How did transparency fare in stimulus conference?

Although the stimulus conference committee struck a deal yesterday afternoon, there’s still no public rendering of the final agreement as it will be voted on by the House and the Senate.

But the Project On Government Oversight has obtained a copy of Section 1519, which outlines requirements for how the stimulus’s accountability website—almost certainly—will be operated. Marthena Cowart, a POGO spokesperson, says the copy was provided by Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill’s office.

While the House bill, which passed first, called for creating the site, McCaskill had introduced Senate Amendment 196, which required more detailed and thorough disclosure of contracting details, and would have required its launch within 30 days.

The conference’s version does have McCaskill’s addition that the site be up and running under a month, but it does not have language she’d called for requiring that local and state contracts funded by stimulus money be tracked on the website—merely that federal funds be so tracked. Still, POGO—smarting from the conference’s removal of certain whistleblower protections—is counting the conference website provisions as a one of the bill’s “bright spots.”

On Monday, President Obama outlined his vision for, which sounded more comprehensive than what looks to be coming out of congress:

“We’re actually going to set up something called—this is going to be a special website we set up, that gives you a report on where the money is going in your community, how it’s being spent, how many jobs it’s being created so that all of you can be the eyes and ears. And if you see that a project is not working the way it’s supposed to, you’ll be able to get on that website and say, ‘You know, I thought this was supposed to be going to school construction but I haven’t noticed any changes being made.’ And that will help us track how this money is being spent. …The key is that we’re going to have strong oversight and strong transparency to make sure this money isn’t being wasted.”

Luckily for Obama, Congress’s descriptions of what the website might look like are more of a floor than a ceiling—he can go much further, and it looks like that what he’s planning on.

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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.