by Sean Moulton, 3/9/2012
Yesterday, the White House launched Ethics.gov, the administration’s long promised effort to provide a one-stop shop for information on lobbyists, campaign contributions, travel, visitors, and other possible conflicts of interest issues for public officials.
The site brings together seven different databases; most were already available online in different locations, but bringing them together in one location with a single Google-like search interface dramatically increases the ease of use and so, their usefulness. The new interface allows users to search all the databases simultaneously for people, companies, and key words via a single search field. This allows users to more easily see the overlapping activities engaged in by companies and individuals seeking to influence government.
This is an important step forward in transparency and government accountability – it opens the door to how government operates – what officials are talking to what lobbyists, who is contributing to whose campaign, etc.
We applaud the administration for developing new and easier ways to examine influence peddling in the federal government. We would, however, encourage the administration to add financial interest disclosures for top executive branch officials, members of Congress, and federal judges. The requirements to disclose financial assets to identify potential conflicts of interest have been around for years, but the federal government has not made this information available to the public. Congress is currently considering the STOCK Act – which would require these disclosures be made public online. The administration can stay on the cutting edge of transparency if it begins posting that information on Ethics.gov now.
This launch comes just days before Sunshine Week 2012, a national event to promote and explore government transparency.