Checking in on Government

The lack of any serious media coverage of what is truly happening in Washington can be frustrating for citizens who consider governing a serious matter. Aside from the agreed upon talking points put out by the Administration, little, if any, coverage is devoted to the issues a properly functioning government should address.

This leaves the individual with a wide array of sources to look through to put the puzzle together and find out what is happening in their name and with their tax dollars. That task proves too burdensome for many resulting in a resignation to what is happening and simply waiting for better days ahead.

This does not have to be so. There are still legislators in Washington who are doing a good job in monitoring what is going on and reporting back to their constituents. Party affiliation has little to do with good efforts at such things as accountability, exposing records, and ensuring that transparency in government allows the citizenry to be active participants.

To that end, periodic checks will be made on the offices of such legislators to determine what they are seeing up close and what actions they are taking or deem worth taking to preserve our democratic republic. The following is the result of checking in with Rep. Henry Waxman's (D-CA) office. Long a government watchdog, regardless of the party in power, he has been a beacon of light in the foggy pronouncements so prized by Washington. A review of his site shows some of the things which interest him and cause him alarm, but none, at this point, seems as timely and as important as bringing back transparency to government.

Rep. Waxman is currently sponsoring the following:

Summary of THE RESTORE OPEN GOVERNMENT ACT OF 2005 (H.R. 2331):

Restoring the Presumption of Public Disclosure of Information: The bill overturns the “Ashcroft Memo,” which restricts release of information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and the “Card Memo,” which urges agencies to stretch FOIA exemptions to withhold any “sensitive” information. The bill restores the policy that agencies should release requested information absent some finding of harm.

Eliminating Unnecessary Pseudo-Classification Designations: The bill calls on the Archivist of the United States to report on the use of pseudo-classification designations, such as “sensitive but unclassified” and “for official use only.” Unnecessary pseudo-classification designations are banned, and the use of other information control designations is restricted.

Restoring Public Access to Presidential Records: The bill repeals President Bush’s executive order on presidential records, which severely curtailed release of these important historical documents, and restores President Reagan’s executive order on presidential records.

Prohibiting Secret Advisory Committees: The bill prevents the White House from establishing advisory committees of government employees that meet secretly with industry groups, as did the Vice President’s energy task force. Under the bill, these advisory committees must reveal their meetings and communications with private parties.

Promoting Timely Declassification of Government Documents: The bill promotes public access to information and helps prioritize declassification by funding the Public Interest Declassification Board. The bill calls on the Archivist of the United States to levy a fee on agencies to pay for the operations of the Board.

Improving the Operations of the Freedom of Information Act: The bill restores the integrity of FOIA by limiting the broad FOIA exemption for critical infrastructure information created in the Homeland Security Act of 2002. The bill further creates transparency in agency compliance with FOIA and makes it more feasible for citizen groups to challenge the improper withholding of government information.

An effort such as the above-mentioned one surely transcends any partisanship and should be embraced by everyone who feels that this country is theirs. By extension, the country's leaders, the executive and legislative bodies, and their actions should be open to examination for all to see unless a threat to national security can be clearly shown and agreed to on a bi-partisan basis.

Coming up- a review of Chris Shays (R-CT) and his concerns/legislative agenda.

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