The Office of Government Ethics took an important step towards greater transparency yesterday when they launched an improved system for online access to public financial disclosure reports.
The Sunlight Foundation has advocated for online access to personal financial disclosure reports for years. The House of Representatives started putting their reports online in 2008. The Senate and Judiciary do not provide online access to their reports.
The new system puts executive branch financial disclosure documents (SF 278 and OGE Form 278) in one place and simplifies the request and retrieval process. Requests for copies of certified public financial disclosure reports and Certificates of Divestiture for people nominated by the President to Senate confirmable executive branch positions can be submitted online, with access to results available in seconds. Ethics agreements and waivers are available on-demand and interested parties will not have to submit a formal request to view them.
In 2009 the White House began providing online access to SF 278 Request Forms. The move was an improvement over the old paper system, but the process was still time consuming and complicated. There was no central hub of documents. Instead, after a formal request was made the reports were located and sent via email. The new system represents a significant upgrade.
The information now available online covers individuals appointed after January 20, 2009. If you are looking for information prior to that date you will still need to submit a paper form, available on the OGE website.
We are happy that the executive branch is joining the House in making their reports readily available to the public. The Senate and Judiciary should join the Executive and House of Representatives and put their information online to ensure that the sun shines on financial disclosure reports across the government.
Policy Fellow Matt Rumsey wrote this post.