The government is hiding information about spending, but Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa wants to change that with a new watchdog bill.
Requests under the Freedom of Information Act have grown significantly over the last decade, but slow bureaucrats are not responding to taxpayers within the proper time frame or with accurate information. As the backlog grows, Americans are left wondering just how much of their money the government is squandering each day, but the FOIA process repeatedly falls short.
Under Ernst’s “Watchdog Act,” government agencies would be subject to “hounding” from a Director of Open Government, or “DOG,” in the White House. The DOG’s exclusive responsibility would be to act as the first liaison between Americans demanding records and answers about bureaucratic spending and the government staffers who have thus far delayed any response.
The DOG would also evaluate agencies and give each one a numbered grade based on “the timeliness and completeness of the information provided to the public,” according to a press release from the Senator’s office. This point system is not only designed to expose an agency’s noncompliance to the public but also prevent any grade inflation by publishing numbers that can be compared to those tracked by the U.S. Government Accountability Office or other watchdog organizations.
Currently, any problems with the FOIA system require legal action that many Americans don’t have time for or can’t afford. Under Ernst’s proposal, any complaints about denied requests or a lack of timeliness would also go through the new DOG, which Ernst reassured “would be funded with already existing dollars that are at the Office of Management and Budget.”
“Armed with information, citizens can hold the government accountable and expose malfeasance, but only if the laws are followed,” she said in a speech to her Senate colleagues.
The Republican was first inspired to take action after the National Institutes of Health had “not been forthcoming” about its funding relationship with the EcoHealth Alliance and the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Under her new legislation, the White House would press NIH to comply with records requests.
Ernst, who gave her recent “squeal award” to “unelected bureaucrats and political hacks who are keeping taxpayers in the dark,” previously introduced several bills designed to hold the government accountable for overspending and for taxpayer projects delayed by bureaucratic hoops, but many of them lacked enforcement. Her hope with the Watchdog Act, however, is that even more citizens will feel emboldened to expose corruption in the swamp via information requests because they have someone on their side who’s responsible for giving them answers.
“We can’t have gatekeepers of truth in a free society,” she said. “That is why under my bill, those who censor information, rather than those who share it, will be held accountable. The best way to restore trust in our public institutions and to discredit misinformation campaigns is by shining a light on what’s really going on in Washington.”