William Frenzel, one of the members of the Tax Reform Panel, is quoted in a recent edition of Tax Notes as saying that one of the Panel's biggest problems, in terms of presenting reasonably detailed plans, was that the 9 members could not meet privately with each other to discuss anything. Under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (OK, it's not really FOIA despite my heading), no more than 4 of the 9 panelists, to avoid a quorum, could meet together without its being in public. (It's a good thing no one had a birthday party.) They also faced restrictions on the use of documents that weren't made public.
As a result of this rule, as I myself have heard elsewhere, the sub-committees (sub-panels?) on the Panel could not discuss what they were doing with each other until the end of the process, when they had a public meeting. So there was next to no coordination between the parts in some important respects. Hence. perhaps, the fact that the so-called consumption tax prototype in the Panel's report was in some ways more of an income tax and less of a consumption tax than the so-called income tax prototype.
The problems the Panel faced suggest a sarcastic response, then a more serious response. The sarcastic response is: Why didn't the Administration just have Cheney appoint the same people as a Vice Presidential panel? Presto, no disclosure requirements and lots more political credibility.
More seriously, both this result and the fact that Cheney didn't have to reveal anything about his 2001 dealings with the energy lobbyists who wrote his "energy plan" seem inexcusable and indefensible. Couldn't Congress enact a more rational and uniform set of disclosure rules, so that groups such as the Panel just have to reveal their contacts and so that Cheney and his working groups or panels would have to do so as well?
I realize I'm being politically naive here.