Coburn bill would open up government to net

Grants, contracts and other government tax-payer funded transactions are notorious for being frought with waste and abuse. A good way to fix the problem is to pull back the veil of secrecy and let everyone look in on the behind the scenes machinations. The internet provides the tools for this to happen, and a new bill proposed by Senators Tom Coburn and Barrack Obama would help make this a reality.

Exasperated by his party’s failure to cut government spending, Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, is seeking cyberhelp.

Mr. Coburn wants to create a public database, searchable over the Internet, that would list most government contracts and grants — exposing hundreds of billions in annual spending to instant desktop view.

Type in “Halliburton,” the military contractor, or “Sierra Club,” the environmental group, for example, and a search engine would show all the federal money they receive. A search for the terms “Alaska” and “bridges” would expose a certain $223 million span to Gravina Island (population 50) that critics call the “Bridge to Nowhere.”

While advocating for openness, Mr. Coburn is also placing a philosophical bet that the more the public learns about federal spending, the less it will want.

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