The big story for the day, reported initially in the Dallas Business Journal — and picked up here and here — is that the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson has made clear that he isn’t giving government contracts to businesses that don’t support the president. Has the Bush administration really put out a political screen for who it awards contracts to?! As ThinkProgress notes: that would be illegal.
Imagine that we could mash together just two datasets to see if what Jackson admitted to in one instance is actually a pattern. Tonight anyone could take list of those who’ve received contracts from HUD since the beginning days of the Bush Administration and join that data with the list of political contributors from the same time period. (But first you have to imagine that the list of HUD contracts was readily available. It’s not, but after OMB Watch finishes a grants and contracts database it will be….). Anyone could figure out the answer to that question in a few minutes.
That’s why creating new data sets where none exist and why figuring out how to mash the datasets together is so important. And that’s why it’s even more important that Congress and government agencies report critical information in digital form on a timely basis and make it all available on the Internet.