Gary D. Bass, founder of governmental watchdog group OMB Watch, is leaving the organization after 28 years. He will stay at the Washington, D.C., advocacy group until November 2011. He’ll leave earlier if a replacement is quickly found.
Bass will become chief executive of the Bauman Family Foundation, also in Washington, D.C. Bauman’s current president, Patricia Bauman, will become chairman of the organization’s board. Bauman’s mission is much like OMB Watch, only from a funder perspective.
“There was a strategic plan about eight or nine years ago and three years ago we dusted it off for the succession plan,” said Bass. “It’s going to be strange to be on the funder side.”
While Bass is the founder, he gives credit to the organization’s funders, board and staff. “There are so many people who can take credit for OMB Watch,” he said.
There is an open search for the next OMB Watch chief executive. In-house executives have been encouraged to apply. Bass stressed that there is no favored candidate and that the board is deciding if the next leader should be a policy wonk, a fundraiser or an identifiable face, such as a former politician.
OMB Watch has become a prominent nonprofit research and advocacy organization promoting greater government accountability and transparency and increased citizen participation in public policy decisions. Bass is well known for assisting nonprofits to better understand federal rules affecting their groups and constituencies. In 2003, he created NPAction as a one-stop website on building nonprofit advocacy. He is also a co-author of the 2007 book “Seen But Not Heard: Strengthening Nonprofit Advocacy,” published by the Aspen Institute.
Bass was selected as one of The NonProfit Times Power and Influence Top 50 some 11 times, between 1999 and 2008 and again in 2010. In 2007, he was selected as one of the Federal 100, the top executives from government, industry, and academia who had the greatest impact on the government information systems community. He received the Public Access To Government Information Award from the American Association of Law Libraries in 2008.
An expert on federal budgetary, program management, regulatory and information policy issues, Bass has published extensively, testified before Congress, appeared on national television and presented to groups across the country. A specific area of expertise is his understanding of the apparatus of government, particularly the executive branch of the federal government.
Bass is a strong advocate for strengthening government transparency and using newer information technologies to empower citizens and community groups to challenge unchecked institutional power. In 2006, he successfully championed passage of a law that required the government to create a searchable website providing information about government spending. At the same time, OMB Watch launched FedSpending.org, which has proven invaluable to journalists, public interest organizations and citizens looking for information on more than $16.8 trillion in government spending — and serves as a model for how the government should implement its requirements to create a searchable website. Data from FedSpending.org has been cited in news stories nationwide. And back in 1989, Bass created RTK NET, (the Right-to-Know Network), a free online service that provides the public access to government environmental data, including the Toxics Release Inventory.
With the rapid increase in government secrecy following September 11, 2001, Bass has spoken out against the erosion of the public’s right to know. He helped form a powerful coalition, OpenTheGovernment.org, that includes journalists and advocates who are pursuing more democracy and less secrecy. Honoring his role in protecting public access to government information, the Freedom Forum inducted him into the National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame in 2006.
Bass has led many advocacy campaigns — often in coalition with local, state and national groups — in pursuit of a government that promotes social justice and responds to community needs. He led OMB Watch in challenging a number of provisions in the Contract with America and successfully stopped proposals that would have undermined society’s safety net. Working with a wide variety of public interest organizations, he stopped: a “no money, no mandates” measure that would have resulted in state and local governments being exempted from complying with federal laws; a constitutional amendment to balance the U.S. budget that would have seriously harmed human service delivery; a variety of regulatory provisions that would have undermined health, safety and environmental protections; and various efforts to silence the advocacy voice of charities across the country.
In addition to his role at OMB Watch, Bass is an affiliated professor at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute and also teaches in the Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate program at Georgetown’s Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership. He has served on numerous boards and has been an advisor to many organizations including the Advocacy Evaluation Project at Innovation Network, Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest, Coalition on Human Needs, Hampshire Research Institute, Loka Institute, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, OpentheGovernment.org, the Science and Environment Health Network, and the Center on Government Secrecy at American University’s Washington College of Law.
Prior to founding OMB Watch, Bass was president of the Human Services Information Center where he wrote two books and numerous articles on human services issues and published the Human Services INSIDER, a bimonthly newsletter on the politics of federal human services programs. He also served as director of liaison for the International Year of Disabled Persons; worked as a consultant on several projects in special education and the mental health of children and youth, most notably the preparation of the first annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (P.L. 94-142), now called the Individuals with Disability Education Act; and served as special assistant to Wilbur Cohen, then chair of the Michigan Governor’s Task Force on the Investigation and Prevention of Abuse in Residential Institutions.