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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Recovery.org Transforms Government Spending Transparency

You may not like President Obama's economic stimulus package, but you should at least like President Obama's use of the Web to account for that stimulus money. Recovery.gov isn't just another government website. According to Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board chairman and Inspector General Earl Devaney, the stimulus-tracking website has permanently and positively transformed the concept of government transparency:

...it's transformational. I think that the government is going to do business like this in the future. This is probably the biggest experiment going on right now, and they'll take the good and build on it and we will probably learn a lot of lessons as we go along [Earl Devaney, quoted by Chad Vander Veen, "Earl Devaney, Chairman of the Federal Recovery Board, Talks About Building and Running Recovery.gov," Government Technology, 2010.06.15].

But wasn't there some ruckus last fall about recovery money being spent in non-existent Congressional districts? Yes... and that ruckus wouldn't have happened without the transparency of Recovery.org:

...the downside to transparency is often embarrassment. When we went live [with stimulus spending data] in October, there was a lot of outcry about the data. Some of the data was bad. There are 99 data elements that the recipients [of stimulus funds] had to send in to FederalReporting.gov and get right. One of the big snafus was that turns out not many of the recipients knew what congressional district they live in. So they just put in two numbers, they didn't care if they were the right numbers because the system allowed them to move on to the next question. Well, when we had a database full of incorrect congressional districts, that didn't make Congress very happy. There's a technical fix to that; we tied the ZIP codes to the congressional district, and if the ZIP code entered by the user doesn't match the congressional district, the user is told there is a problem. That corrected that problem in the next reporting period, so that data got a lot better [Devaney in Vander Veen, 2010].

Devaney sees himself and a couple dozen other inspectors general now backed up by thousands and thousands of reporters, bloggers, and regular citizens searching Recovery.gov for information on local projects and eager to print critical news stories or hit the "report fraud" button if they see something questionable. He says the stimulus money has as much potential for waste and abuse as past government spending programs. The difference is that it's a lot easier for us to find out about it, alert the overseeing agencies, and stanch that waste and abuse.

All thanks to a website and citizen participation... and an Administration that understands the value of both.


  1. Cory,

    Does the web site disclose Obama's $2 billion loans to Brazilian Gulf oil interests that includes heavy investment by Soros?

    Steve Sibson

  2. Boy, Steve, I don't know. Instead of flinging baseless propaganda, why don't you go there, find out, and then come back with links?

  3. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203863204574346610120524166.html

    I don't care personally if it is listed on his recovery.org page or not. His administration's transparency is a hoot and a half, as evidenced by the shenanigans in passing health care for one example. The link above talks about this in the Wall Street Journal.

  4. So just checking: is anyone able to argue that Recovery.org is a bad thing? That such budgetary openness is not good for the country?

  5. Wait a minute: The loans to which Steve and Linda refer wouldn't be on Recovery.gov, because they have nothing to do with the stimulus package... or President Obama. George Soros reduced his holdings in the Brazilian oil company before the loans were disbursed. Apparently there are no tax dollars involved. In a word, B-O-O-O-gus!

  6. "George Soros reduced his holdings in the Brazilian oil company before the loans were disbursed."

    Cory, Soros repositioned himself. Yes he sold common stock, but bought preferred stock. Ths is from Bloomberg and note that Petrobras is majority owned by a government...socialism!:

    His New York-based hedge-fund firm, Soros Fund Management LLC, sold 22 million U.S.-listed common shares of Petrobras, as the Brazilian oil company is known, according to a filing today with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Soros bought 5.8 million of the company’s U.S.-traded preferred shares.
    Soros is taking advantage of the spread between the two types of U.S.-listed Petrobras shares, said Luis Maizel, president of LM Capital Group LLC, which manages about $4 billion. The common shares were 21 percent more expensive than preferred today, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. …
    Petrobras preferred shares have also a 10 percent additional dividend, said William Landers, a senior portfolio manager for Latin America at Blackrock Inc.
    “Given that there will most likely never be a change in control in the company, I see no reason to pay a higher price for the common shares.” Brazil’s government controls Petrobras and has a majority stake of voting shares.

    Steve Sibson


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