Issa pledges to save transparency sites

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is pushing to save the Obama administration's transparency websites from budget cuts to the E-Government fund.

Issa recently expressed optimism that sites like Data.gov, USASpending.gov and others can survive despite a 50 percent cut in funding for E-Government programs in the budget deal recently approved by Congress.

"We will find a way, and this is a personal pledge, to make sure they are not shut down," Issa said at a panel discussion last week. "The specific funding goes away but reprogramming authority would still be available. Our view is on a case-by-case basis we will be able to keep them open."

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has reportedly been making contingency plans for taking the sites offline since the House passed a budget last month that slashed funding from $34 million in fiscal 2010 to just $2 million in 2011.

Issa pressed his colleagues to recognize the importance of the sites, resulting in a bump in funding to $17 million. But the final continuing resolution reduced that funding to a figure of $8 million. Still, a source said, the funds should be enough to preserve the higher-profile sites.

Sunlight Foundation policy director John Wonderlich hailed Issa for making a personal commitment to preserving the sites, calling the pledge "huge."

"Transparency reform often functions through political incentives, but it isn't a political phenomenon. It's a democratic phenomenon," Wonderlich said.

"In Issa, we have a leading Republican who was willing to say more in public to support executive branch transparency sites than the entire executive branch was."

Issa argued at an event last week that the reason his colleagues reduced the funding is because OMB said the sites were pilots, leading Congress to believe they are not essential.

He called government-wide data collection and disclosure important for finding long-term savings and said the process could probably be funded for $50 million annually.