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Less than three percent Palin’s itemized PAC contributions from Alaskans

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Less than three percent of the itemized money raised by resigning Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's leadership PAC came from Alaskans, newly filed campaign finance reports show. SarahPAC reported raising more than $730,000 in the last six months--less than half of the $1.6 million raised by Mitt Romney's PAC.

Both names have been mentioned as potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates, and the non-campaign, federal-level political action committee accounts are sometimes used to lay the infrastructure for a later bid, financing travel and winning over fellow politicians with donations to their campaigns.

The reports do not provide information ...

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Recovery.gov contract coming this week, board says

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In a post today at Sunlight's Real Time Investigations, I report that the General Services Administration has promised to provide online a censored version of its $9.5 million contract with Smartronix, Inc. for the redesign of Recovery.gov.

The contract had been withheld, the Recovery and Transparency Board had said, pending a "protest period" where losing bidders on the contract could cry foul.

Two companies put in unsuccessful proposals and neither filed complaints, and the board chairman said last week that it would release the contract to pre-empt public records requests from watchdog groups--a recourse that could seem ironic for a board founded on transparency. (Incidentally, Sunlight had filed already filed a FOIA request for it the prior week.)

Sunlight Labs and its citizen-coder community worked on drafting our own proposal, you'll recall, on the project that eventually turned into the shrouded contract (worth more than $18 million if it's extended).
We turned our efforts elsewhere after it became clear that, due to a lack of time, resources and fluency in bureaucracy, submitting a bid would be a shooting for something we'd never win.

Perhaps the only conceivable benefit to submitting a futile proposal--and Sunlight would have to be a subcontractor in all this, not being on the approved-contractor list--would be the retention of petitioning rights. Any written petition from a losing bidder would have immediately stalled the contract--despite its urgent deadlines--until it could be considered, barring a special exception. What does a petition entail?

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VA projects suspended after IT Dashboard ratings

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Forty-five troubled Veterans Affairs Department projects have been suspended as a result of the Office of Management and the Budget's IT Dashboard. The newly launched Web site collects data on technology contracts as reported by agencies and provides it to the public along with visualizations, such as red bars indicating late or over-cost products, to aid officials and citizens in spotting wasteful spending and contract abuse.

Some projects' ratings were so bad that as VA administrators were preparing the metrics for the OMB, they spotted the projects and suspended them before they ever appeared as red flags on the IT Dashboard site. One project was 17 months behind schedule.

Government watchdogs were pleased that the IT Dashboard project has already led to real instances of accountability, though the fact that the problematic VA contracts were spotted only when statistics were required by another agency suggested a lack of contract oversight at some agencies.

But the IT Dashboard shows that many more contracts with abysmal ratings are still in place.

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Review: The USASpending.gov IT Dashboard

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The Obama administration unveiled its “IT Dashboard” last week—to significant fanfare, including a write-up in The New York Times—as a symbol of its commitment to openness and understanding of technology.

But is it more than a flashy gizmo?

The Web site is only the first step in a broader effort to make government contracting data available online, and the tech-minded workers tasked with designing a system made the natural choice to start with what they know best: IT contracts.

And as an early (and rushed) prototype, we won’t fault it for the bugs and crashes that were prevalent for the first several days, most of which appear to be fixed.

But if the challenge for central agencies is coordinating across the wide federal bureaucracy, the sometimes narrow focus of technophiles may be the site’s shortcoming. There is little explanatory language placing information in context—understandable given that it’s being drawn from many different departments.

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Open notebook: Following stimulus contracts

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Recovery.gov might not be useful yet for "following every penny" of stimulus spending, but with a telephone, Google, USASpending.gov and some luck it might not be that hard. Pretty much at random, I picked out a bunch of congressional press releases touting stimulus dollars going to local communities, and started making calls. Here's some notes on where one inquiry led me.

Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper of Pennsylvania's 3rd district (roughly the northwest corner of the state) put this press release on her Web site on March 24, announcing that, "The Mercer County Housing Authority is slated to ...

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Campaign Software Makers All About Disclosure, Except their Own

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NGP Software, a leading provider of software for electronically disclosing campaign contributions to the Federal Election Commission, is striving to keep its long-running legal battle with a competitor, Aristotle International, under wraps. In August 2005, plaintiff Aristotle filed suit against NGP alleging unfair business practices, claiming that the firm falsely advertised as serving only Democrats while selling an identical product at a heavy discount to political action committees that supported Republicans.

Aristotle International and NGP have nearly exclusive control of a market that appeared virtually overnight when the FEC introduced electronic filing requirements in 2001. The companies write and sell ...

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