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Advocates to Portman: Let the "Sun Shine"

November 18, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The congressional "super-committee" faces its deadline for submitting recommendations to cut the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion, and groups advocating for open government are pressing committee members such as Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, to post their final recommendations online no later than today.

The proceedings have been mostly secret, and with what's at stake, says John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation policy director, the public needs more information.

"They're not restrained as far as their jurisdiction. They can change how Medicare, Social Security, defense spending or the tax code, or really anything else they what. So, it's an amazing amount of power to be given and to do your work in secret."

Wonderlich believes it isn't acceptable to reorder government spending and public policies without public hearings and the accountability of a truly public process. The Sunlight Foundation and other open-government advocates had asked that the information be released no later than 72 hours before a vote - but with that deadline today, it seems unlikely.

Lee Farris, federal tax policy coordinator for United for a Fair Economy, says having information can make a real difference for people, as was demonstrated in the public workers' rights movement in Ohio and Wisconsin.

"When they tried to attack the benefits and the working conditions of the state employees, people rose up and defended against that."

The Sunlight Foundation says public information also made a big difference in Ohio recently, when voters struck down a law that restricted public workers' rights to bargain collectively.

Failure to pass an agreement would result in $1.2 trillion in automatic across-the-board spending cuts starting in 2013.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - OH