Skip to main content

I've posted a substantially revised version of this diary here

Today witnessed the launch of, which was created by the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act by Tom Coburn and Barack Obama.  The site enables tracking of $1 trillion in federal spending on contracts, grants, earmarks, and loans.  The bill faced serious opposition, including anonymous holds by some of the biggest porkbarrel spenders (including Ted Stevens), but in the end, Coburn and Obama prevailed.

So what kind of data does this site give us?  Well, how about the top 100 recipients of federal money, or say which congresspeople rake in the most pork.  And that's just scratching the surface.

And, to my surprise (especially for a government site), an API is available to make it easy to extract data.

The site is clearly a treasure trove of data and is a huge step forward towards government accountability.  What's also nice is how user friendly it is.

Let's look at a few examples of what we can dig up.

Example 1: The list of transactions with KBR, Inc. (formerly part of Halliburton) in 2007.  This came out to a paltry sum of $2.7 billion dollars (so far this year), which is nothing compared to previous years as the bar graph on the summary page shows.

Example 2: No bid contracts are among the darkest corners of federal spending - the lack of competition in these contracts is in large part what leads to overcharging by contractors and waste of taxpayer dollars.  Well, there was $30 billion in no-bid contracts in 2007, including money to some companies I had never heard of, including $1.2 billion to Armor Holdings, Inc. and, strangely, $163 million to the government of Canada.

Example 3: Half of the difficulty in keeping our government accountable is being able to separate the wheat from the chaff - that is, being able to get at the data for the above-the-board stuff that goes on so we can focus in on the under-the-table dealings that are inevitably taking place.  Without the data, it's hard to separate the two.  In the "unknown" category of spending includes $2.6 billion for guided missiles, mostly to Lockheed and Raytheon.

There are a million more examples, and I'm really looking forward to seeing them in the coming weeks and months.  It's hard to say whether this will change the ways contractors behave and porkbarrel spending is done, but it will expose no-bid contracts to a greater extent than has been done in the past, and moreover, will enable ordinary Americans to help be watchdogs.

All in all, I'm very happy to see another positive step towards government transparency, something that Sen. Obama has been a leader in.

Finally - I have one challenge to everyone - find one interesting, strange, or otherwise noteworthy piece of spending using the site, and post it in a comment.

Originally posted to barath on Thu Dec 13, 2007 at 06:40 PM PST.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site