WSJ looks at lawmakers' expenses
The difficulty in accessing records of lawmakers' spending and a general lack of transparency in those records was the subject of a Wall Street Journal article today.
The article was a follow up to Saturday's WSJ report examining official spending by Congress, including representatives that purchased digital cameras and televisions using their official expense allowances. The purchases were legal as long as they were used for official congressional business.
The latest article highlighted the difficulty in finding documenation of such expenditures. The House and Senate both publish members' expenditures in dense volumes of printed pages rather than making them easily accessible online. To get access to the records, you have to go the record rooms of the House and Senate, which are both located in basements of congressional office buildings.
The WSJ quoted LegiStorm president Jock Friedly, who points out the lack of online access is not unusual for public documents from both houses of Congress, even though some of the information is located on computers in the record rooms.
"They clearly have the capability to put all this information online," said Jock Friedly, founder of the Web site LegiStorm, which publishes electronic versions of many House and Senate disclosure documents.
Mr. Friedly said he often pays by the page -- 10 cents for the House, 20 cents for the Senate -- for printouts of other disclosure documents that are stored on a computer. Then he must pay to have the documents scanned and entered into a computer database before he can add them to his Web site.
Senate expense records are still in pre-computer days - the records aren't processed electronically. However, the WSJ states both the House and Senate are exploring ways to put the expense records online.