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Tag Archive: Disbursements

“It’s left up to the members”

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My colleague Anu Narayanswamy has written on House disbursements; interestingly, they figure in a footnote of Rep. Charles Rangel's defense against the charges leveled against him by the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct:

Members traditionally exercise broad discretion to determine what activities lie within the scope of their official duties. See 123 Cong. Rec. 5900 (daily ed. Mar. 2, 1977) (statement of Rep. Hamilton) (“There are essentially no rules and regulations” that define what is appropriately an official expense. “It is left up to the Members.”). The Standards Committee does not second-guess the reasonable judgments of a Member ...

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Explore the House’s Expenditures

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We've updated our House disbursement data to include a "bioguide ID" for each row pertaining to a legislator's office. For more information on why we did that, and how you can use it, read on.

Some of you may know that the House began posting its statements of disbursements online in November of last year. You can find them at disbursements.house.gov in PDF form. We at Sunlight parsed these PDFs and published the data ourselves in a structured format, for easy searchability.

It still hasn't been easy to link this dataset up to others.

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A lesson in Humility

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On Monday the House of Representatives delivered, as promised, an electronic dump of House Expense Reports. We, at Sunlight Labs had a plan. We knew it was going to be a huge PDF, but we have all the infrastructure in place. We had plenty of bandwidth, knew when the data was coming out, roughly how it was going to look, and that it was likely we wouldn't be able to parse it all with computers. "We'll use TransparencyCorps," we thought, to get that last mile out of the data, so that eventually we'll end up with a parseable database.

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House Disbursements Now Online

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As we mentioned earlier, the House of Representatives' Statement of Disbursements for Q3 of 2009 is now online, in PDF form. This was expected, as Speaker Pelosi had announced in June that this would happen later in the year.

This data is in the form of a single 3000-page PDF, or 3 broken-out 1000-page PDFs. They are scanned and OCRed copies of the original 3-volume book set that the Government Printing Office produces each year. For now, we're mirroring the original PDFs here, in case the House site goes down.

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