Rooting Out Corruption in Government: What Will It Take?

Liveblog Transcript

On April 15, 2021, government ethics and accountability experts from American Oversight, Open The Government, the Campaign Legal Center, and Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) participated in a liveblog event. The panelists discussed the reality of government corruption, how it works in practice, and steps that federal officials can take to prevent it. The following is a transcript of the event that has been lightly edited for clarity.  

Ufuoma Otu (Open the Government): Hi everyone, welcome to our liveblog on “Rooting Out Corruption in Government: What Will It Take?” I’m Ufuoma Otu, communications director at Open The Government, a nonpartisan coalition focused on advancing policies that create transparency and accountability in government.

I am joined by:

  • Jennifer Ahearn, Policy Director, and Justine Ellis, Fellow, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW);
  • Delaney Marsco, Ethics Counsel, Campaign Legal Center; and
  • Austin Evers, Executive Director, American Oversight.

Austin Evers (American Oversight): Hello everyone — looking forward to digging into corruption and how to bring integrity to government.

Ufuoma Otu: This discussion is part of a series of ongoing events to promote Accountability 2021, a roadmap of federal reforms developed by accountability experts from across the political spectrum. You can learn more about the initiative at accountability2021.org. Feel free to ask questions of the panelists. And thank you to everyone who pre-submitted questions via Twitter!

Jennifer Ahearn (CREW): Hello all! Looking forward to a great discussion!

Delaney Marsco (Campaign Legal Center): Hi all! Excited to be here with Jennifer, Justine, Austin, and Ufuoma.

Justine Ellis (CREW): Hello, everyone—Looking forward to the discussion ahead!

Ufuoma Otu: Question: Surveys say public trust in government is at historic lows. What’s your sense of the reason for that? And what kinds of reforms can policymakers enact to counter corruption and, in turn, give the public more confidence in our government?

Jennifer Ahearn: I think lack of transparency is a big contributing factor here. Uncertainty about who has power over decision-making can leave us in the dark about the incentives or motives that factor into policy, and that can really erode public trust. Without transparent practices in our government, we can’t identify or address the forces exerting influence on our political processes.

Austin Evers: The loss of trust in government is a serious and complex issue. According to one measure, Americans’ trust that government will do the right thing has dropped from 73 percent in 1958 to 17 percent today.

I think one of the core reasons is that people doubt — and have reasons to doubt — that government officials are acting with integrity. People assume special interests and personal interests dictate policy outcomes.

Delaney Marsco: I think it’s impossible to pinpoint one reason for the decline in the public’s trust in government. But a combination of things certainly play a role. The revolving door between special interests and government; the influx of money in politics; the rise in lobbyist-run agencies; and the shattering of long-standing ethics norms all raise red flags for the public. It’s hard to see this sort of corruption happening and not think, “The government isn’t working for me, and the system is rigged for the wealthy and well-connected.”

Justine Ellis: To Jen’s point, we can’t always discern government officials’ motives or intentions (good, bad, or neutral) with a high degree of certainty, but we can trace possible influences on our government officials that could sway their decision-making towards financial self-interest and away from the public good.

Austin Evers: In terms of policy changes, we can make influence more transparent and less effective; we can ensure people who enter government are not improperly influenced; and we can make sure people leaving government can’t cash in their public service by lobbying their old colleagues. Rules like that would protect integrity in government decision-making. They might not dissuade criminals from committing crimes, but they would make committing crimes or succumbing to influence harder and more transparent.

Bottom line: We should take actions to give the public confidence that the people who claim to work for the public actually do.

Jennifer Ahearn: Building on Delaney’s point, I think lack of trust also goes deeper. Gaps in responsiveness and representational disparities can further marginalize historically disenfranchised and underrepresented communities, who accurately perceive that the system of government is reinforcing these harmful dynamics.

Austin Evers: Strong endorsement of Jen and Delaney’s points. The public is showing wisdom here: the government isn’t working for communities in need.

And to that point, restoring public trust may not be the right goal, exactly. The public should always be skeptical of the government. That’s why we have checks and balances and ethics rules, etc. And given the decades of poor performance on ethics, we should expect trust to come back quickly. But we should see the loss of trust as a blaring signal that the checks and balances we have in place are not sufficient.

Delaney Marsco: Agree 100 percent, Jennifer. And adding to Austin’s point, if we want to hold government officials accountable for corruption, we need to have the tools to do it — like more transparency surrounding possible conflicts of interest and improved lobbying disclosure. And actually enforcing existing ethics laws, like conflicts of interest statutes and FARA, would go a long way to showing the public that government is working as it should.

Ufuoma Otu: Seeing that corruption runs deep, what is a “win” your organization has had in exposing it? How does this “win” help explain how government corruption happens in the real world and tangible ways to fight it?

