Posts Tagged ‘executive order’


Rep. Darrell Issa moves forward with contempt vote against Eric Holder despite Obama’s intervention

The House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform will move forward with contempt proceedings against Attorney General Eric Holder, even after President Obama signed an executive order restricting access to documents in the botched Department of Justice “Fast and Furious” program, CNN reported.

In an attempt to possibly avoid the hearing, Attorney General Eric Holder met with Rep. Darrell Issa on June 19 to negotiate the release of additional relevant documents. After the  meeting, both parties continued to point fingers:  Holder’s camp claimed Issa refused the documents they offered, while Issa’s camp claimed Holder would not release the documents until the committee promised to cease pursuing the case.  Republicans took issue with the executive branch’s lack of transparency, while Rep. Elijah Cummings said Issa’s move was an attempt to embarrass the president. Cummings is ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform and attended the meeting between Holder and Issa.

“I’m just telling you, as a lawyer, I think that contempt is going far too far,” Cummings said in a CNN interview.

As a follow-up to the June 19 meeting, Holder sent a letter to President Obama requesting he exercise executive privilege over the release of the documents. Holder’s request was granted, and Deputy Attorney General James L. Cole sent a letter to Issa today informing him of the president’s decision.

“The documents responsive to the remaining subpoena items pertain to sensitive law enforcement activities, including ongoing criminal investigations and prosecutions, or were generated by Department officials in the course of  responding to congressional investigations or media inquiries about this matter that are generally not appropriate for disclosure,” Cole said in the letter to Issa.

Despite this, Issa said he still plans to progress with holding Holder in contempt for failing to produce all the documents the House Oversight Committee requested.

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FOI DAILY DOSE: Super PAC disclosures, exec order under scrutiny; Ireland focused on open gov

Super PACS, which are political action committees that can raise unlimited funds for independent expenditures like political ads, may not be disclosing their donors as expected.

Donor disclosure is a major requirement for super PACs, but five of them used a loophole to avoid this mandate during the 2010 election cycle, according to an OpenSecrets blog post.

This loophole in the Federal Election Commission rules permits super PACs to attribute donations to various nonprofit organizations, thereby avoiding the disclosure of their donors because nonprofits aren’t legally required to reveal donor information.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the five super PACs that attributed all or almost all of their donations to 501(c)(6) or 501(c)(4) nonprofits were: New Power PAC, ProgressOhio, Environment Colorado Action Fund, Protecting America’s Retirees and the National Association of Realtors Congressional Fund.

Most of the nonprofits are directly affiliated with the super PACs they were listed as providing with major donations.

Obama’s exec order on federal contractors faces legal questions

The Congressional Research Service noted legal concerns for a draft executive order that would require federal contractors to disclose all political contributions and expenses.

The executive order cites the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 and President Obama’s constitutional authority as legal grounds for the proposed action, according to an iWatch News article.

Historically, executive orders related to federal contracting have generally been based on either the FPASA or on the presidential powers provided by Article II of the Constitution.

If Obama only uses his constitutional authority to support the executive order, however, he could face legal problems concerning the separation of governmental powers.

Ireland to register lobbyists as part of transparency efforts

Ireland may require the registration of paid lobbyists as part of the nation’s efforts to improve transparency within the government, according to an article from The Irish Times.

The legislation will require registration for professional lobbyists as well as employed staff involved with in-house lobbying.

It will also cover non-governmental organizations and representative organizations that use in-house lobbyists.

The Standards in Public Office Commission will maintain the lobbying register, which will be publicly accessible.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

FOI DAILY DOSE: 2012 spending bill’s open gov effects, RCFP involved in Ohio real estate records case

2012 spending bill includes boons, obstacles for transparency

The House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations subcommittee approved its spending measure for the 2012 fiscal year Thursday.

The bill shifts the Electronic Government Fund into the General Service Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, which handles government IT work such as the management of USA.gov.

The E-Gov Fund supports open government websites like Data.gov, and the bill would give OCSIT $50 million for the 2012 fiscal year. This is a $7.8 million increase from the 2011 funding for both OCSIT and the E-Gov Fund, but it is $20.5 million less than their combined budgets in the 2010 fiscal year.

The bill would also forbid the Consumer Product Safety Commission from spending money on its consumer product safety database, which it was required to create after a 2008 law responding to several major product recalls.

This could make it easier to conceal safety risks in consumer products, according to OMB Watch.

The legislation would also forbid agencies from spending money to implement President Obama’s draft executive order that, if he signs it, would make potential federal contractors disclose political contributions to bid on contracts.

The bill is scheduled for markup by the full House Appropriations Committee on June 23.

RCFP calls for Ohio county to stop overcharging for records

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a friend-of-the-court brief encouraging the Ohio Supreme Court to reject Cuyahoga County’s high copy fees for electronic real estate records.

The county has a $2 per page fee for the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s services when filling electronic records requests for real estate data. The RCFP brief argues that this requirement conflicts with state law and, if upheld by the court, could later become the normal fee structure for other Ohio recorders.

Charging such high fees (prices for some requests could hit the six-figure range) for copying real estate records onto a CD-ROM is unacceptable, RCFP Executive Director Lucy Dalglish said in a press release.

The resources used for an employee to physically photocopy pages versus copying them onto a CD aren’t comparable, and fees should reflect the actual cost of reproducing records, according to Dalglish.

Cuyahoga seems to be the only Ohio county where the Recorder requires such high fees for real estate records.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

Transparency Triumph of the Week: Gov Accountability and Transparency Board established

President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order Monday establishing a Government Accountability and Transparency Board led by Vice President Joe Biden.

The 11-member board will oversee transparency efforts related to federal spending and to ferreting out fraud, waste and abuses in government programs.

It is based off the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board that has provided oversight for spending under the stimulus bill, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The executive order also established an Accountable Government Initiative requiring regular meetings between Biden and cabinet-level agencies to review successes and problems encountered in identifying waste.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

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