Monday, June 1, 2009

U.S. Lawmaker Expenses Kept as Obscure, Hard to Decipher, as Possible

We’ve said before that the idea of transparency is much more appealing than actually committing to it.
The Wall Street Journal today writes that lawmakers in Washington are doing their best to ensure their expenditures are kept, at the least, difficult to obtain.
The story states, “Summaries of…lawmaker expenses are available to the public in print, either by mail or in volumes that can be viewed in basement rooms on Capitol Hill. The House's quarterly reports -- which run over 3,000 pages apiece, across multiple volumes -- are stored in a cupboard in a windowless office near a shoeshine stand.”
“The Senate's semiannual reports, which use type about half the size of the print in a daily newspaper, are in a building nearby. Expense entries for both chambers can be difficult to decipher, with entries and explanations sometimes cutting off midword.”
No big surprise is it?
The story also makes us aware of a site that does some of the desired tracking for us, a place called Legistorm.
We signed up immediately and are gorging ourselves on the feast of records. Little things give us the incentive to keep going. For example, a staffer of Michigan Rep. Dave Camp, name of Bradford Dayspring, listed a purchase of the stock of L-1 Identity Solutions in 2007. L-1 that year earned over $100 million in government contracts with only about 8% of those contracts up for a fully competitive bid. Hardly a smoking gun in Beltway terms, but just interesting. And we can hardly blame the guy for making a good buy - anyone would do it and there is nothing wrong with seeing an opening. Still, these are the things that fuel further looks, especially if related to an elected official.

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