Austin Evers: It’s hard to call exposing corruption a “win,” exactly. American Oversight always starts our investigations hoping that our hypothesis of corruption is wrong! But corruption does exist and exposing it can make recurrence less likely.

Early on, American Oversight forced the EPA to release months of Administrator Scott Pruitt’s calendars. Pretty simple, right? And not something you’d expect to show corruption. But they revealed how he spent his time: almost exclusively with polluters and regulated industry, and effectively never with environmentalists or impacted communities. Who was Scott Pruitt working for? The bias was in black and white. Exposing his priorities put a spotlight on the role of influence and the need for better disclosures and limits.

Jennifer Ahearn: One example I think about a lot from our work at CREW was helping to prevent President Trump from hosting the G-7 meeting at his own resort property. Folks might remember when in October 2019 the Trump administration announced its intention to host the June 2020 G-7 at the Trump National Doral Miami golf resort. To Delaney’s point about needing tools to take action, CREW requested records via FOIA (and sued on it, as is so often necessary) and an inspector general report as soon as we learned of the possible conflict of interest. Facing public pressure, Trump ultimately abandoned the plan to host the event at the Doral. This shows how public pressure can force a change before a decision ever was made.

Delaney Marsco: In early 2019, CLC filed a complaint with the Interior Department Inspector General alleging repeated violations of revolving door ethics prohibitions by six Interior senior appointees. Documents provided to CLC obtained via a FOIA request showed them offering privileged access to former employers or lobbying clients. Since we filed the complaint, the inspector general has found that two of those six officials did in fact violate ethics rules, and three remain under review by the IG.

These violations show how corruption often works: Officials with ties to wealthy special interest groups use their government positions to secure meetings for those who used to pay their salaries or those they want to curry favor with for lucrative positions after they leave government. This all happens while they are supposed to be advancing the public’s interests. Often this type of corruption is not happening at high-profile events by cabinet-level officials (although it sometimes is!), so it can be hard for the public to observe it and hold officials accountable.

Delaney Marsco: Agree with Austin — feels weird calling it a win! When we file complaints, I always hope that the inspectors general prove me wrong, and that the corruption isn’t what it looks like.

Austin Evers: Another American Oversight focus was on how Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao was using her position to favor her family’s business and her husband — Mitch McConnell. Our work dovetailed with an inspector general investigation that resulted in a criminal referral to (but no action by) the Barr DOJ.

Again, corruption exists when the government isn’t working for the public but for narrow or private interests.

Delaney Marsco: As far as how to fight against this sort of corruption: More transparency surrounding officials’ conflicts of interest, calendars, and visitor logs would allow us to timely catch any violations and hold officials accountable before they leave office. Strong revolving door prohibitions would prevent officials from seeking certain employment after leaving government, and prevent officials from using their positions for the benefit of former employers and clients.

Jennifer Ahearn: Yes, so true about the hollow feeling of “wins” sometimes! That is also why I think it’s important to strengthen the executive branch ethics system — because it’s a system that has a lot of measures of prevention, like recusal from working on particular issues or divesting financial assets. These things prevent people from even being in the position to make a corrupt decision — which, to my mind, is a lot more effective on a large scale than hoping they won’t!

Ufuoma Otu: Thanks for sharing those really high-profile examples of corruption from the most recent administration. What sorts of corruption do you see as most pervasive or problematic beyond the big headlines? What are some changes that would address the day-to-day corruption and misconduct you see?

Austin Evers: Time for a shameless but important plug for the Accountability 2021 platform: https://www.accountability2021.org/ethics/

A big coalition of good government organizations worked together to highlight tangible ways to make corruption harder. From the collective wisdom of the coalition: It is time to re-center ethics at the heart of American democracy by making strong commitments to follow ethical principles in all aspects of government decision-making and implementing reforms to make ethics rules stronger, more complete, and more effective. To do so, the administration should abide by the following four principles:

The administration must elevate ethics as a core value by prioritizing meaningful structural ethics reforms and committing publicly to adhere to the rules and the values and norms behind them. The people in government should work for the public, not for personal or private interests.

To judge whether the government is acting ethically and to hold unethical actors accountable, the government must preserve meaningful ethics records and make timely ethics disclosures.

The public has a right to: meaningful disclosure concerning all individuals and organizations lobbying their elected officials; a government free from wealthy special interests placing their own loyal personnel into government posts; and a government free from former government officials exploiting their networks within government for personal gain.

Ufuoma Otu: So, Biden signed an ethics executive order on his first day in office, doesn’t that step address most of our most significant ethics challenges?

Jennifer Ahearn: I think issues with industry influence over government decisions that are made at federal agencies, not necessarily by the president directly, are the most “commonplace” corruption issues we face. Although we tend to think of lobbying in terms of lobbying Congress, the rubber meets the road when it comes to regulating industries at the federal agency level during the rulemaking process. 

