Flush from success in grants database bill, OMB embraces bloggers

When Sen. Ted Stevens anonymously blocked a bill to put federal grant info online, bloggers smoked him out and freed the bill. Now OMB wants to do more with the blogosphere
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor

Can an administration that famously tries to control the message really handle the rough and tumble world of the blogosphere?

Give the Office of Management and Budget credit for trying. Officials were quite pleased that bloggers did the heavy lifting last month to unblock a bill that would create an online database of federal grants and contracts.

The bill, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, would have passed the Senate sooner but for one Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who put a "secret hold" on the bill. All anyone knew was that an anonymous senator had blocked the bill.

It was conservative bloggers who exposed Stevens and got the bill passed. When President Bush signed the bill last week, he was joined by Porkbusters.org, Townhall.com, Instapundit.com and Human Events Online's Right Angle blog, The Washington Post reports.

Since bloggers got the bill unstuck, perhaps they can spread the word, reasoned OMB Director Rob Portman and Deputy Director Clay Johnson.

OMB Deputy Director Clay Johnson III spent an hour with the bloggers. Right after that, OMB Director Rob Portman and Johnson appeared at a luncheon to talk about OMB's government performance push.

Portman also talked about the blogger fest, saying, "Clay asked them, 'Gee, since you're so good at this, can you help us on some of our other initiatives?' " When Johnson took the floor, he invoked the bloggers several times as weapons in his fight for government performance and accountability reforms.

But they're an ornery bunch and OMB could find bloggers hard to handle.

At the height of the search for Stevens, a cry rose to abolish secret holds, which are often used for innocuous reasons, and at least one blogger demanded that the entire Senate be shut down until the holder was found.

OMB official Robert J. Shea seems to grasp that better than his bosses. Using bloggers as advocates, he mused, "could backfire."

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