Quid Pro Quo at the Department of Energy?

nuclear waste

The Washington Post ran an article this morning about Recovery Act funding for environmental clean-up being given to contractors with less than stellar performance records. On the surface, this is yet another example of the desperate need for a fully public contractor misconduct database to help prevent awarding contracts to bad actors. But something else jumped out at me from the article that points to a larger problem that I don't think a misconduct database would solve: contractors and executive branch staff are far too cozy.

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Earmark Transparency Takes a Step Backwards

Kool-Aid ManI came across an article ($) in Roll Call this morning detailing the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's plans for submitting and posting earmark requests for the next transportation reauthorization bill, which is likely to be worked on this fall. The Committee, under the now suspect leadership of Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), will roll back earmark transparency protocols adopted by the House and Senate Appropriations committees in January this year. Hasn't Oberstar gotten the message? Transparency is all the rage these days.

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Gary Bass Testifies Before House Committee on Recovery Act

OMB Watch's Gary Bass testified this afternoon at a Committee on Science and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight hearing, "Follow the Money Part II: Government and Public Resources for Recovery Act Oversight."

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Do-It-Yourself Government?

According to reporting by Aliya Sternstein at National Journal’s NextGov, Macon Phillips, the White House director of new media, has a new idea when it comes to government soliciting public input on government policy: Do it yourself.

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RAT Board and NAPA Host Recovery.gov Dialogue

The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, the Office of Management and Budget and the National Academy of Public Administration are hosting a week-long, online dialogue around the question "What ideas, tools, and approaches can make Recovery.gov a place where all citizens can transparently monitor the expenditure and use of recovery funds?"

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NSA Leaks Info to Embarrass Elected Congresswoman

In a brazen and sophomoric act, the National Security Agency (NSA) spied and then released information on Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), a member of the House Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing, and Terrorism Risk, in what can only be an effort to discredit her. 

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CAR Coalition Materials on Recovery Act Implementation

The Coalition for an Accountable Recovery (CAR), coordinated by OMB Watch, has been hard at work monitoring the implementation of the Recovery Act. Last Friday, April 17, the coalition submitted comments on the proposed implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). OMB Watch also produced a summary of the guidance for the coalition and released it publicly on April 10.

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Mums the Word from the White House on State Secrets Act

To my dismay the White House has repeatedly stonewalled regarding its position on the State Secrets Privilege Protection Act targeted at limiting the executive branch’s use of privilege.  In the past two weeks the White House has refused comment to Marc Armbinder of The Atlantic and Greg Sargent of TPM. 

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CBPP Report on Proper Disclosure of State Tax Expenditures

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities published a fantastic, in-depth report this month examining the state of disclosure of state level tax expenditures. The report reviews the best (OR, MN, and CT) and worst (AR, MD, and RI) state reports and outlines the best practices for the ideal tax expenditure disclosure. CBPP makes a strong case that increased disclosure of tax expenditure data by states would improve policies and accountability:

If properly designed and implemented, a tax expenditure report makes tax expenditures more transparent by telling policymakers and the public how the state is spending its money and what it is accomplishing through those expenditures. A tax expenditure report also encourages accountability by enabling policymakers and voters to evaluate individual tax expenditures and decide whether to continue them. In addition, a tax expenditure report saves money by enabling policymakers to monitor the costs of tax expenditures and rein in their cost if necessary.

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SIGTARP Investigates Possible Book-Cooking!

book cookingThe Special Inspector General for TARP has begun investigations into whether some banks altered their accounting records and balance sheets in order to appear "fundamentally sound," the Financial Times is reporting this morning. Banks must demonstrate they are "fundamentally sound" before they can qualify for TARP funds from the government.

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