Conflict of interest disclosure reports filed by top federal officials were removed from public view by the Obama administration in recent months, a move that government transparency and accountability advocates condemn as a major setback.
The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) reports are the primary tool that watchdog journalists, political activists and interested voters can use to guard against presidential appointees using their positions to enrich themselves or others.
For years, the OGE website featured a sortable, searchable list of over 1,000 government appointees, including their names, agencies and titles, and flagging new ones. By clicking on a name, users could easily access multiple disclosures for the appointee, including yearly financial accounting, stock ownership and a letter detailing any agreements surrounding conflicts, such as issues when the individual promises to recuse himself.
By January, the list was inexplicably removed, leaving only a search box. That action severely reduced the chance of officials’ finances being scrutinized because it became necessary to know the name of a person and have a reason to want to look up that individual, as opposed to, for example, looking for listings from an agency of interest.
Now, even that capability is gone, along with almost all references to actually seeing the disclosures. Thousands of PDFs have also been deleted, leaving dead links.
OGE referred press calls to Seth Jaffe, who didn’t respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s query placed on Monday.
“This is a problem,” Daniel Schuman, a policy analyst at the liberal group Demand Progress, told TheDCNF. “They should put it back. It’s very odd there’s no explanation.”