Vol. 43, No. 3

In This Edition

It’s been said that politics is like a pendulum because it swings between two extremes. Over the past eight months or so in Washington, we have certainly seen that to be the case.

Congress Must Take the Giant Leap for Future Generations

As America marks the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, the Virginia Congressman states that the country’s next great challenge is to eliminate the nation’s debt.

Keeping TARP Transparent

With over $700 billion authorized to shore up the country’s financial markets, the Senator from Florida declares that taxpayers have a right to know how it is being spent.

The New Revolutionary

The continuing protests in Iran may have been fueld by the controversy over the dispute presidential election. But they are being led bu brave Iranian women who no longer want to be oppressed.

Ileana’s Cause

The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee discusses her longtime fight against tyranny in Latin America and why the U.S. must stand with those who are seeking justice and liberty.

Why Democracy Matters

In a speech at the Reagan Library, the former Secretary of State argues that standing for freedom is in America’s best interests, and is the moral thing to do.

Securing Our Future

The European Union’s Ambassador to the U.S. discusses the transatlantic bond and the need to keep this relationship strong.

To Russia with Hope

Instead of resetting our relationship with Russia, President Obama may have set himself a trap.

Hunger is on the March

The head of the World Food Program discusses efforts to confront the global food crisis.

H20=Health, Hope and Opportunity

Bad water kills 1.8 million children each year. One non-profit in Haiti is showing how the problem can be addressed.

Flight of the Centrists

To reach centrists, [Republicans] need to return to being the party of ideas. We cannot afford to simply discredit the Democrats’ programs; we have to propose solutions and show why ours are the right ones for America.

Minivan Moms and the GOP

The Republican Party’s slippage with married women with children is concurrent with the party’s slide in the suburbs.


The Ripon Society convenes its Second Bully Pulpit of the Year on Health Care

Ripon Profile of Jan Brewer

“Although immigration remains an important topic in our national debate, public discussion on the true cost of illegal immigration enforcement needs more emphasis.”

Keeping TARP Transparent

A government working, as President Abraham Lincoln said, “by the people, for the people,” is part of what has always made our nation unique.

As such, Americans want and deserve to know how their taxes are spent. Whether Congress spends one dollar or $1 trillion of taxpayer money, Americans expect transparency and openness in government.

Right now, with the Federal government spending at unprecedented levels in an attempt to address economic concerns, the need for greater transparency and oversight is paramount, especially when the financial security of our nation is at stake.

Late last year, the U.S. entered into a financial crisis unlike anything we have seen since the Great Depression. If Congress had failed to act, economists predicted credit markets would have seized and economic activity would have ground to a halt, putting our nation into further peril.

Right now, with the Federal government spending at unprecedented levels in an attempt to address economic concerns, the need for greater transparency and oversight is paramount…

In response, Congress authorized $700 billion for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Congress intended this authority to be used to purchase toxic assets and mortgage-backed securities. Although a catastrophic meltdown of our nation’s financial markets was averted, the haste in which the program was created left voids in oversight and minimal control over how the funds are spent.

After the program was created, TARP was expanded by the Department of the Treasury to include 12 separate programs involving government and private funds of up to almost $3 trillion – roughly the equivalent of last year’s entire Federal budget. From large capital infusions into hundreds of financial institutions, to a program designed to modify millions of mortgages, to public-private partnerships purchasing toxic assets from banks using tremendous leverage provided by government loans or guarantees, TARP has evolved into a program of unprecedented scope, scale, and complexity. As a result, the Federal government has struggled to keep track of how Treasury funds have been spent.

Currently, the Treasury Department lacks a data-driven, transparent process for reporting when funds are infused into TARP entities and whether they have been used and performed as intended. There are reports being filed, but in many cases they contain redundancies and inconsistencies.

Some have argued that analysis can be performed with the reports already being provided to Congress; however, almost all analyses performed to date have been collected through survey responses and audits. Surveys are self-reported responses to fixed information in fixed periods of time. Unfortunately, they occur after the funds have been spent; making it difficult to ensure proper accountability.

The TARP’s special inspector general recently released a report based on surveys collected from more than 300 TARP recipients. The report contained specific information about how TARP recipients are using the federal aid. Of the banks surveyed for the report, 110 have used the funds for investment, 52 used it for debt repayment, and 15 used it to purchase other banks. While this report is a good first step toward greater transparency, it is only a snapshot of an issue that requires constant monitoring and analysis.

In an effort to provide greater oversight of the use of TARP funds, I have joined with Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Sam Brownback (R-KS) to bring better transparency to the program. Our effort, introduced as the TARP Transparency Act, has earned the support of fiscal advocacy groups such as Citizens Against Government Waste, Americans for Tax Reform, and the Center for Fiscal Responsibility.

If approved by Congress, the law would direct the Treasury Department to collect all TARP data in a readily usable fashion to make it transparent and traceable. Detailed information on TARP expenditures and the actions of TARP fund recipients would be made available through a single database in a standardized format. The information would be collected and disseminated in near real-time to help present a clear picture of how and where the money is being used.

Every American has a right to know how the more than $700 billion authorized through TARP has been used.

Large, complex government programs such as TARP can often be the source of misspent taxpayer dollars. Every American has a right to know how the more than $700 billion authorized through TARP has been used. Congress cannot be a good steward of the public trust if it has limited access to essential details of the TARP.

Transparency in government is healthy for our democracy. Americans expect it, and Congress has an obligation to provide it.

Mel Martinez is a U.S. Senator for Florida, a member of the Senate Banking Committee and former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.