The Machine Can Make It For Us

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So, the House Ethics Committee is planning on reviewing the 2007 travel rules and one area they hope to fix is the overwhelming load of paperwork submitted to the committee every year. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be thinking very hard about how to fix the problem.

Under the current travel rules, each Member or aide preparing to travel on a sponsored trip must submit a multipage “approval request” to the ethics committee, which includes a certification from the trip sponsor that the excursion is permissible under House rules.

After the trip, each individual must file a post-travel disclosure with the Clerk of the House.

Bonner and Lofgren told Roll Call in a May interview that the process requires each individual on the same trip to submit essentially identical forms for review, suggesting it wastes staff time and House resources.

“We’ve commented privately about how we hope to get a better handle on getting out some of the needless bureaucracy,” Bonner said in May. “You’ve got 15 people going on the same trip, and we have to do 15 different letters.”

Lofgren added: “There’s got to be some way — whole forests are falling in front of us — to streamline and still have the transparency so the public can see it and the accountability.”

… (sigh)

For some reason these people haven’t thought about creating an electronic form for filers to fill out on a computer. Lobbying disclosure is required to be filed electronically, why not these travel reports. It will cut down on paperwork, make it easier to review the materials and will save the trees.

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  • Walt

    Personally, I don’t care about the trees. Trees grow back.

    But if you’ve got 15 different people (most likely staffers) filling out the same paper form 15 times with just a different name on it, that’s just dumb. That time will never grow back.

    There’s no reason you can’t allow multiple names on a single form.

    But an electronic form that allows a list of names would be even better. And more open.