Through the “revolving door” between industry and government service, special interests can exert influence because of diminished capacity in government, often resulting from a lack of funding or internal expertise on a topic. Accountability 2021’s recommendations on lobbying can help take on this issue. 

Delaney Marsco: Agree with that, Jen. I also think it’s really hard to know what we don’t know! We have a lot of great groups working incredibly hard to uncover corruption, but we need enhanced transparency and the reprioritization of ethics and accountability at the highest levels of government. That’s why the reforms Austin helpfully linked to are so important!

Austin Evers: The Biden executive order is a big step forward, certainly from the Trump ethics executive order, but also the Obama EO. But the very fact that Biden had to issue it at all is a big sign of what could be better: These rules should be laws!

We need to get beyond the idea that every president gets to define ethics for their own administration. Among other things, the current system lets a president revoke their rules when they leave office — which Clinton and Trump did. It’s time to codify the best parts of the various ethics executive orders.

Jennifer Ahearn: Yes, Austin! The Biden ethics executive order is great, and I’ll post a link to our writeup of how it compares to earlier presidents’ orders. But you can see from the differences among the different presidents’ orders that there is a weakness in relying on this to set ethics standards — we need to be able to rely on ethical government no matter who’s in charge!

Delaney Marsco: Agree with Jen and Austin! The EO is really good, but simply mandating ethics pledges in executive orders is not a panacea. We need better laws on the books, better enforcement, and more transparency. The executive order, while good, far from guarantees some of the most important and necessary reforms that will ensure an accountable government that works for everyone. What constitutes ethical public service doesn’t change from administration to administration — so the rules shouldn’t either.

Austin Evers: One area of reform that is still on the table is the scope of why counts as a “lobbyist.” DC is full of people who ostensibly operate “behind the scenes” to influence government, but don’t have to register.

From the Accountability 2021 policies: “Lobbying” for purposes of the ethics pledge should include behind-the-scenes work and support of lobbying efforts of others as a consultant.

And here’s a Project on Government Oversight article that includes why it’s important. 

Ufuoma Otu: Advocacy groups are urging the Biden administration to relaunch Ethics.gov this week. How would that help revitalize ethics in government and orchestrate some of the recommendations you’ve outlined here?

Justine Ellis: I think of Ethics.gov as a potential force multiplier for the kinds of wins that Jen, Austin, and Delaney talked about earlier. If you bring the relevant information together in one place, people can actually use it to hold the government accountable!

Austin Evers: Ethics.gov would demonstrate a commitment to operating in the sunlight and according to the rules. And it would make it easier for the public (and watchdogs like ours) to confirm everything is aboveboard.

It’s 2021. We should be bringing good data practices to ethics. Ethics without transparency isn’t effective. Right now, too much information is spread out across different websites and systems, making it hard to connect important dots. Groups like ours would spend less time gathering dots and more time connecting them.

Delaney Marsco: Exactly, Justine and Austin! Holding government officials accountable for corrupt behavior begins with transparency. Ethics.gov would give watchdogs and the public at large information it needs to root out corruption: financial disclosures, ethics waivers, and officials’ other connections that may raise revolving-door concerns or show special treatment. Access to information allows for oversight and ultimately accountability.

Austin Evers: A side benefit of Ethics.gov would be to reduce incorrect conclusions that corruption must be occurring. Secrecy and the lack of transparency trigger skepticism and cynicism. We’re talking about corruption today and the loss of public trust. Some of that loss of trust is because people assume things are corrupt, which may not be correct all the time.

Delaney Marsco: Such an important point, Austin!

Ufuoma Otu: Biden will clock his first 100 days in office later this month. If you had a meeting with the president, what is the number one recommendation you’d urge him to adopt in the next 100 days?

Jennifer Ahearn: People are policy! I’d probably highlight the very first recommendation from Accountability 2021: Appoint someone within the White House who’s charged with coordinating the administration’s transparency and ethics agenda.

Here’s more detail from the report: The administration should appoint a Chief Accountability Officer to lead and coordinate the administration’s transparency and ethics agenda. Among the Chief Accountability Officer’s duties will be the implementation of a new ethics executive order, issuing guidance for personnel hiring and appointments across the administration, and the dissemination of ethical principles and priorities to all agencies. The Chief Accountability Officer should have a high rank and access to decision-makers, including the president, and should be required by the president to meet early and often with leadership across the federal bureaucracy to elevate ethics.

Austin Evers: Well, getting people vaccinated is #1. But in terms of corruption, I would encourage the president to embrace ethics as a core value by elevating it across the administration. Especially with the large spending packages enacted and under consideration, the public should have full confidence that the government is acting for the public benefit, not for special interests. To do that, acting prophylactically around ethics to protect decisions from even the appearance of corruption is important.

