Playing by the (New) Rules

President Obama’s administration seems to be following through — in some ways — on the promises of change within the government.

To this end, U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner today announced several key reforms to the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (EESA) in an effort to provide much-needed transparency, accountability and oversight.

The goal is to limit the influence of lobbyists in the decisionmaking process aimed at stabilizing the financial system. According to a news release from the U.S. Treasury, these new rules include:

1. Combating lobbyist influence in the EESA process. The Treasury Department will implement safeguards to prevent lobbyist influence over the program, including restricting contacts with lobbyists in connection with applications for, or disbursements of, EESA funds.

2. Keeping politics out of funding decisions. The Treasury Department will ensure that political influence does not interfere with EESA decisionmaking, using as a model for these protections the limits on political influence over tax matters.

3. Certification to Congress on objective decisionmaking. In reporting to Congress, the Office of Financial Stability (OFS) will certify that each investment decision is based only on investment criteria and the facts of the case.

No doubt this kind of change will rattle the status quo in Washington and test politics as usual. But the real challenge for the administration is getting everyone to play by the rules — or at least not sidestep them or find loopholes in the playbook.

We can only hope that Congress and the political machine running Washington understand the gravity of the perils that our country faces. They need to act accordingly, because now is not the time to exercise influence or engage in a power struggle only to circumvent progress.




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