The House of Representatives limped into the digital age on Monday, finally releasing its quarterly expense reports online. Transparency wins! Well, actually transparency was a minor casualty of the upgrade, reports Roll Call today. The new reports lack much of the detail that used to be included in the old, paper reports, according to Roll Call:
Congressional administrators erased a vast array of details on the expenditures of House Members, making it impossible to determine what much of the money was actually spent on.
As a result, while millions of Americans will for the first time be able to download and peruse the 3,400 pages detailing how Members spent their taxpayer-funded office accounts, they will no longer be able to see what items the Members purchased, which staffers were traveling on the taxpayer dime or where the Members are renting district offices.
The lawmakers are still reporting the same amount of detail to the Chief Administration Officer of the House, Roll Call reports, but that office scrubs the reports of many specifics when it transfers them into a database.
Jeff Ventura, a spokesman for CAO Dan Beard, told the paper that the online version uses standard government accounting codes for a higher degree of consistency and accuracy. The new guidelines for accounting codes are used in the print edition, too, Roll Call reports.
Politico, meanwhile, managed to wrangle a few details from the report, which still lists names of vendors -- like the $265 spent at Chantilly Donuts by Majority Whip James Clyburn.