Could Pass-The-Hat Kill Open Government?

The funding model that's contributed to delays, breakdowns and generally deteriorating service by the federal government's main web portal for grant applications may wreak havoc on a number of open government initiatives next, a sunshine advocacy group fears.

With the E-Gov fund, which paid for open government websites such as and, severely trimmed and unlikely to be restored, the open government group OMB Watch speculated in an article Wednesday that those sites may have to turn to the so-called pass-the-hat funding model to stay in business.

In the pass-the-hat model, programs that serve multiple agencies take their funding directly from those agencies with the total operating costs being divvied up based on some metric determined by the program.

The ailing federal grants portal,, for example, took its funding from 26 different agencies, usually near the end of those agencies' budget cycles, according to a critical Government Accountability Office report

released earlier this month. That funding model resulted in temporary funding shortfalls that forced the site, at least once, to shut down operations.

The pass-the-hat funding model is also more likely than a fee-for-service model to result in disputes between agencies about their proper share of the funding pie, OMB Watch said.

Congressional and White House negotiators cut the E-Gov fund from $34 million to $8 million in the 11th hour deal that averted a government shutdown in April.

Open government advocates including Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, have pledged to restore the E-Gov funding but, so far, have been unsuccessful.