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Tag Archive: Oversight

Lobbyist Disclosure Gets Oversight

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Lobbying disclosure reports will finally get reviewed by an oversight body as a result of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA). The Government Accountability Office (GAO) began auditing the first quarter lobbying reports to determine compliance and noncompliance to the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 and subsequent amendments included in HLOGA. The GAO may ask for time sheets and restaurant and travel records to check to see if employees are meeting the lobbyist threshold. The audit results should be released around Sept. 30, 2008, six months after the initial quarterly report filing date. Michael Stern at Point of Order points out some issues that may prevent the GAO from requiring audited firms to turn over documents:

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Oversight on the Office of Legal Counsel and Secrecy

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After previewing it first, I attended last Wednesday’s Hearing by the Constitution Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee about “Secret Law and the Threat to Democratic and Accountable Government.”

For fuller coverage, see FireDogLake, the Guardian, ACS Blog, or the statements and testimony from the hearing (set off on the upper right).

While my coverage will be far from complete, I find the process of taking and then preparing my notes from committee hearings to be a great way to digest what was presented, and to start to work through some of the issues that relate to open government and accountability, which lie at the heart of this hearing. (more)

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Investigating What Went Wrong in Iraq (and Congress’ Blissful Indifference)

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Some $9 billion managed by the Coalition Provisional Authority and intended for the rebuilding of Iraq has gone missing, journalists Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele report in Vanity Fair, and the U.S. government doesn't seem particularly interested in finding out where it went. Barlett and Steele describe the Wild Wild Middle East atmosphere, in which two guys with no experience can get millions from the C.P.A. to protect civilian flights in and out of Iraq, and Bahamanian P.O. Boxes are the business addresses of choice for those supposedly keeping the books. Perhaps the most disturbing bit among many was just how out of touch Congress was on the doings in Baghdad during the C.P.A.'s tenure starting in 2003:

Over the next year, a compliant Congress gave $1.6 billion to Bremer to administer the C.P.A. This was over and above the $12 billion in cash that the C.P.A. had been given to disburse from Iraqi oil revenues and unfrozen Iraqi funds. Few in Congress actually had any idea about the true nature of the C.P.A. as an institution. Lawmakers had never discussed the establishment of the C.P.A., much less authorized it—odd, given that the agency would be receiving taxpayer dollars. Confused members of Congress believed that the C.P.A. was a U.S. government agency, which it was not, or that at the very least it had been authorized by the United Nations, which it had not. One congressional funding measure makes reference to the C.P.A. as "an entity of the United States Government"—highly inaccurate. The same congressional measure states that the C.P.A. was "established pursuant to United Nations Security Council resolutions"—just as inaccurate. The bizarre truth, as a U.S. District Court judge would point out in an opinion, is that "no formal document … plainly establishes the C.P.A. or provides for its formation."
"Confused members of Congress" seems like both a phrase that should be far more common in news coverage, and an inappropriately charitable description. In any case, it's an incredible story from two of the best investigative reporters in the business -- well worth reading (and don't miss the Q&A

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