Millions of Eyeballs on the Recovery Act

February 24, 2009

With the enactment of the $787 billion

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

(ARRA), the federal government has taken an audacious step to stem what appears to be one of the worst recessions in U.S. history. To its credit, the Obama Administration does not see its role as simply turning on the spigot. As the President just warned winter meetings of mayors and governors, he will hold them accountable to not waste funds, and the money flows will be closely monitored. To promote what it says will be the best federal transparency ever, the Administration has launched a website,

, through which it plans to report on ARRA spending.

While Obama’s aides will be monitoring the recovery from inside the government, a group of non-profit organizations (including Good Jobs First) is planning to do so from the outside. To make sure the new Administration walks the talk, our new

Coalition for an Accountable Recovery

is calling for state-of-the-art disclosure of how the stimulus funds are being used and what impact they are having. In its

founding statement

, the Coalition argues that full transparency is essential in order to determine whether the massive recovery plan is fair and effective.

As we have

blogged before

, President Obama is a bona fide transparency pioneer, having co-sponsored a 2006 federal law that created the federal spending disclosure site

. Since taking office, he has issued executive orders to reverse Bush-era secrecy practices. Given the Obama Administration’s apparent passion for openness, the Coalition’s aim is to work with federal officials on the details of its implementation. Next week, the Coalition will provide initial written suggestions to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which is coordinating, with more detailed recommendations planned soon. OMB’s initial guidance to federal agencies about the website can be found



The Coalition is being co-chaired by OMB Watch, a long-time monitor of federal budget and regulatory policy which created a website that provided the framework for USASpending, and Good Jobs First, where we have long tracked and promoted best practices in state government transparency on economic development subsidies. Among the other members are: Common Cause, National Institute on Money in State Politics, Partnership for Working Families, Project On Government Oversight, Progressive States Network, Sunlight Foundation and U.S. PIRG.

One of our key aims is to see that the stimulus disclosure goes deep enough. This means, for example, reporting not only on which companies receive ARRA-funded contracts from state governments, but also on their subcontractors. "That's where the rubber hits the road, and that's where I see a gap right now," OMB Watch Executive Director Gary Bass



National Journal


My Good Jobs First colleague Greg LeRoy told the


that the recovery disclosure system could help resolve the maddening “Tower of Babel” situation we have today in the way states report their spending. Uniformity would encourage greater use of the system, or as LeRoy put it: "We want millions of eyeballs on that money."