Tester introduces landmark transparency bill to boost openness, accountability

Bill would create online clearinghouse for government information

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester today launched another effort to boost transparency and accountability in government.

Saying Montanans sent him to the Senate “to help clean up Washington,” Tester introduced the groundbreaking Public Online Information Act.

The legislation would require the Executive Branch of the U.S. government—where the vast majority of public documents originate—to post all public documents and records in a free, searchable online clearinghouse.  The bill would also establish an independent, bipartisan watchdog advisory committee to issue guidelines for making public information accessible online.

“Montanans sent me to the Senate partly to help clean up Washington, and I’m doing just that,” Tester said.  “From day one, we’ve blazed a new trail of openness and accountability.  Now it’s time to raise the bar and set new standards for public access, and make sure transparency is keeping up with online technology.  Because a little sunshine on government is always a good thing.  And folks in Montana aren’t alone in expecting open, honest government.”

Tester’s legislation was hailed by several government watchdog groups, including The Sunlight Foundation.

"The Sunlight Foundation applauds Senator Tester for introducing the Public Online Information Act, legislation we proudly support," said Ellen Miller, executive director and co-founder of the Sunlight Foundation. "The Public Online Information Act redefines 'public information' for the 21st Century by requiring the government to make public information accessible to all online."

Tester’s bill—available online, HERE— is a companion to legislation introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y.

A Timeline of Ethics and Transparency

Tester takes office and fulfills campaign promises:

  • Makes history as first member of Congress to post his daily public schedule on website,
  • Goes beyond Senate rules to ban all gifts, meals, travel from lobbyists for himself and staff,
  • Closes revolving door, barring any staff who become lobbyists from ever lobbying him or being rehired.

A record of accountability:

  • Passed sweeping ethics reform with first Senate vote,
  • Helped pass requirement for Congress to post all expense reports online,
  • Backed bill to require all campaign committees to post financial disclosures online,
  • Posts full text of all major bills and amendments, sponsored and cosponsored, to website.