The president has highlighted his role in overseeing the spending in response to the Great Recession. That kind of watchdog-ism is really important, especially from the top down.

As Jen points out, appointing an accountability officer would be a key signal of how important integrity is to the president.

Ufuoma Otu: Now, a question submitted via social media: How did the disinvestment requirements for government employees become optional for so many in the last Administration? What can be done to improve even enforcement?

Austin Evers: Well, it was pretty clear from the outset that the Trump administration did not consider ethics a core value.

We saw waivers so lobbyists could run agencies. And we saw people like Wilbur Ross undergo literally years of review on his financial holdings.

I’d like to see Attorney General Garland emphasize public corruption and ethics laws as a prosecution priority. Let’s see what it looks like for the DOJ to prioritize the Hatch Act and the criminal and civil ethics laws. Because we know what it looks like when it doesn’t.

Jennifer Ahearn: To answer the question about divestment as to Trump specifically: Government officials usually divest because they are trying to avoid the criminal conflict of interest statute, but that statute specifically doesn’t apply to the president. Past presidents have still arranged their personal financial affairs in order to avoid conflicts of interest, but that’s why President Trump was able to keep his businesses — because the rules are currently different for presidents (and vice presidents) than for other executive branch officials.

Delaney Marsco: And officials can retain some financial interests and abide by the law by recusing from any matter that would create an actual or apparent conflict of interest (in short). But we need commitment to transparency and enforcement when officials do run afoul of the law. As a member of the public, it can be hard to determine what is a conflict if, for example, a cabinet official has a vast web of financial interests, or if it isn’t clear that what the official is working on doesn’t involve their financial interests.

This is why it is so important that the Biden administration enforce the conflicts laws on the books and require more transparency surrounding ethics documents and the operation of the government. A centralized portal, like Ethics.gov, could provide the public with all financial disclosures and ethics waivers, and visitor logs and calendars. That way, we know what public officials are doing, and who they are doing it for.

Ufuoma Otu: On that note, I’d like to thank our panelists for their insightful responses today and everyone that participated in this liveblog! Feel free to reach out to Open The Government at [email protected] if you have any other questions for our experts, check out our respective websites, and remember to visit Accountability2021.org for more information!

Delaney Marsco: Thanks everyone! This was so much fun!

Jennifer Ahearn: Great to be with you all, and thanks to those who submitted questions! 

Justine Ellis: Thank you, everyone!

Austin Evers: Big shoutout to Jen, Delaney, Ufuoma, and Justine — and to CREW, OTG, and CLC! Thank you to everyone who engaged here or on Twitter and who sent in questions.

The Accountability 2021 plan is rich and detailed. If you care about the rule of law — and hate corruption — and want to do something about it, the plan is a great place to start: https://www.accountability2021.org

Related Blog Posts

September 24, 2021

News Roundup: The Arizona ‘Audit’ Was — and Still Is — a Dangerous Political Stunt

September 16, 2021

News Roundup: The Evolution of the Big Lie

Department of State
September 10, 2021

News Roundup: A Web of (Big) Lies

September 3, 2021

News Roundup: The Big Lie’s Infiltration of State Governments

Arizona Senate, Department of State
August 27, 2021

News Roundup: Transparency Is Coming, Even Amid ‘Audit’ Report Delays

Department of Justice, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys
August 13, 2021

News Roundup: Warming Planet, Surging Pandemic, and Election-Undermining Reviews

Securities and Exchange Commission, Wisconsin Senate
July 29, 2021

News Roundup: The Resurgent Pandemic and Partisan Election Reviews

Department of Justice, DOJ - Office of Information Policy
July 28, 2021

Records Reveal Private-Sector Pandemic Requests from Spring 2020

Department of the Treasury
July 2, 2021

Why Former Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue’s Compliance with Federal Ethics Rules Still Needs to Be Investigated

Department of Agriculture
June 28, 2021

Open Questions About the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol

June 21, 2021

Covid-19 Oversight News: Slowing Vaccine Rates, New Coronavirus Variant, and Emergent BioSolutions’ Big Year

June 17, 2021

News Roundup: From the Trump White House to Wisconsin

June 15, 2021

New Communications Offer Glimpse into U.S.-China Tensions Last Spring

Department of State
June 3, 2021

News Roundup: Undermining Democracy, One ‘Audit’ at a Time

June 1, 2021

Good-Government Advocates Call on Biden to Appoint Senior Ethics Official

White House
May 27, 2021

News Roundup: Sham Audits and the Fruits of Disinformation

Arizona Senate, Department of Homeland Security
May 27, 2021

New Records Include Private Executives’ Emails with Hahn, Kushner

Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration
May 25, 2021

Seeking Records from Seema Verma’s Lost Cell Phone

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration
May 17, 2021

Inside Newt Gingrich’s 5G Pitch to the FCC

Federal Communications Commission
May 13, 2021

News Roundup: The Jan. 6 Attack and the Big Lie

May 13, 2021

Justice Department Finally Releases Jeff Sessions’ Calendars — Two Years After We Sued for Them

Department of Justice
May 3, 2021

Lawsuit Seeks Records from U.S. Agency for Global Media, Including Communications of Controversial Trump-Appointed Former CEO

U.S. Agency for Global Media
April 30, 2021

‘A Possible Discreet Assignment’: American Oversight Obtains DOJ Emails Regarding ‘Intake Process’ for Giuliani Ukraine Information

Department of Justice
April 30, 2021

News Roundup: What’s Going On in Arizona?

