context of such a stimulus package should be legally banned for life from seeking and accepting employment with any of the receiving entities of such funds. The same ban should be extended to the Member of Congress’s family and staff.

Leaving the merits of a massive stimulus package aside, given that any such package will burden not only current but future generations of taxpayers, they deserve – at a minimum – full transparency, accountability and taxpayer protections in the process.


Grover Norquist
Americans for Tax Reform

Sandra Fabry
Executive Director
Center for Fiscal Accountability