Government Reform

A New Direction to the Same Destination

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On Monday the Statement of Disbursements of the House, a quarterly report that shows how congressonal offices are spending taxpayer money, became available online for the first time. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) bragged that the move demonstrated once again how open and honest "the New Direction Congress" is:

The Statement of Disbursement provides a full accounting of Members' and officers' spending for official Congressional business. The continued publication of these statements online will expand accountability to taxpayers and the press.

The New Direction Congress has passed unprecedented disclosure and lobbying reform laws, created an independent ethics office, and will continue to operate in a transparent and accountable manner.

But Congress.org discovered that the new, ready-for-the-Internet version of the spending report omits potentially eyebrow-raising details that used to be included in the print edition. Instead of saying who in each congressional office traveled where on the taxpayer's dime, for instance, the latest report simply gives totals for "commercial transportation." Instead of specifying which fancy computer, video, or sound equipment an office bought, it gives numbers for categories such as "computer hardware purchase" or "equipment purchase." It reports rent paid for district offices but not the locations of those offices. The Sunlight Foundation's Bill Allison tells Congress.org:

Releasing incomplete office expense information online demonstrates the House's one step forward, two steps back approach to transparency. One would think that members who dispose of trillions of dollars in taxpayer money would be up front about how they're managing their office budgets. If members were worried how flat screen TV purchases and the like would look to their constituents during tough economic times, hiding the information serves only to raise questions about the entire House.

You can peruse the Statement of Disbursements here. But now that all the juicy details have been removed, why bother?

Update: As Gabriela Schneider of the Sunlight Foundation points out in the comments, her group has created a searchable database of the spending information in the new report.

NEXT: U.K. Climategate Investigation Set

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  1. looks like they’ll need to a few million updating the site…

    1. *spend a few million

  2. why bother?

    Why the hell not?

    It’s another chance to say “unprecedented,” and have it widely and uncritically repeated, before you’ve done anything. Then you pay some friends to not do it. Then from your few tiny-voiced critics, who operate in a world that nowhere touches yours, you’ll get a late “one step forward” credit. For lying. For not doing what you said. For having said it. For lying.

    No cost, win-win, next.

  3. At least you can track staff members now, before they end up on K Street.

  4. Nancy Pelosi bragged that the move demonstrated once again how open and honest “the New Direction Congress” is

    I just want to know if it’s true that Nancy has a sex swing in her office kitchen,
    and how do I go about getting a ticket.

  5. ed, you’re gonna end up on SugarFree’s slashfic blog if you don’t watch out.

    1. I don’t even know what that means.

      1. It means scandle and bancruptcy and prision…

  6. Is the non-redacted paper version still available? Lets scan it and put it online!

  7. But Congress.org discovered that the new, ready-for-the-Internet version of the spending report omits potentially eyebrow-raising details that used to be included in the print edition.

    We could use those hackers that gathered the e-mails… we have another job for you.

  8. But Congress.org discovered that the new, ready-for-the-Internet version of the spending report omits potentially eyebrow-raising details that used to be included in the print edition.

    Where are those hackers? We have a job for you!

    Instead of saying who in each congressional office traveled where on the taxpayer’s dime, for instance, the latest report simply gives totals for “commercial transportation.”

    Well it is not unusual to report on “value added” data only – that’s not misleading. Just ask the guys at the CRU – they will tell you.

  9. But Congress[dot] discovered that the new, ready-for-the-Internet version of the spending report omits potentially eyebrow-raising details that used to be included in the print edition.

    Where are those hackers? We have a job for you!

    Instead of saying who in each congressional office traveled where on the taxpayer’s dime, for instance, the latest report simply gives totals for “commercial transportation.”

    Well it is not unusual to report on “value added” data only – that’s not misleading. Just ask the guys at the CRU – they will tell you.

  10. But Congress dot org discovered that the new, ready-for-the-Internet version of the spending report omits potentially eyebrow-raising details that used to be included in the print edition.

    Where are those hackers? We have a job for you!

    Instead of saying who in each congressional office traveled where on the taxpayer’s dime, for instance, the latest report simply gives totals for “commercial transportation.”

    Well it is not unusual to report on “value added” data only – that’s not misleading. Just ask the guys at the CRU – they will tell you.

    1. It’s just data smoothing.

  11. One would think that members who dispose of trillions of dollars in taxpayer money would be up front about how they’re managing their office budgets.

    Why would one ever think *that*?

  12. One would think that members who dispose of trillions of dollars in taxpayer money would be the last ones to be up front about how they’re managing their office budgets.

  13. The New Direction Congress

    NEW Direction…

    And all this time I thought it was the MIS Direction Congress. I feel so silly.

  14. When I went through my brief, but agonizing, stint in the private sector, working behind enemy lines as it were, I dreamed of a day when I could crush it beneath the heel of my expensive loafers, bought of course with public largesse.

    That day is coming, comrades. Be patient.

  15. “If members were worried how flat screen TV purchases and the like would look to their constituents during tough economic times, hiding the information serves only to raise questions about the entire House.”

    So, they’re socializing the blame.

  16. Damn they drink alot of bottled water.

    1. It would bhehove them to invest in an reverse osmosis set up and have that instead of costly, landfill filling plastic bottles loaded with BPH.

  17. LOL< no doubt about it. Always end up in the same place. Go figure!

    RT
    http://www.be-invisible.ua.tc

  18. I’m surprised

  19. Hi there. I’m the communications director at Sunlight

    It’s a great first step for transparency that these reports are now online, but the real value will be determined by how people use them for oversight. That’s what inspired us to make that easier to do.

    Two days after the PDFs were posted, we created databases to make it more efficient to search & analyze the expenditures. (Much easier to use than the PDFs)

    http://sunlightfoundation.com/…..enditures/

    I’d be interested to learn what you find.

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