DES MOINES, Iowa – U.S. Senators Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, highlight Sunshine Week (March 14-20, 2021) which is a recognition of the importance of government transparency.
Ernst introduced a number of legislative measures to bring more transparency and accountability to the federal government in a video posted online (watch above).
Some of those initiatives to help ensure Iowans have access to information are:
- Travel itineraries of junkets taken by the President and his political appointees to track carbon emissions to expose climate hypocrisy
- The price tag disclosing the cost of every government project supported with your money;
- An alert system to expose boondoggles that are billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.
On Monday, she announced her first initiative, legislation to track the carbon emissions of White House and executive branch officials
“This bill will expose the hypocrisy of government officials who are targeting biofuel and fossil fuels, while they themselves are relying on fossil fuel-powered transportation,” Ernst told reporters on a press call.
“President Biden has made no secret about his war on fossil fuels, issuing a record-breaking number of executive orders in his first few days in office, many of which specifically target fossil fuels. He has revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and halted the sale of oil and gas leases on federal lands, which have had a devastating impact on workers and killed 1000s of jobs. At the same time, his administration continues to use and rely on fossil fuels,” she added.
The bill, the Executive Branch Emissions Transparency Act, co-sponsored with U.S. Senators Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Rick Scott, R-Fla., would create a publicly accessible database documenting the carbon emissions associated with all fossil fuel-powered travel by the president, vice president, and executive branch political appointees.
Ernst specifically targeted John Kerry, President Biden’s “Climate Czar” noting that he just completed a trip to Europe with a private jet.
“Iowans rely on biofuel and fossil fuels every day to get to work, run their businesses, and to make a living. So when President Biden targets these energy sources right out of the gate when his administration continues to rely on these same fossil fuels to travel like his climate czar John Kerry, its coastal elitism, and hypocrisy at its worst. If the Biden administration is going to limit Iowans’ access to affordable and reliable fuels, kill 1000s of American jobs and implement heavy-handed energy regulations paid for by hardworking Iowans, taxpayers have a right to know about their blatant hypocrisy,” she said.
Grassley discussed his focus for Sunshine Week during remarks on the U.S. Senate floor on Monday (watch above). He focused on the Freedom of Information Act requests and transparency in the judicial branch. Below is the transcript of his speech.
“Our democracy was built for the people, by the people and is accountable to the people.
“The best way to be accountable is through transparency.
“I come to the floor today to celebrate an important week, known as Sunshine Week.
“During this week we celebrate the birth of the fourth President of the United States, James Madison.
“Madison is the father of the Constitution and the father of open government.
“He believed that access to information and meaningful oversight and accountability are foundational to our government.
“This week, I’m continuing his legacy by introducing several pieces of legislation.
“I’m also asking the Government Accountability Office to look into how the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, has been impacted by the pandemic.
“First, on the judicial side, I’m again advocating for “cameras in the courts.”
“In the last year, nearly every major institution – from schools to Congress – have adapted to the pandemic by going virtual.
“Bringing cameras into our federal courts would also bring in the public and open up access to our third branch of government.
“At the same time, I’m also asking the courts to provide transparency into our civil justice system by requiring the disclosure of all parties in a case.
“Litigation funders, such as hedge funds, are providing money to plaintiffs to bring lawsuits.
“This is done in secret.
“For many reasons, everyone involved in the case, including the judge and the defendant, should know these parties exist.
“On the executive side, one of the most important tools the public has to hold its government accountable is the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.
“Before its passage, people had to justify their need for information to the government.
“After its passage, the government has to justify its refusal to release information.
“In 2016, we took FOIA one step further by requiring the government to proactively disclose information.
“These obligations are mandatory, even during unforeseen circumstances.
“I’m deeply concerned they’re not being met.
“Even before the pandemic, the GAO reported a significant increase in the number of FOIA requests and a backlog in addressing those requests.
“Last May, DOJ reported that coronavirus impacted FOIA processing government-wide, as many agencies had limited ability to retrieve or process FOIA requests.
“That is why I’m joining Senators Durbin, Leahy and Cornyn in asking the GAO to examine FOIA processes and procedures in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our hope is to continue refining FOIA to make government information accessible in good times and in bad.
“As an Iowa farmer, I know that without sunshine there cannot be growth, and both corn and democracy thrive in the light.”