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Commentary: Put strict conditions on bailout funds

  • Story Highlights
  • Brown: Obama should demand transparency on bailout issues
  • Brown: Companies getting bailout cash need to be held accountable
  • Company books need to be open for inspection, Brown says
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Editor's note: Campbell Brown anchors CNN's "Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull" at 8 p.m. ET Mondays through Fridays. She delivered this commentary during the "Cutting through the Bull" segment of Tuesday night's broadcast.

CNN's Campbell Brown says taxpayers have the right to know how companies use bailout money.

CNN's Campbell Brown says taxpayers have the right to know how companies use bailout money.

(CNN) -- This week, we're focused on one theme: holding President Obama to his promise of transparency. On Wednesday, he will outline his vision for cracking down on bailout abuse.

A demand for transparency and accountability here would seem like a no-brainer, yet there has been shockingly little applied so far to the bailout.

So how about this: not another dollar, not one, to bail out the banks until clear, no-room-for-misunderstanding rules are set for how the money can and cannot be spent.

The government doesn't own the banks, but the American people do own the money. We have every right to demand limits on how it's used, particularly after the obnoxious manner in which some on Wall Street have taken our cash and practically spit in our face as a way of saying thanks.

The president and his new treasury secretary can draw up the specifics, but if they're looking for some starting points, how about opening the books?

All the books must be opened and any company taking another penny must consent to an audit, waiving any legal right to block the government from stepping in.

We have the right to know what they are doing and how to keep all this from happening again.

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And what about penalties going forward, real penalties for some of the outrageous behavior we've seen?

Misuse of bailout money must be punished if executives decide it's more important to, say, redecorate their offices or give each other bonuses or go on some boondoggle junket, than to truly try and keep their companies afloat.

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The bailout conditions must be unconditional, zero-tolerance, real accountability this time. That's what we hope to hear from the president tomorrow.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Campbell Brown.

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