Will the last Senator in the Capitol please turn the sunshine off?
When the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee called together a public subcommittee hearing this week entitled “Removing the Shroud of Secrecy: Making Government More Transparent and Accountable,” I especially looked forward to the testimony of Ellen Miller. Miller is the executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, a group that’s brought us a public database of lobbyist parties for members of Congress, a group that makes the White House visitor logs accessible, a group that’s starting a new Public=Online Movement.
On Tuesday March 23, 2010, Miller had her chance to stand before the government and bring the power of sunlight to bear. The following is a complete transcript of her remarks before the committee:
Ellen Miller: My name is Ellen Miller, and I’m cofounder and executive director of the Sunlight Foundation. Sunlight is a four year-old nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to using the power of the internet to catalyze greater governnment accessibility and openness and transparency. We take our inspiration from Justice Brandeis’ adage, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”
We are committed to improving access to government information by…
Senator Thomas Carper: Ms. Miller?
Carper: Please forgive me for interrupting. I’ve just been informed by my staff that on the floor of the Senate there’s been a, uh, move to stop all the proceedings and hearings going on in the Senate, and we’re compelled to stop at this point in time. I regret it. There are rules here; we can only go for so long and then we have to stop, and the whistle has blown. Unfortunately, those who are holding hearings now have to cease. I feel very badly about that. I’m going to ask, I’m going to ask each of you, we’re not going to ask you to stay around.
And that was that.
In a display of opacity, the Senate has not even made Miller’s written remarks available. Even if Ellen Miller had been allowed to testify that day, it’s not clear what impact her words would have made. Of the 10 Senators on the subcommittee, only 2 (Senators Tom Carper and Tom Coburn) bothered to show up.
The following Senators didn’t feel it was worth their time to attend a hearing of their own subcommittee on government transparency: