After eight years in office as Missouri's State Auditor, Claire came to the Senate with extensive experience targeting government waste and mismanagement and an eye to root out waste, fraud and abuse at the federal level. Since her arrival in 2007, Claire has worked to bring Harry Truman's no-nonsense style of government back to Washington, D.C. and root out unnecessary spending. She has taken on irresponsible Congressional earmarking practices, war profiteering and waste in federal contracting.
Strengthening Government Oversight
Federal Government Contracting
One of Claire's top priorities is to strengthen the mechanisms for oversight of government at the federal level, especially as it relates to contracts awarded by the government. As one of her first accomplishments in the Senate, she took on war profiteering following the example Truman set during World War II. Working alongside her colleague, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), she established a Commission on Wartime Contracting, an eight-member, bipartisan commission seeking to ferret out waste, fraud and abuse in contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Visit the Commission on Wartime Contracting's website.
With more and more money being spent on government contracts, Claire is working to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and someone is watching over how contract recipients are decided. In early 2009, Claire helped to create the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, where she now serves as Chairman. Federal government contracting is a trillion-dollar industry, yet it receives little oversight from Congress. By focusing more attention on government contracting, Claire believes that we can significantly reduce government spending.
As a former auditor, Claire believes that Inspectors General (IG) - government watchdogs charged with oversight of federal agencies - play an important role in identifying the worst cases of waste, fraud and spending abuses within government. She continues to fight for resources for IG offices and defend their right to make independent analyses of the agencies they oversee. As a senator, one of the first pieces of legislation she introduced was the Inspector General Reform Act of 2008 (S.2324). This bill became law in late 2008 and includes major reforms that both protect and empower inspectors general to carry out independent investigations of spending practices at federal agencies.
In early 2009, Claire passed provisions to provide the Special Inspector General to the Troubled Assets Relief Program Act of 2009 (SIGTARP), charged with oversight of the program commonly referred to as the "bank bailout," with the resources he needed to properly account for taxpayer dollars. Claire also passed an amendment to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to nearly double funding for Inspectors General who oversee agencies that receive and distribute funding as part of the recovery package. As the Senate considers legislation, Claire will continue to look for ways to support and rely on Inspectors General in their efforts to keep an eye on where government dollars are going.
Unfortunately, government officials cannot oversee problems they do not know about, which is why Claire works hard to protect whistleblowers, who are often in the best place to find and report waste, fraud and abuse in government spending. Since arriving in the Senate, she has passed major reforms to enhance protections for whistleblowers from contractors with the Department of Defense (DoD) and at companies carrying out stimulus projects. In October 2009, Claire introduced the Non-Federal Employee Whistleblower Act (S.1745), which would extend these rights government-wide. Until we reach a point where whistleblowers can come forward without fear of retaliation, Claire will continue to fight for rights and protections for whistleblowers who often risk their livelihood to report waste, fraud and spending abuses.
Earmark Reform: Cutting Secret Government Pork
For years, the earmarking process has been notorious for its secrecy and lack of oversight or accountability, with funding for pet projects often being awarded based on political influence instead of merit. Missourians deserve to know that their tax dollars are being spent wisely on initiatives that serve the common good, not on lawmakers' or lobbyists' pet projects. Claire is proud to be one of only six members of the Senate who do not request any earmarks.
In an effort to reform the process, Claire has been fighting to make federal spending competitive and merit-based through a fair and consistent process for choosing federal projects. She has introduced amendments to spending bills to require programs that are heavily earmarked to be competitively bid. She has introduced a bill (S. Res. 63), that would help the public track earmarks that lawmakers request, and she joined with Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) to introduce the Fiscal Discipline, Earmark Reform, and Accountability Act (S.162), which would make it easier to remove earmarks from spending bills.
There is always more that can be done to make government spending more transparent, fair and honest, and Claire is committed to making the system work better for Missourians. She will continue to look for any opportunity to reform the current earmarking system, which remains susceptible to waste and abuse, in part because of limited transparency in the process.
Public scrutiny of the federal government is one of the best ways to ensure elected officials are making choices in the best interest of the taxpayer. Claire has worked hard to make it easier for the press and the public to follow the money trail with increased transparency and accountability. As part of her efforts, she has fought to make government spending items - as well as congressional and agency reports - available on public websites. Upon arriving in Washington, D.C. in 2007, she co-sponsored the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007 (S.1) - a law that requires members of Congress to publicly disclose and stand behind the earmarks they request. When the Senate was considering the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Claire sponsored an amendment to require that the public be able to see and track federal stimulus spending on a public website so taxpayers can track where their tax dollars are being spent and can report any potential waste, fraud or abuse. That website now exists at www.recovery.gov.
Claire's dedication to the 'public's right to know' goes beyond providing information online. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Claire fights to make open to the public hearings where defense spending is considered. The committee typically closes all hearings when they consider and vote on the bill that authorizes billions of dollars for the U.S. military. Every year, Claire attempts to keep the meetings open to the press and public. While she fully agrees that classified or other sensitive national security information should be addressed in a closed session, she also knows that much of the information discussed during these hearings is not classified and believes that the classified materials exemption for closing hearings should not be abused to prevent the public from having access to other, non-sensitive parts of Senate meetings.
To see and track stimulus spending, go to www.recovery.gov
For information on the Commission on Wartime Contracting, go to www.wartimecontracting.gov
For information on the Council of Inspectors General and access to more IG related info, go to www.ignet.gov
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