Last week, The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) released The Shadow Government, another of their eye-popping reports that they are so known for. The report is the result of an investigation of federal advisory committees, the secret, multi-layered and unaccountable bureaucracy that influences much of the federal government with precious little oversight and largely no record of their activities. There are over 900 committees, boards, commissions, councils and panels that advise the various agencies of the Executive Branch and the White House, meant to offer government expert opinions on various topics.Continue reading
Here's another arena in which a little bit of transparency (as a means to oversight) would go a really long way. In what looks like a really terrific book -- Fooling Some of the People All of the Time: A Long Short Story -- investor David Einhorn tells the story of corporate malfeasance and government looking the other way. (Wonder why? Read the book but I suspect this might have something to do with it.
The story you are about to read exposes the grim realities of unchecked corporate misconduct by a bad company and the failures of proper regulatory oversight. . . . The story I am telling is one that has been surprising and unexpected - even to me. I think it is important and needs to be told. This book reveals some serious problems in the regulatory landscape that I am in a unique place to discuss. I care that the SEC and other regulators seem to have stopped enforcing laws against corporate malfeasance. I care that company officials can lie with impunity on public conference calls. And I have been appalled that the government officials overseeing the lending programs that Allied has defrauded are so indifferent and unwilling to act even when presented with clear evidence of abuse. The overall lack of law enforcement is startling.Continue reading
Yesterday, the Center for Public Integrity released their new report Windfalls of War II, exposing how contractors over the past three years made a mint off the spoils of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. An earlier 2003 report, Windfalls of War (heavily researched by our Sunlight colleague, Larry Makinson) looked at Uncle Sam's spending on private contractors from 2001 through much of 2003.
In this new report, the Center says that the federal contract system for the two war zones is "marred by missing contracts, unidentified companies, a lack of competitive bidding and the absence of minority-owned companies as primary contractors." By the end of 2006, CPI reports, U.S. contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan have grown to $25 billion, while oversight has seriously deteriorated.Continue reading
In the Senate the lobbying data is maintained by the Senate Office of Public Records (SOPR) which currently enters the lobbyist disclosure reports filed on paper into a database. Did you know -- I just learned this -- that electronic disclosure has been required for lobbyist reports since 1995, but still hasn't been fully implemented?! An apparent glitch in SOPR's computer system is currently preventing the public from searching for individual lobbyists, as well as for issues that interests have reported lobbying on in 2007. How beyond ridiculous is this?
It's absurd because whether the Democrats or the GOP control Congress, lobbyists often set the table. Industry lobbyists make sure that their clients' interests are tended to, no matter who runs the Congress. The Center for Responsive Politics analyzed reports filed last month and found lobbyists spending has topped $1.24 billion in the first six months of this year. For perspective, lobbyists spend a record amount of $2.61 billion throughout 2006. CRP's analysis found:Continue reading