The Magazine

The Oil Spill Windfall

A test for Republicans.

Dec 9, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 13 • By DANIEL M. ROTHSCHILD
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Every authority that touches RESTORE Act funds should conduct all of its meetings and deliberations in public and publish all requests for proposals and other funding documents. This means 100 percent transparency—no executive sessions or no-bid contracts.

Fortunately, we’re seeing some good news on this front. Mississippi has established a website for citizens to suggest projects and see what is being proposed. As of today, it’s short of what a fully functional transparency website would be, but it’s a step in the right direction.

In 2007, Louisiana developed a long-term coastal master plan to guide protection and rebuilding of the state’s coastal lands. The most recent iteration, written in 2012, helps prioritize potential spending. This isn’t a transparency effort per se, but it does provide a benchmark against which RESTORE Act spending can be judged: If it’s not going to high-value master plan projects, why not?

With transparency in place, journalists, government watchdogs, and activists need to keep an eye on how projects are awarded and where the money goes—and keep the pressure on legislators, executive officials, and local governments to neither squander funds on goofy ideas nor create long-term obligations for taxpayers.

It’s clear that when President Obama promised to run the “most transparent administration in history,” he, to employ the New York Times editorial board’s phraseology on such matters, “misspoke.” The conservative governors and legislatures along the Gulf Coast have a chance to demonstrate true transparency and well-implemented conservative policy. They shouldn’t squander the opportunity.

Daniel M. Rothschild is a senior fellow and director of state projects at the R Street Institute in Washington, D.C.

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