Kudos to House of Reps. for Releasing its Spending Info as Data

Today the House of Representatives published its spending information as structured data (a CSV) in addition to printing three volumes of tables. This is the second time it has done so. (I wrote about it the last time it happened and why it is important for accountability.)

Okay, Senate, it’s your turn. Publish your semi-annual spending statement as data.

— Written by Daniel Schuman

Will Sen. McConnell Finally Close the Presidential Library Golden Parachute for Ex-Presidents (and a Future One)?

Yesterday the Clinton Foundation announced it no longer would accept donations from corporate or foreign entities should Hillary Clinton be elected president, responding to criticism for “potentially allowing donors to seek special access through [Clinton’s] government post.” Unremarked upon is the danger of having a foundation linked to a president accepting any donations during his or her term of office, a circumstance that led to major scandals in the last three administrations.

Over the last 70 years, every outgoing president raised money for a presidential library. George W. Bush hauled in a Texas-sized $500 million, and Barack Obama expects to reach a cool billion in his already-underway efforts, though the president himself promised he personally will not fund-raise in office. With the existing Clinton Foundation, potential president Hillary Clinton may have a head start. The libraries aren’t just a repository for presidential papers; they are an attempt at telling the story of a presidency from the president’s perspective. Continue reading “Will Sen. McConnell Finally Close the Presidential Library Golden Parachute for Ex-Presidents (and a Future One)?”

Staff Designees on the House Appropriations Committee

Earlier today I tweeted a request for evidence that members of the House Appropriations Committee used to be granted staff designees — staffers paid by the committee that are chosen by and serve the individual members of the committee — but that the designees are being phased out. The following is evidence of that practice. Continue reading “Staff Designees on the House Appropriations Committee”

What Happens to VP Biden’s Senate Office Documents When He Leaves?

Here’s a random thought. Vice President Biden maintains an office in the United States Senate, where he serves as President of the Senate. It is a good sized office — the Senate’s statement of expenditures (p. B-65) indicates it has a $2.5 million annual budget and more than 30 staff who play policy, communications, and logistical roles.

Is that office subject to FOIA? The Presidential Records Act? What will happen to its records when Vice President Biden leaves offices? Under law, are its records treated as part of the Executive or Legislative branches, both, or something else? Vice President Biden played a major role as the president’s ambassador to Congress. His work and the work of his team could shed interesting new light on the administration’s efforts to work with Congress and its role in policy development, especially as Congress is not subject to FOIA and committee records are locked down for decades. Continue reading “What Happens to VP Biden’s Senate Office Documents When He Leaves?”

Tracking Lobbying by Foreign Governments

In the next few months, the Justice Department’s Inspector General will release a report on lobbying by foreign powers aimed at the federal government. Unlikely lobbying by American citizens and companies, tracked by the House of Representatives and Senate, lobbying by agents of foreign powers is monitored by the Department of Justice.

The law requiring reporting by foreign lobbyists — known as the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA — originated in the 1930s and grew out of the concern that it’s important to know when foreign governments are trying to influence U.S. policy. It differers from domestic lobbying reporting in three important ways. Continue reading “Tracking Lobbying by Foreign Governments”

The Constitution (Annotated) In Your Pocket

After a powerful speech by Khizr Khan at the Democratic National Convention, sales of pocket U.S. Constitutions have skyrocketed, becoming the second best selling book on Amazon. This is great! But the words of the Constitution are unsufficient to provide an understanding into how it has been applied by the courts over the last two centuries. That’s where the Constitution Annotated comes it.

The Constitution Annotated (aka CONAN) is a plain language explanation of the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court. Published by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service at the direction of Congress, CONAN provides insight into the meaning of our founding document. It also is available online as of 2013 and can downloaded as an app for your phone (iPhone) (Android is under development). Continue reading “The Constitution (Annotated) In Your Pocket”