April 29, 2021

New Documents Show CDC Officials Dealing with Early Covid Testing Problems

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Food and Drug Administration
April 26, 2021

Covid-19 Oversight News: Vaccinations Drop, ICE Facilities Spread the Virus, and Trump Administration Misconduct

April 23, 2021

News Roundup: Stifling Dissent

April 20, 2021

American Oversight Sues Justice Department for Records of Efforts to Overturn Election

Department of Justice, DOJ - Civil Division, DOJ - Civil Rights Division
April 16, 2021

News Roundup: Racial Justice Protests, Extremism in the Military, and the Trump Administration’s Anti-Immigration Measures

April 8, 2021

News Roundup: From Georgia to Arizona

April 5, 2021

Covid-19 Oversight News: Increasing Case Numbers, Updated CDC Guidance, and the Pandemic in Prisons

April 1, 2021

News Roundup: Georgia’s Attack on Voting Rights

Department of Agriculture, Department of Justice, DOJ - Office of Information Policy
March 30, 2021

Documents Show Far-Right Influence at Trump Commerce Department

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
March 26, 2021

Arizona Attorney General Calendar Released to American Oversight Excludes Jan. 6

Arizona Attorney General
March 25, 2021

News Roundup: The Big Lie Becomes Big Policy

Arizona Attorney General, Texas, Texas - Brazoria County, Texas Secretary of State
March 24, 2021

One Year of the Coronavirus Pandemic: The Federal Response

March 18, 2021

News Roundup: Spotlight on the States

March 17, 2021

Seven Reforms to FOIA and Record-Keeping to Improve Transparency and Accountability

March 10, 2021

American Oversight Sues for Records About Trump’s Actions During Jan. 6 Attack

Department of Defense, Department of Justice, DOD - Department of the Army, DOD - National Guard Bureau
March 9, 2021

American Oversight Sues for Top Officials’ Communications from Day of Capitol Riot

Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, DHS - United States Secret Service, DOD - Department of the Army, DOD - National Guard Bureau, DOJ - Office of Legal Counsel
March 5, 2021

USAID Watchdog Report Sheds Light on U.S. Ventilator Exports During Pandemic

U.S. Agency for International Development
March 4, 2021

News Roundup: The Lie Lives On

Department of Homeland Security, DHS - United States Secret Service, Ohio Department of Education, White House - Office of Management and Budget
March 4, 2021

Transportation Dept. Watchdog Says Former Secretary Elaine Chao Misused Her Office, Echoing American Oversight Investigations

Department of Transportation
March 2, 2021

Investigations Update: Covid-19 Outbreaks in Meatpacking Facilities, New Arizona Voting-Restriction Bills

Arizona House of Representatives, Arizona Senate, Department of Agriculture, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Labor, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Georgia, Georgia Building Authority, Georgia Department of Community Health, Georgia Department of Public Health, Georgia Office of the Governor, Georgia Technology Authority, New Mexico - Otero County, Oklahoma - Canadian County, South Dakota Office of the Governor
February 26, 2021

American Oversight Challenges Excessive Redactions in USPS Chief Louis DeJoy’s Calendar

United States Postal Service
February 23, 2021

Investigations Update: Texas Energy Crisis, Covid-19 in Poultry Plants, and New Legislation in Missouri

Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, DOD - Department of the Army, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, Missouri House of Representatives, Missouri Senate, Texas, Texas Office of the Governor
February 23, 2021

Questions About Jan. 6 Capitol Attack Remain as Senate Investigates

Department of Homeland Security
February 16, 2021

Investigations Update: State Pandemic Responses, Space Command Headquarters Location, and Trump’s Refusal to Concede

Arizona Office of the Governor, Department of Defense, Department of State, DOD - Defense Health Agency, DOD - Department of the Air Force, Florida, Florida Office of the Governor, Idaho Office of the Governor, Oklahoma Office of the Governor, U.S. Agency for Global Media, Wyoming Office of the Governor
February 11, 2021

News Roundup: Trump’s Second Impeachment

Department of Education, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
February 9, 2021

