Sunday, April 12, 2009

Access, Accountability, Transparency

Link to April 12 Appleton Post-Crescent article, "Panel: Outdated state law muzzles access to elected officials' finances".

Excerpt: Unlike residents of most other states, Wisconsin residents do not have free access to information about the finances of their elected officials.

A government watchdog organization, however, has made it a top priority to loosen restrictions.

"It seems to us, in this electronic age, given the goal of the board to make government as transparent as possible we would like the ability to post statements online so people anywhere in the state can view an official's statement," said Jonathan Becker, administrator of the ethics division of the state Government Accountability Board.

The information is filed by about 2,100 public officials on financial disclosure forms called statements of economic interest, which are designed to ensure officials, such as judges and lawmakers, don't have conflicts of interest or are using their offices for private gain.

Wisconsin residents can see this information, but only if requesters disclose their identities. So if you request a statement filed by the governor, the governor gets an e-mail with your name, telephone number and address. If you are seeking the information for someone else you have to disclose that too.

SEE ALSO The Wisconsin Campaign Finance Database at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign website. (Follow the money.)

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