June 7, 2010
Re: Transparency without delay for action to hold Wall Street Accountable
Dear Member of Congress:
We applaud your efforts to enact strong financial reform legislation and look forward to working with you to pass this important bill through conference before the July 4th recess.
As Congress prepares to go to conference on financial reform legislation, we want to underline the importance of instituting the most transparent process possible. We applaud the idea of televising the conference debate and votes that leaders from both parties have supported, and we believe that there are additional steps you should take to set a new standard for openness as you proceed with this crucial legislation. We also believe that this legislation must be acted on expeditiously and that an open process must not be used as an excuse for delay or otherwise gaming the system.
Previous problems in conference committees have bred a deep public cynicism about the role of industry lobbyists. There is an important opportunity here to demonstrate in the process, just as we are working together to do in the content, of this legislation, that Main Streets interests come first. In 2003, a conference committee meeting to reconcile an energy bill inserted a purported “green building and sustainable design products” provision that had not been included in either the House or Senate bills and turned out to be a tax exemption for the construction of a Hooters restaurant. In 2004, a provision was inserted into an appropriations bill that would allow certain committee chairmen and their staffs access to Americans’ income tax returns. Members from both parties opposed this provision, with Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison exclaiming, “Something happened clearly in the dark of night. The Senate was totally amazed.”
We urge the conference committee on the financial reform legislation to make clear and public its commitment to a different course
- Conference meetings, deliberations, and votes should be publicly broadcast.
- Amendments should be filed and posted online as soon as possible, and whenever possible should be made available in redlined form.
- The conference report should be posted online as soon as practical , and before either house of Congress votes on it. A redlined version will make changes easier for the public to note.
- Conferees should continue to act with the urgency this issue requires; it is not in the public’s interest to allow industry to undermine passage of a strong bill by delay or distraction
These procedures will help ensure adequate opportunity for members of Congress and the public to consider and debate changes to the legislation, and make it easier for us all to resist industry efforts to weaken the bill in secret.
Strong financial reform legislation is necessary to protect Americans from abusive and dangerous financial practices and to help prevent another economic collapse. After the horrors endured by the American people at the hands of Wall Street—millions of lost jobs and trillions of dollars in support for the very bankers who caused the crisis—the public deserves to be included in the legislative process and reassured that it will not be drowned out by Wall Street. The above rules will add to confidence in this bill, your leadership, and the legislative process.
We look forward to working with you as this legislation moves through conference.
Americans for Financial Reform
 H.R. Rep. No. 108-375, at 386 (2003); Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, Bush’s Rangers and Pioneers Enjoy Their Share of Energy Bill Booty (2003); Press Release, Representative Louise Slaughter, For Sale: America’s Energy Security (Apr. 24, 2006), available at http://www.louise.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=580&Itemid=106.
 David E. Rosenbaum, G.O.P. Says Motive for Tax Clause in Budget Bill Was Misread, N.Y. Times, Nov. 22, 2004.
 CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer (CNN television broadcast Nov. 21, 2004), available at http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0411/21/le.01.html.