Investigations Update: Florida Vaccine Distribution, Anti-Protest Measures, and Trump’s Efforts to Overturn Georgia’s Election Results

Federal Election Commission, Florida, Florida Department of Health, Florida Division of Emergency Management, Florida House of Representatives, Florida Office of the Governor, Florida Senate, Georgia, Georgia Attorney General, National Archives and Records Administration, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Senate
February 8, 2021

American Oversight Expands Lawsuit for HHS Officials’ Pandemic-Related Text Messages

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration
February 5, 2021

News Roundup: New Voting-Restriction Bills and the Upcoming Round of Redistricting

Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, Georgia Department of Community Health, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Iowa Department of Public Health
February 4, 2021

Where Did the Money Go? A Summary of Findings from CARES Act Investigations

February 2, 2021

Investigations Update: The Efforts by Trump — and Top Officials — to Overturn the Election

Department of Justice, Department of State, DOJ - Civil Division, DOJ - Civil Rights Division, Maryland Department of Legislative Services, Missouri House of Representatives, Oklahoma Attorney General, Texas, Texas Attorney General, West Virginia Attorney General
January 22, 2021

News Roundup: Looking Ahead

January 19, 2021

Investigations Update: West Virginia Lawmaker’s Involvement in Capitol Attack and Trump’s Attempts to Overturn Georgia Election Results

Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of the Interior, Department of Veterans Affairs, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - Office of Intelligence and Analysis, District of Columbia, District of Columbia Mayor's Office, District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department, DOD - National Guard Bureau, DOD - National Security Agency, DOD - U.S. Department of the Navy, DOI - National Park Service, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, Florida Office of the Governor, Georgia Secretary of State, Office of Personnel Management, VA - Veterans Health Administration, White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
January 19, 2021

DHS Claims No Records of Communications with White House About Firing of CISA Director Chris Krebs

Department of Homeland Security
January 19, 2021

Records Highlight Difference in Trump Administration’s Response to Racial Justice Protests and Attack on Capitol

Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection
January 15, 2021

Tracking Taxpayer Spending at Trump Properties

January 13, 2021

Investigations Update: The Attack on the Capitol, Georgia U.S. Attorney’s Resignation, and White House Meeting with State Attorneys General

Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, DHS - Federal Protective Service, DHS - United States Secret Service, DOD - National Guard Bureau, DOI - National Park Service, DOJ - Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Investigation, DOJ - U.S. Marshals Service, Texas Attorney General
January 7, 2021

American Oversight Statement on Trump-Incited Mob Attack on Capitol

January 5, 2021

Investigations Update: Trump’s Election-Stealing Efforts in Georgia, DeJoy’s Communications, and Giroir’s Covid-19 Text Messages

Department of Health and Human Services, Georgia Office of the Governor, Georgia Secretary of State, United States Postal Service
December 16, 2020

Documents from March and April Reveal Cozy White House Private-Sector Communications About Pandemic

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services
December 15, 2020

Investigations Update: Political Interference in Coronavirus Data, Texas Election Lawsuit, and State Officials’ Voter-Fraud Allegations

Arizona House of Representatives, Department of Health and Human Service, Florida Attorney General, Florida Department of Health, Florida Office of the Governor, Georgia, Georgia - Baldwin County, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - DeKalb County, Georgia - Floyd County, Georgia - Fulton County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia - Spalding County, Georgia Secretary of State, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Texas, Texas Attorney General, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Elections Commission
December 9, 2020

Documents Provide New Details Regarding Trump’s Irregular Pardon of Scooter Libby in 2018

Department of Justice
December 8, 2020

Investigations Update: Preservation of White House Communications, Federally Deputized Portland Police, Trump Aide Banned from DOJ

Arizona Office of the Governor, Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, Department of State, DOJ - Office of Justice Programs, Florida Department of Health, Florida Office of the Governor, Georgia Department of Community Health, Georgia Department of Public Health, Georgia Office of the Governor, Georgia Secretary of State, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa Office of the Governor, Oklahoma Department of Health, Oklahoma Office of the Governor, Oregon - City of Portland, Oregon - Portland Police Bureau, Texas Secretary of State
December 3, 2020

News Roundup: As Covid-19 Rages, Trump Offers Rants and Reprieves

Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, White House
December 1, 2020

Investigations Update: ‘Burrowing In,’ Medicaid Block Grants, and Pennsylvania County Election Certifications

Commerce - Census Bureau, Commerce - National Institute of Standards and Technology, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, DHS - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DOD - National Security Agency, DOJ - Executive Office for Immigration Review, Office of Personnel Management, Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Oklahoma Office of the Governor, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania - Luzerne County
November 10, 2020

American Oversight Launches Document Preservation Initiative

Central Intelligence Agency, Department of State, National Archives and Records Administration, White House
October 29, 2020

