When John Cornyn was attorney general of Texas under Governor George Bush, he mounted a comprehensive initiative to make the Texas government less secret. Now as U.S. Senator John Cornyn, he is once again pushing the agenda of open and transparent government under the Bush Administration.
This week, the Senate approved a bill sponsored by Cornyn and Senator Patrick Leahy that would prevent attacks on open government from flying under the radar. These days, monstrously long bills are usually voted on within days or hours after being made publicly accessible, giving little time for lawmakers to properly scrutinize the contents. A sentence or a few words here and there can wreak havoc. Industry lobbyists have figured out that one way to get the public off their back is for the Congress to create exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), something they have actively encouraged. An excellent article by Rebecca Carr of Cox News noted that Congress has created such exemptions to FOIA in this way 140 times. This piece of legislation--which was originally part of the OPEN Government Act--by Cornyn and Leahy would require that obvious language signaling when legislation would Swiss cheese FOIA would be included in the bill text. Congress may decide to tamper with FOIA, but it will have no excuse that it didn't know what it was doing.
Let’s hope the House undertakes approving this bill and that the Congress finishes the common sense FOIA reforms in Cornyn and Leahy’s OPEN Government Act.