Let the sunshine in

LET THE SUNSHINE IN…. By their own admission, congressional Republicans have not yet crafted a policy agenda, but claim they intend to use “America Speaking Out” — the taxpayer-financed online gimmick — to help give the party a slate of ideas they’ll pursue if elected. This became slightly more problematic the other day when we learned House GOP leaders will huddle with corporate lobbyists next week, and give them a chance to tell Republicans what the party’s agenda should be.

Matt Finkelstein responded to the news with a cheeky idea that sounds pretty reasonable.

If Republicans were ever serious about creating an open forum, they now have a great opportunity to prove it: Boehner should broadcast his discussion with the lobbyists on the America Speaking Out website.

By streaming the meeting online, Republicans can show that they have changed since they last had power under President Bush — that they would govern openly instead of bowing down to special interests.

That may sound like an unreasonable request, but if a lobbyist-love-fest is consistent with the mission of America Speaking Out, then the public should be invited to participate. And if the purpose of the meeting is really to discuss job creation, then why shouldn’t the American people hear what the employers have to say?

The whole “America Speaking Out” initiative is billed, at a minimum, as a transparent, participatory project. Americans can offer policy ideas, consider others’ suggestions, express their support or disapproval, etc. The party has already said it’ll ignore the contributions they don’t like, but at least the process is played out online for anyone to see.

But next week, America Speaking Out in public will become Lobbyists Speaking Out behind closed doors. John Boehner has already conceded that meetings like these will play a key role in dictating the Republican Party’s vision in the near future. It’s hardly outrageous to suggest this occur in public.

What’s the Republican response? That their meeting to allow lobbyists to help shape the GOP policy agenda has to be held behind closed doors?

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.