Thursday, August 31, 2006

Alaska's Stevens Put a Hold on Pork-Barrel Transparency Bill

After activist blogs get denials from 97 other senators, his office says his role was no secret.

Joel Havemann
Times Staff Writer
August 31, 2006

WASHINGTON — Ending a mystery that had captivated conservative and liberal Internet activists, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) emerged Wednesday as the senator who secretly held up action on a bill to create a searchable online catalog of federal grants and contracts aimed at helping the general public find out who receives government support.

The acknowledgment by Stevens ended an innovative exercise in Internet-based political activism. Several blogs had urged readers to call senators and ask whetherthey had placed a "hold" on the legislation to create the online database. Many activists believed the catalog would make it easier to root out pork-barrel spending.

As of midday Wednesday, the blogs had been able to obtain denials from 97 senators that they had placed the hold, which under unwritten Senate rules prevented the legislation from moving to a floor vote. With the suspects narrowed to a small group, Stevens' office acknowledged that he had blocked the bill.

Way to go, bloggers! The internet can (and does) make a difference.

The bill was drafted by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) in response to public concerns about the size of the federal deficit generally and, more specifically, the tendency of lawmakers to earmark funds in spending bills for favored projects back home.

"Why shouldn't the American people know where their money is being spent?" Coburn asked in defense of his bill. He predicted that lawmakers would approve less spending if voters knew what the spending was for.

Big thumbs-up to Coburn here. The people should know!

Stevens' spokesman, Aaron Saunders, said Stevens merely wanted the bill delayed until he could be convinced that it would not create another unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.

"We explained our position to Sen. Coburn," Saunders said. "From our perspective, it hasn't been a secret hold."

Stevens took advantage of a Senate tradition that allows a member or group of members with concerns about legislation to put a private hold on it by issuing a request — anonymously, if desired — to their party's Senate leader.

The petitioners do not have to tell the sponsor of the legislation they are challenging, and the leader keeps the bill from coming to a vote until the concerns are met.

full article

So Stevens was worried about "another unnecessary layer of bureaucracy". Sounds like bull-plop to me. Bull-plop!