Back in December, I wrote about the need for the Right to use an "agenda of equal opportunity" to look beyond simple proposals involving government transparency and start thinking about wide-scale proposals for earmark, budget, bureaucratic and tax reform. Well, it looks like simple transparency proposals are something some Republicans on Capitol Hill should start with.
Big kudos today to Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska (yes, I am giving praise to a Democrat) who has decided to post his daily schedule on his new Senate website, as he promised during his campaign. Beginning with this month, Begich is archiving his schedule on his site and is making it searchable. The Sunlight Foundation encouraged other lawmakers to follow Begich's lead and "provide a similar archive of daily meetings." Throughout his terms as mayor of Anchorage, Begich would post responses to comments under his own name on the Anchorage Daily News's Alaska Politics Blog. I'm sure some on his staff went nuts over it, but it shows that he's willing and disciplined enough to communicate with his constituents, one-on-one, in new ways.
Unfortunately, some aren't so open, even to meeting those that want to support the conservative cause. A couple months ago, through a senior staffer, I invited a Republican senator (who shall go unnamed at this point) to the Heritage Foundation's Conservative Bloggers Briefing. What was the answer I received? I was told that it wouldn't be a good idea for the Senator to meet with bloggers in an open setting, out of the fear that he/she might get attacked. I was disappointed, but not surprised. Many on Capitol Hill, and other lawmakers, out of an abundance of caution refuse to communicate early and often, and make themselves, and their actions, more transparent.
In a world where online reputation management is now an enormously large part of reputation management, taking a few risks by being more open is both necessary and reaps large rewards. The proof? It's working at the state level. Pennsylvania House Republican leader Sam Smith recently released a 12-point government reform plan, which includes dollar one reporting of campaign contributions, a searchable database for all state spending, and limiting state contractors from using non-public information for their own gain.
I know it's a message that has been repeated by many who blog here, but it's worth repeating: while we're in the minority, the Right needs to hold Democrats accountable while we come up with new solutions to reform government. We can kill those two birds with one stone: more transparency initiatives.