New government accountability legislation authored by Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich.) would improve access to executive branch ethics records that are often shrouded by layers of bureaucracy. The Executive Branch Accountability and Transparency Act establishes a new searchable database to house personnel ethics waivers, recusals and disclosures that must be publicly available under current law, but, are difficult to locate or obtain in practice.
“To promote transparency and public trust, Congress passed laws requiring government employees to disclose certain ethics information, but this information is useless if the public can’t access it. Whether it’s financial disclosures to avoid conflicts or waivers for work with foreign governments by retired service members, the bureaucracy must be accountable, and the public has a right to know. This bill centralizes the ethics filings across government and helps the public ensure that its government is working for the people,” Grassley said.
“While federal officials are already required to disclose conflicts of interest, this information can be difficult for the public to find, limiting transparency for taxpayers in Michigan and across the nation,” Peters said. “By improving access to these disclosures, this bipartisan bill will help build trust in government.”
While Congress has long required certain financial disclosures, waivers, recusals and other ethics records to be publicly available, recent media reports have highlighted the difficulty in obtaining the records. These barriers have made public scrutiny all but impossible without teams of lawyers. The Executive Branch Accountability and Transparency Act establishes a database, overseen by the Office of Government Ethics, to house these public records in a uniform and searchable manner. Streamlined access to these disclosures will improve public accountability and compliance with public reporting requirements.
Along with Grassley and Peters, the Executive Branch Accountability and Transparency Act is cosponsored by Sens. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.). It’s been endorsed by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Heritage Action and the BullMoose Project. Similar legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Nicholas Langworthy (R-N.Y.).
Executive Branch Accountability and Transparency Act