FFM Bulletin 5/14/09

Accountability Alert: Tracking Stimulus Funds

Notwithstanding the Obama Administration's promises that taxpayers will be able to track every dime of stimulus funding, it turns out the details on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of government contracts and grants will not even be posted online until sometime next year. Even then, there are questions about the extent of information that will be available.

Taxpayers who want to follow their money will find that recovery.gov lists programs funded by stimulus money, but will not post the beneficiaries of those government contracts and grants until next spring. But it's not clear whether the Office of Management and Budget will require spending details on all recipients involved in each stimulus-supported project or just the first two parties funds pass through, such as a state and county or city, potentially omitting the actual contractors. In any case, it appears the money will be long gone before taxpayers can find out who ends up getting it. This is yet another example of government transparency being used as a buzzword instead of a guiding principle.

Watchdogs Unleashed After FFM Training Session

A full house turned out on Saturday, May 9th in New Brighton for FFM's first local government watchdog training session, a hands-on workshop with a lively discussion on best practices for monitoring your local units of government, identifying wasteful spending, and working with local media.

Despite coinciding with the fishing opener, about 25 volunteers from twelve counties were on hand to learn about their legal rights to government data and tricks of the research and communications trade from some of the best in the legal, political, and media business.

The first panel covered legal issues related to government transparency, including the Freedom of Information Act, Minnesota Open Meetings Law, and Minnesota Data Practices Act. The second panel focused on research techniques that work in the real world, while the final panel discussed how to make an impact in both traditional and new media.

The newly unleashed watchdogs left better equipped to begin monitoring their local units of government and holding their elected officials accountable. Thanks to the Taxpayers League of Minnesota for partnering on this inaugural training session, the first of many to come. Stay tuned for details on future watchdog training sessions.

Follow FFM on Facebook and Twitter

That tweeting is a sure sign spring is in the air at FFM. You can now be the first to hear of FFM's latest reports and media opportunities by following us on Twitter. And remember to join the FFM Facebook group.

Last Call for Summer Internships

If you or someone you know is interested in a summer research internship at the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, please e-mail a resume to Jonathan Blake.

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