In a win for government spending transparency, the House is publishing highly detailed information about the money it spends on itself. The Clerk of the House just released the latest House Statements of Disbursements — which catalog every penny spent by every person in the House of Representatives — with new metadata (or entity identifiers).
The Clerk of the House recently reported that as of March 2023, the Statements of Disbursements data it publishes as a CSV file “now includes additional entity identifiers for select data fields, including, but not limited to, organization, vendor name, and description, to enable the public to better analyze and understand the data provided. CSV files posted prior to March 2023 will not include these new data fields.”
“The House’s new Statements of Disbursements metadata disclosure and the entire process to make this financial data public is a shining example of open government meeting government accountability,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress and co-founder of the Congressional Data Coalition. “From the start, the modernizing of the Statements of Disbursements data was developed in a transparent and collaborative effort between government and civil society facilitated by the Congressional Data Task Force. Together, they iteratively modeled what the data would look like and sought public feedback to make it as useful and user-friendly as possible. We commend the House Chief Administrative Officer and House administration for this model effort.”
Demand Progress successfully made the case to require the disclosure of such unique identifiers — like organization names including the CAO, the Clerk, a committee, an individual member, etc., to make it easier to analyze this spending data.
And we led a multi-year effort to transform the Disbursements from a paper-based to an electronic system, making it possible to track congressional spending in great detail over time.
We are still seeking the publication of unique identifiers for individual staffers, which would make it possible to better understand staff career paths, their pay and retention rates, and what happens when they leave Congress. The decision to publish that final key piece of the puzzle is up to the House Administration Committee.
Over the last 15 years, the House has gone from publishing its spending information in gigantic dusty books to publishing that information online but an unwieldy PDF, to publishing that same information as a digital spreadsheet, and now enhancing the digital spreadsheet with metadata so it’s possible to dig deeply and accurately into what the House is doing.