'Army of bloggers' helps Senate pass bill

Sen. Tom Coburn Web site

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A bill that an “army of bloggers” helped spur passed the Senate today. The bill would create a Google-like search engine and database to track approximately $1 trillion in federal grants, contracts, earmarks and loans.

“The group that deserves credit for passing this bill, however, is not Congress, but the army of bloggers and concerned citizens who told Congress that transparency is a just demand for all citizens, not a special privilege for political insiders,” said the bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).

The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (S. 2590) would set up a searchable online database the public could use to track federal funding of organizations. The Web site would show how much funding an organization received in each of the past 10 fiscal years, a breakdown of the transactions and details about the organization.

Several senators had placed holds on this bill, blocking the legislation from floor consideration. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) admitted to placing a hold, and Coburn’s staff suspected that Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) also had used the procedure, according to a statement. The holds were later released.

Reports state that bloggers contacted every senator’s office to determine who had placed holds.

“It’s both unusual and encouraging to see interest groups and bloggers on the left and the right come together to achieve results,” said Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), a co-sponsor of the bill.

“We welcome the Senate’s unanimous approval of a bill to increase transparency and accountability,” said Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman in a statement. He said OMB is ready to work with agencies to build the single database.

“Every American has the right to know how their government spends their money, and then to hold elected officials accountable for those decisions,” said Coburn, who considers himself a watchdog in monitoring how the government spends tax dollars.

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