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Tag Archive: Personal Financial Dsclosure

Members Take Responsibility for Public Disclosure of Documents

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Do two representatives make a trend? Today, Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) posted her personal financial disclosure form on her member Web site. (See it here.) This makes her the second known member of Congress to post their financial disclosure form to their Web site. Last month, Bill blogged about Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) being the first known member to post these documents to their site. As I've explained before, citizens can only get personal financial disclosure forms, the documents that tell you how much your congressman is worth and what assets they own, directly from Congress by travelling to Washington, DC and picking up the hard copies from the Legislative Resource Center (located in the basement of Cannon Office Building). Gillibrand and Issa are doing a much needed service by being personally responsible for the public disclosure of these vital documents.

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House Puts Personal Financial Disclosures Online!

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Last night, the House Democrats revealed the much anticipated companion lobbying and ethics bill to the Senate's S.1 (we'll have a more detailed look later). Included in the bill is a provision to put personal financial disclosures and travel reports online for the first time. As you may know, we've been lobbying for this and consider this to be a great victory for transparency in the House of Representatives. We commend the House for continuing to towards a more open and accessible online presence. Thanks to everyone who called or sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi and members of the Judiciary Committee. We've heard that your calls and letters helped push the leadership to include this provision. In the face of newspaper articles doubting the seriousness of the reform effort in the House this provision should indicate that the House is willing to make their own institution more transparent and open to the public at large. Now, for the provision itself. (Clause (a)(2) requires personal financial disclosures be put online.)

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Put Personal Financial Disclosures Online

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The House Judiciary Committee is currently deciding what will or will not be included in the House’s ethics reform bill. While the Committee is talking about requiring greater transparency from lobbyists they aren’t taking simple steps to make the House more transparent. Last week, Ellen proposed that the Judiciary Committee take one simple step to make the House more transparent by putting personal financial disclosure forms online. (This is also a recommendation in The Open House Project report.) You can help make this happen by following this link and contacting Speaker Pelosi and the members of the Judiciary Committee and asking them to include a provision putting personal financial disclosures online in the ethics bill. If you want to know why you should care about the online disclosure of personal financial disclosure forms you can read Ellen’s post and continue reading this post. (See also the Congresspedia entry on personal financial disclosure.)

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Make Congress File Personal Financial Forms Electronically

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The Sunlight Foundation and nearly a dozen other groups today sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to urge her to add to the upcoming lobbying reform legislation a provision that would require members to electronically file their personal financial disclosure forms.  These reports provide detailed information on each members' personal financial assets, and are critical to the public's understanding of whether their representative's private interests might conflict with his or her public duties as a lawmaker. Congress, which has required electronic filing of reports by lobbyists, campaign committees and 527 organizations, has failed to make personal financial disclosure reports available on the Internet-even in PDF format. Instead, the reports and the information contained in them are buried in the basement office of the House Clerk.

The House Ethics Manual states that "...public disclosure of assets, financial interests, and investments has been required as the preferred method of regulating possible conflicts of interest of Members of the House and certain congressional staff. Public disclosure is intended to provide the information necessary to allow Members' constituencies to judge their official conduct in light of possible financial conflicts with private holdings."

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Members of Congress Beat the Market

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Last week, Ken Silverstein, in reporting a story on Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla., and his sweetheart condo deal, began the piece this way:

A few years back, university researchers found that during the 1990 stock market boom U.S. senators beat the market by 12 percentage points a year on average. By comparison, corporate insiders beat the market by 5 percent, and typical households underperformed by 1.4 percent, the Christian Science Monitor said of the research. Financial experts . . . say the senators' collective achievement is a statistical stunner, too big to be a mere coincidence.

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Digitizing Personal Financial Disclosure Records

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My colleague, Larry Makinson, moaned and groaned a couple days ago that the personal financial disclosure records for members of Congress were not available in electronic form. Well, Sunlight noticed that too and that's why one of the first grants we made was to the Center for Responsive Politics to create a searchable online database out of those paper records.

CRP has collected, scanned and posted PDF images of Personal Financial Disclosure reports for members of Congress since 1995. In case you don't know these reports show which members are the wealthiest, which own certain stocks, which members maintain (or have recently paid off) large debts, etc. In short, there's some really important information in those forms that might tell us how lawmakers vote, the earmarks they propose, and why. With paper records, analyzing this data is so...last century. Meaningful and timely analysis is practically impossible. (This is no accident...)

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