Thursday, December 13, 2007

Follow the money

Christmas has come early for political bloggers, in the form of USASpending.gov, a new web site that contains a searchable database of every federal contract -- including who got paid, when, how much and what for.

It's a government site, but it's the result of a remarkable bipartisan effort by the conservative Heritage Foundation and the liberal group OMB Watch to make government more transparent and accountable, which culminated in Senate passage of a bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to create the site.

Combined with new databases on FEC reports and earmarks, we now have an unprecedented ability to follow the money trails that wind in and out of government. It isn't perfect -- it still takes a fair bit of legwork, and the databases aren't linked -- but it's far better than what existed (or rather, didn't exist) before.

One hitch is that you have to search by contractor name, which is usually a company, not a person. For instance, you need to know that Sen. Dianne Feinstein's husband, Richard Blum, owns Perini Corp. -- a construction contractor -- before you can plug the company name into the database and find out that the company lands millions of dollars worth of federal contracts every year: from a low of $24 million or so in 2002 to a high of $459 million in 2004 (and declining since).

But once you know that, you can freely dream up conspiracy theories that the contracts are somehow related to Feinstein's Senate perch.

There's also an "Assistance" tab, which lets you find out who are the recipients of federal grants, loans, etc. You can search by name, congressional district, type o recipient and other criteria.

So thank Santa for the gift and go investigate your favorite politician or company. I've added the link to my "Resources" list in the sidebar so it's easy to find.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous brimadison said...

Just a point of clarification: The Senate bill was sponsored by Coburn AND Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL).

12/14/2007 8:15 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

True. But I believe it was a Coburn bill; Obama was the first senator to sign on as a co-sponsor.

12/14/2007 9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sean said..."But once you know that, you can freely dream up conspiracy theories that the contracts are somehow related to Feinstein's Senate perch."

.....OR....that the Haliburton contracts are somehow related to the fact that VP Cheney used to work there!!

JP5

12/23/2007 7:59 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

LOL. That, too.

12/31/2007 5:23 PM  

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