Open Questions About Trump Administration Policies

Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Environmental Protection Agency, White House
October 24, 2020

Georgia Officials Confirm: Voting by Mail Is Secure, Accurate

Georgia - Glynn County, Georgia - Hall County, Georgia Secretary of State
October 21, 2020

Pompeo’s Use of Personal Email While CIA Director Highlights State Department’s Failure to Produce His Emails as Secretary

Central Intelligence Agency, Department of State
October 6, 2020

Investigations Update: The White House Outbreak, the Administration’s Naturalization Policy, and Texas’ Ballot Drop Boxes

Arizona Secretary of State, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, DOJ - Office of Legal Counsel, HHS - Administration for Children and Families, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, Iowa Secretary of State, Kentucky Office of Homeland Security, New Mexico Secretary of State, North Carolina, Texas, Texas Attorney General, Texas Office of the Governor, Texas Secretary of State, United States Postal Service, White House - Office of Management and Budget
September 23, 2020

Investigations Update: New Kentucky Voter Fraud Task Force Lawsuit, and Our Supreme Court Short List Investigation

Commerce - International Trade Administration, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, DOJ - Office of Information Policy, Florida, Florida Office of the Governor, Florida Supreme Court, Georgia, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - DeKalb County, Georgia - Fulton County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia - State Records Center, Georgia Attorney General, Georgia Office of the Governor, Georgia Secretary of State, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, United States Postal Service
September 17, 2020

News Roundup: Behind the Scenes at the Postal Service

Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United States Postal Service
September 17, 2020

Documents Show DeJoy Hired Staff with Ties to His Businesses

United States Postal Service
September 15, 2020

Investigations Update: DeJoy’s Calendars, Barr’s False Voting Fraud Story, and Delays in Prescription Deliveries

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of Veterans Affairs, DOJ - Office of Information Policy, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, United States Postal Service, VA - Veterans Health Administration
September 15, 2020

American Oversight Sues USPS for Postmaster General DeJoy’s Calendars

United States Postal Service
September 10, 2020

News Roundup: What Trump Knew, and What We Know

Congress, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of State, Department of Veterans Affairs, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, State Office of the Inspector General, United States Postal Service, VA - Veterans Health Administration, White House
September 9, 2020

Investigations Update: Pompeo’s RNC Speech, DeJoy’s Calendars, and Kentucky’s Voter Fraud Task Force

Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Interior, DHS - Federal Emergency Management Agency, DOD - Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency, DOD - Defense Logistics Agency, DOI - National Park Service, DOJ - Office of Information Policy, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, HHS Office of the Inspector General, Kentucky Department of Military Affairs, Kentucky Office of Homeland Security, Kentucky State Board of Elections, Small Business Administration, U.S. Office of Special Counsel, United States Postal Service, White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
September 1, 2020

Investigations Update: Operation Legend, Crossfire Hurricane, and the Rush for a Coronavirus Vaccine

Arizona Department of Health Services, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Investigation, DOJ - National Security Division, Federal Communications Commission, Georgia - Sumter County, Georgia Secretary of State, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, Illinois - Chicago Mayor's Office, Illinois - Chicago Police Department, Illinois - Office of the Governor, Missouri - Kansas City Mayor's Office, Missouri - Office of the Governor, Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, New Mexico - Albuquerque Mayor's Office, New Mexico - Albuquerque Police Department, New Mexico Office of the Governor, North Carolina, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Ohio - City of Cleveland Mayor's Office, Ohio - Cleveland Division of Police, Ohio Office of the Governor, United States Postal Service, USDA - Food Safety and Inspection Service, White House, Wisconsin - Milwaukee County, Wisconsin - Milwaukee Mayor's Office, Wisconsin - Milwaukee Police Department, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Wisconsin Office of the Governor
August 10, 2020

Barr Continues to Comment on Ongoing Durham Investigation — Even as Justice Dept. Withholds Documents About It from Public

Department of Justice
July 17, 2020

News Roundup: Transparency in Hospital Data, and Barr’s Meetings with Giuliani and Gowdy

Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, White House - Office of Management and Budget
June 23, 2020

The Federal Government’s Latest Attempt to Delay the Release of Coronavirus Documents

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration
June 19, 2020

Barr’s Policing Commission Undermines Community Trust and Violates Federal Law

Department of Justice
June 19, 2020

News Roundup: The Administration’s Failure to Confront Two National Crises

Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DOJ - Civil Division, DOJ - Civil Rights Division, DOT Office of Inspector General, Florida - Jacksonville Mayor’s Office, Florida Department of Health, Florida Office of the Governor, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Credit Union Administration, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Small Business Administration, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Treasury - Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, United States Postal Service, White House - Office of Science and Technology Policy, Wisconsin Department of Health Services
June 12, 2020

News Roundup: Georgia’s Disastrous Election, the Administration’s Alarming Protest Response, and Barr’s Troubling Tenure

Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Interior, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - Office of Intelligence and Analysis, DHS - Transportation Security Administration, DHS - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DHS - United States Secret Service, District of Columbia Mayor's Office, District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department, DOD - Defense Intelligence Agency, DOD - Department of the Air Force, DOD - National Guard Bureau, DOI - National Park Service, DOJ - Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, DOJ - Civil Division, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Investigation, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Prisons, DOJ - Justice Management Division, DOJ - Office of Information Policy, DOJ - U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Florida - Miami-Dade County, Florida Department of State, Maryland - Baltimore Mayor's Office, Nevada Secretary of State, New Jersey Department of Human Services, New York City Department for the Aging, New York City Office of the Mayor, New York Police Department, New York State Department of Health, New York State Office for the Aging, North Carolina, North Carolina House of Representatives, North Carolina Senate, Ohio House of Representatives, Ohio Secretary of State, Ohio Senate, State Office of the Inspector General, Texas Secretary of State, United States Postal Service, White House - Office of Management and Budget, Wisconsin Elections Commission
June 11, 2020

In the Documents: Florida Health Department Efforts to Suppress Release of Coronavirus Records

Florida - Miami-Dade County
June 1, 2020

Tips for Filing Public Records Requests in Your State or City

May 15, 2020

News Roundup: The Subversion of Justice at the Justice Department

Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of the Interior, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, Department of Veterans Affairs, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DOJ - Office of Legal Counsel, DOT - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia Department of Corrections, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, Louisiana - New Orleans Mayor's Office, Louisiana Department of Health, Louisiana Office of the Governor, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York City Office of the Mayor, New York Office of the Governor, New York State Department of Health, Small Business Administration, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, United States Postal Service, White House - Office of Management and Budget, Wisconsin Elections Commission
April 21, 2020

The Administration’s Attempts to Stonewall Investigations of Trump FBI Headquarters Interference Stumble in Court

Department of Justice, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Investigation, General Services Administration, White House - Office of Management and Budget
March 28, 2020

A Pandemic Is No Time for Secrecy

March 27, 2020

News Roundup: Transparency and Oversight Are More Important Than Ever

Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DOJ - Executive Office for Immigration Review, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, DOJ - National Security Division, DOJ - U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Election Commission, Florida Attorney General, Florida Department of State, Florida Office of the Governor, General Services Administration, Georgia - Bartow County, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - DeKalb County, Georgia - Fulton County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia Office of the Governor, Georgia Secretary of State, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, Office of Personnel Management, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Tennessee Valley Authority, Texas Attorney General, Texas Office of the Governor, Texas Secretary of State, White House - Office of Management and Budget, White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
March 24, 2020

We Cannot Let Trump Use a National Emergency to Get Rich and Ignore the Constitution

Congress, White House
March 20, 2020

News Roundup: Testing, Messaging and Missed Chances

Department of Commerce, Department of Justice, Department of the Treasury, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, Federal Communications Commission, Florida Attorney General, Georgia Attorney General, Nevada Department of Administration, Texas - Harris County, Texas Attorney General, White House - Office of Management and Budget, White House - Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
March 19, 2020

Three Years of American Oversight

March 17, 2020

The Increase in FOIA Lawsuits Isn’t the Problem — It’s Agencies Underfunding Their Transparency Obligations

Department of Justice
March 13, 2020

News Roundup: Continuing Our Investigation of Coronavirus Response

Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Federal Reserve, Georgia Secretary of State, Texas Secretary of State, Washington State Department of Health, Wisconsin
March 12, 2020

American Oversight Sues Trump, Kushner for Transparency in Clemency Process

Executive Office of the President, White House
February 21, 2020

When the Government Uses Redactions to Hide Evidence of Wrongdoing

Department of Defense, Department of Justice, White House - Office of Management and Budget
February 20, 2020

Records from Trump’s Presidential Pardons Advisory Committee Must Be Available to the Public

February 7, 2020

News Roundup: Acquittal Isn’t the End

Department of Energy, Department of Justice, Department of State, Florida Department of State, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - DeKalb County, Georgia - Fulton County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia Secretary of State, White House - Office of Management and Budget
January 24, 2020

News Roundup: Evidence of Obstruction

Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of Transportation, DOT - Federal Aviation Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Communications Commission, Georgia - Clayton County, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Tennessee Valley Authority, Texas Attorney General, Texas Office of the Governor, Texas Secretary of State, Texas Senate, White House - Office of Management and Budget
January 7, 2020

Did the Trump Administration Abuse the Redactions Process?

Department of Defense, White House - Office of Management and Budget
December 11, 2019

Lawsuit over Administration’s Unlawful Seizure of Trump-Putin Meeting Notes Moves Forward

Department of State, National Archives and Records Administration
Show all related posts