Posts Tagged ‘Follow the Money’

money

Government Executive has this story about a new memo from the OMB listing the requirements for disclosing spending from the stimulus bill, contracting, and risk management.

While this, and the new recovery.gov website, are great tools in theory for investigative journalists, watchdog groups, and taxpayers to keep an eye on how all this money is being spent, it sounds a little overwhelming. I also have a feeling that the new transparency and disclosure requirements are going to come back and haunt somebody, either in one of the government agencies or the White House or Congress.

This is a bit late, but I just found the Washington Post Investigative Unit’s list of the Top Ten Scandals of 2008, and it’s a doozy.

They are all good and memorable scandals which will be talked about for years, although I would beg to differ. Take Hillary Clinton’s Bosnia sniper fire story off the list and replace it with Sarah Palin’s $180,000 wardrobe funded by the Republican National Committee. One was a case of Walter Mitty-style fabulism which provided for a moment of humor once the reality of the story was verified and little else. The other raised profound questions about judgment and management of campaign funds, and by extension the potential decisions John McCain and Sarah Palin would have made in the White House if they had been elected.

With a new administration, an expanded Democratic majority in Congress, and a full blown financial crisis, expect 2009 to be another bombshell and scandal-rich year for the press to investigate.

If you needed any more evidence that the heyday of unregulated excess in American capitalism is over, check out this report in the Wall Street Journal.

Public anger over taxpayer-funded financial bailouts is prompting Congress to look for ways to better police the billions of dollars being injected into the same Wall Street firms that many critics believe caused the current economic crisis.

Sens. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Richard Shelby (R., Ala.) are sponsoring a bill to hire hundreds of new Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and Securities and Exchange Commission investigators to investigate financial fraud. The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing Wednesday to highlight the issue.

The proposal would provide $80 million to hire 500 new FBI agents and $10 million to add new federal prosecutors and $20 million for 100 new SEC employees. All are going to be focused on investigating white-collar crime, including mortage and financial fraud that many believe helped cause the current global crisis.

The increase in resources is intended to remedy cuts that were made after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack, which prompted federal law enforcement to focus more on terrorism.

Schumer says the FBI’s mortgage and financial fraud unit has 348 agents, down from 1,000 following the Savings and Loan crisis in the 1980s and 1990s.

If this happens, there will be some very nervous business executives on Wall Street and throughout America, and white collar defense attorneys in the private sector will make an obscene amount of money defending their clients. I would also expect big business to lobby heavily against this proposal and will promise to do a better job at policing itself, but the political reality is that the uproar over the economy and the multiple taxpayer-funded bailouts have Congress and the American people in a very foul mood. They won’t be very sympathetic.

This story in the Washington Post is unbelievable. If this had happened in the private sector, people would have been fired immediately.

This exchange really captures the severity of it all:

“Isn’t that a terrible way to look after the taxpayers’ money and to make purchases anywhere?” Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), ranking member on the Senate Banking Committee, said at a hearing on oversight of the bailout.

Warren replied, “Senator, Treasury simply did not do what it said it was doing.”

“In other words, they misled the Congress, did they not?” said a visibly flustered Shelby.

When a Republican senator is openly accusing the Bush Treasury Department of misleading Congress, you know it’s bad.

Peter Orszag, Barack Obama’s nominee to be director of the Office of Management and Budget, has given up his duties blogging for his old job as director of the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO blog will continue under acting director Robert Sunshine.

Here’s hoping that Orszag continues his blogging at the White House.

This seems like a pretty sweet fundraising racket. I’m not sure how ethical it is or not, but it seems to me like it’s the type of situation which could be exploited and lead to a slippery slope of corruption.


Interesting find from the New York Times.