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Project on Government Oversight

POGO's Request for Transparency to Revolving Door Database Denied

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November 20, 2009

Earlier this year, POGO urged the Obama administration to make a legislatively-mandated DoD revolving door database public. We also submitted a public comment urging government officials to do the same. Yesterday, DoD finalized that rule, but denied POGO’s request for public access.
In their explanation, DoD seemed to pass the buck over to over to Congress:

One source submitted comments on the interim rule. That source supported the rule and its objectives, but recommended that the central database/repository for retention of written ethics opinions, required by section 847(b), be made publicly available. DoD has not adopted this recommendation, as section 847 does not authorize access to the database by the general public.

The only problem with this reasoning is that Congress did not expressly deny public access to data — the law merely states that DoD create an ethics opinion database. 

POGO wonders what the harm is in seeing a list of former government officials who are now working for defense contractors. We have campaign finance and lobbying disclosure – why not expose those circulating between the public and private sectors who might be a driving force behind government decisions and policies?

"Public access to the revolving door database represents the kind of open government that the public wants and deserves. If this Administration is serious about open government, it needs to provide public access to the database about the well-oiled DoD revolving door," said POGO's General Counsel, Scott Amey.

This is a coincidence given this week's USA Today article on retired military generals with ties to defense contractors -- top military brass should be included in a public revolving door database too.

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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