Yesterday, US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that House office expenses will be published online, vastly streamlining public monitoring of Representatives spending habits. The move will put the current paper records online “at the earliest date,” making each purchase publicly accessible.
This move can be read as a reaction to the ongoing scandal that is ejecting ministers from the British Parliament as well as a response to criticisms by the Sunlight Foundation that the old paper-and-filing-cabinet system doesn’t live up to President Obama’s emphasis on transparency.
The Wall Street Journal reports that its recent probe into legislator’s official spending habits revealed “mostly routine spending on staff salaries, travel and office rent, as well as supplies, printing and mailing.” If the WSJ investigation is a guide, Pelosi’s new initiative may not reveal anything shocking. However, opening these records to efficient online watchdog and media scrutiny will help to ensure clean spending habits are the norm in the future, avoiding the taxpayer-funded tennis courts and moat repairs that are riling Britain.
— Norah Mallaney
The real difference with the UK scandals (ie why the Journal didn't come up with anything scandalous) is that there's no slush fund housing or other allowances in the US system. Sure, all members have office budgets but they aren't given a pile of money to have a second home close to the Capitol.