Website Puts Spotlight on Congressional Staff Finances

a seat of powerAre you curious about how lawmakers spend money on their own offices? The website LegiStorm publishes publicly available financial details, including salaries and expenditures on Congressional staffers, in an attempt to keep our complex government transparent to citizens. However, even public scrutiny shold have its limits.

You might want to take a look at the LegiStorm site, which lists salaries, outside income, and gift and travel information of Congressional staff. Useful information? Absolutely. Fair game? You bet.

Most of this information is published in dead-tree form by the House and the Senate periodically. But when’s the last time you went to Washington D.C. just to go rooting around a basement in the Cannon House Office Building, where it’s hidden sequestered stored?

So far, a pretty good idea right? But what about when too much information is revealed?

From the Washington Post:

The clerk of the House, Lorraine C. Miller, wrote to the more than 2,000 staff members who file disclosure reports, warning them to check whether they reveal any sensitive material, such as bank account or Social Security numbers. That prompted [LegiStorm publisher Jock] Friedly to uncover more than 20 instances in which such private information was revealed on his Web site, for which he has apologized. The information since has been redacted from the site.

However, Friedly refuses to remove staff home addresses or signatures unless the House pays the roughly $10,000 cost of altering thousands of the forms.

Public service should not mean total loss of personal privacy. I don’t know what is gained by making staffer’s home addresses and signatures available. Will disgruntled constituents have to forge staffer signatures in order to buy tomatoes to throw at their houses?

Various Congressional offices are working to redesign the forms in an effort to protect sensitive personal information. The key here is to make sure the forms don’t whitewash the purpose of the law for which they are required.

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