POGO was delighted when the Mayor of Rancho Cordova, CA, Ken Cooley stopped by our office last week to purchase three copies of The Art of Congressional Oversight: A User's Guide to Doing It Right. Cooley, who also wears the hat of Principal Consultant to the California State Senate Committee on Banking, Finance, and Insurance, will be sharing the handbooks with Senate colleagues who are interested in expanding oversight efforts.
Cooley has compiled a draft resource on oversight for Senate standing committees that has evoked interest among Senate colleagues eager to reinvigorate efforts on oversight and towards a more accountable government. Cooley reported that increased oversight is a top priority of Senate Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, the Chamber’s top leader, who has established an Office of Oversight and Outcomes.
Mayor Cooley's two cents:
“Senator Darrell Steinberg’s new emphasis makes sense. At a time when budget shortfalls and various kinds of process gridlocks pose barriers to accomplishment in many State Capitals, oversight efforts offer Legislatures a natural avenue for productive — and bipartisan — achievement. When finding monies for new legislative initiatives can be daunting, taking an updated look at the efficacy and efficiency of previous legislation, as well as scouting around for wasted government funds, gives state lawmakers opportunities for very fruitful inquiry.”
Do his points sound familiar? They do to us. In February, POGO distributed to the U.S. Congress “A Dozen Nonpartisan Good Government Fixes To Implement in 2010.” We said: “None of these issues are partisan. In fact, the solution to many of these problems involve strengthening the watchdogs in the government, a goal that should be shared by both sides of the aisle.”
We hope that the handbook provides some valuable tips, and perhaps a model for a similar handbook for the CA state legislative staff and Members. While we wrote our handbook for congressional staff and Members, we hoped that it would also find an audience with legislators at the state and local level, as well as those abroad, and of course, students of government. While the U.S. Congress is unique in having oversight support bodies such as the Congressional Research Service (CRS) and Government Accountability Office (GAO), many of the components of good oversight are not exclusive to the U.S. Congress. For example, following up on insider and whistleblower tips, not being intimidated by the executive branch’s defense of its own interests, and getting out of the office to pound the pavement with some investigating.
We hope to hear more about the oversight efforts in the California State Senate.
-- Ingrid Drake