Posts Tagged ‘public access’


FOI Tip of the Week: (Some) congressional financial disclosures available

Federal legislators released their personal financial disclosure forms Wednesday, a transparency ritual they must complete once a year.

Financial information on congressional representatives can spark stories on potential conflicts of interest a Senate or House member may have between his or her congressional duties and financial livelihood.

For example, an investigation by watchdog organization Open Secrets using the disclosure information showed many members of Congress have investments in news and media companies. (The article quotes SPJ Ethics Committee Chairman Kevin Smith.)

Not all members of Congress released their financial information, though. Seventy-six House lawmakers requested extra time to file their disclosure forms, which they will probably release later this summer.

The financial information lawmakers must release includes real estate investments, stock holdings, ownership interests in private companies and other data.

Twenty Senate members also requested extensions, according to Open Secrets.

– 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).

FOI DAILY DOSE: Drake agrees to plea bargain

Whistleblower Thomas Drake’s case ends with plea bargain

The case against Thomas Drake ended with a squeak, not a roar.

Drake, who provided information to a Baltimore Sun reporter in 2007 about waste in the NSA, accepted a plea bargain last week in which he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of intentionally exceeding authorized usage of his government computer.

Although the misdemeanor carries a potential prison sentence of one year, the government agreed that Drake would not serve any jail time. The misdemeanor is minor compared to the 10 felonies for which he was originally charged.

Drake was not on trial for leaking information to the Baltimore Sun, although the leak led to his indictment.

Concern that the federal government was overreaching in its prosecution of Drake was explored by several media outlets, including a New Yorker article on Drake’s indictment and a Washington Post editorial that said the federal government might be going overboard in its prosecution of Drake.

– 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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