Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Great idea up and running in Texas

with one comment

Take a look:

In the movie All the President’s Men, a shadow-cloaked informant famously advises a young reporter to “Follow the money.”

In Texas, doing just that has gotten a little bit easier.

A Houston-based public information advocacy group recently posted the financial disclosure forms for every incumbent state lawmaker.

While the database has already attracted statewide interest, the people behind TexasWatchdog.org hope it will have a far greater impact in Austin during next year’s legislative session. If a state representative or senator begins pushing a bill seen as favorable to a certain company or industry, the public will be easily able to see for themselves where that lawmaker’s personal interests lie, said Jennifer Pebbles, a reporter for the site.

“There’s a desire for people to look at this kind of information,” Peebles said.

Lawmakers are required to list sources of income, investments and potential conflicts of interest annually. The most recent reports cover financial activity for 2007. The forms for 2008 are due in April, according to Texas Ethics Commission spokesman Tim Sorrells.

By posting the forms online, TexasWatchdog.org has made it possible for people to look at the forms anonymously.

State law requires that the commission record the name and address of anyone who requests these public documents, Sorrells said.

The policy is unusually restrictive considering that anyone can look up a state lawmaker’s campaign finance reports on the commission’s Web site.

“Lawmakers are not stupid people,” Pebbles said. “They know if they can require people to . . . identify themselves, that’s going to keep a lot of people from looking up those forms.”

The site’s staff plans to regularly update the database, she said.

For lawmakers, the forms convey a sense of transparency to constituents but can also yield the appearance of conflicts of interest.

Take natural gas drilling, a likely hot topic in the upcoming legislative session because of the activity in the Barnett Shale. According to reports covering their financial activity from 2007, several area state legislators have investments in energy companies that may have a stake in what legislation gets passed, including:

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2008 at 8:37 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

One Response

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  1. “Follow the money.” It was not ‘Deep Throat’, the informant who turned out to be a disgruntled FBI official, but the screen writer William Goldman who came up with that wise advice and who put those words into ‘Deep Throat’s’ mouth.

    Jack

    24 November 2008 at 9:52 am


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