Monday, November 30, 2009

Fix The Blessed Problem

I couldn't resist paraphrasing Democratic Representative David Obey's recent reaction to the wildly erroneous information on a federal government website about the jobs created by the federal stimulus program because it reflects our sentiments about the Government Accountability Board's new electronic filing system.

Some grossly erroneous campaign finance reports on the board's Campaign Finance Information System haven't been corrected 10 months after they were publicly identified by the Democracy Campaign.

The reports filed February 2 by two mega-fundraising committees called the State Senate Democratic Committee and the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee contain more than $300,000 worth of duplicate and misidentified campaign contributions and expenses. The reports show many thousands of dollars in contributions and expenses attributed to the Government Accountability Board.

At a November 21 legislative hearing, the board's ethics division administrator Jonathan Becker told legislators the board would press the two committees that week to file corrected reports but as of this posting two weeks later - nothing.

Said Becker: "Even though we have the right information they haven't officially filed it yet. We've had it for a long time."

If that's the case then why haven't the committees filed correct reports after nearly 10 months? If the committees are refusing to file then bring them up on charges and fine them. Why hasn't there been any enforcement action in 10 months?

The board has fined dozens of other filers since January 2008 for lobbying, ethics and campaign finance law violations ranging from late-filed reports to making illegal campaign contributions. The board has tagged violators with fines ranging from $10 to $1,350.

Board staff has defended the problem-ridden CFIS since it debuted in fall 2008 as a project that increases public disclosure and access to information that shows where political candidates and committees get and spend their money.

But it is not public disclosure when GAB or any other government agency provides information to the public that is wrong and worse yet lets it sit out there for 10 months after finding out it is wrong.

As Obey went on to say about the stimulus program's website debacle: "Credibility counts in government and stupid mistakes like this undermine it."

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