It is one of the unlikelier alliances in the 2008 presidential campaign: what possibly could bring together Barack Obama, Sam Brownback and Ron Paul? The answer: the highly ambitious, if infelicitously named, Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act.
The act is meant to bring average Americans a kind of Google for the federal government, an online search engine that will allow citizens to look up any company, organization or other entity receiving federal contracts, grants and earmarks. The act was passed by Congress and signed by President Bush last year, but some of its supporters charge that federal agencies are already dragging their feet on its implementation.
To rally support for the initiative, a coalition led by the libertarian Reason Foundation asked the 2008 presidential candidates sign a pledge that would commit them to issuing an executive order in the first 30 days of their administration directing all departments and agencies to join in the "timely implementation of the letter and spirit" of the act.
Only Obama, Brownback and Paul signed the pledge. (Fred Thompson was not asked, since he is not yet an official candidate.) Mike Flynn, the Reason Foundation's director of government affairs, said he wasn't sure why the other candidates declined.
"They just kind of dodged. They just always kept punting," he said. "It's staggering that they wouldn't sign, because this is already federal law."
Flynn said he expected that among the top searches on the site would be information on spending at FEMA, the Department of Defense and Department of Transportation. "The great thing is that people of all ideologies are going benefit from this," he said. "That's why it's stunning that [the other candidates] wouldn't sign."
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