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For some people any government spending is full of “waste, fraud, and abuse”. For these people no matter how the government operates, no matter how we spend our tax money, there is “waste, fraud and abuse”.

One of the things I have learned is that there is always ‘waste and abuse”, and probably a little “fraud” in the way any organization from the largest corporation to the smallest not for profit, from small town governments to big states. If we spent the time to get rid of all of the “waste”, we would be “wasting” time making certain we weren’t “wasting” money, which means we would be “wasting” money.

We need to be sure that the money is spent the way we want it to be- creating jobs- not enriching the same contractors and companies who have done business with the governments forever. We need to be less concerned about traditional “waste, fraud, and abuse” and more about making certain that the money does what it is intended to do – take care of the average American, give people good jobs with liveable wages.

So as federal, state, and local governments spend our economic stimulus money, we need to hold the governments accountable. The stimulus spending must live up to the accountability that President Obama and Governor Perdue have promised. We need to ask how the money is being allocated, who is getting contracts and subcontracts.

Take the time to ask the questions. Go to the websites– www.recovery.gov, www.ncrecovery.gov and see if what shows up on the web matches what you see in your community.

Here is the text of a press release distributed by the NC Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform earlier this morning:

Two Executive Orders (17&18) issued by Governor Beverly Perdue are being hailed as positive steps forward by the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform. Executive Order 17 requires the names of consultants involved in the state’s economic incentive packages to be disclosed. Executive Order 18 prohibits state employees from deleting any e-mail pertaining to state government business.

“Governor Perdue is to be commended for moving forward in keeping a promise made to citizens for government that is more open and accountable,” said Jane Pinsky, Director of the NC Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform. “Now we challenge the legislature to follow the Governor’s lead and pass five bills before it that will increase the ethical standards for our state government and provide much greater transparency.”

Those five bills include House Bill 944 – Disclosure by Appointees to Boards and Commissions, House Bill 961- Pay to Play Regulation , House Bill 1134 – Open Government Act, House Bill 1136-Executive Branch Revolving Door, and House Bill 1452-Local Government Code of Ethics. 

The retention of emails for 10 years, Executive Order 17, will provide a credible record of the executive branch actions and will allow citizens to know what is going on. The disclosure of consultants , Executive Order 18, involved in economic development projects asking for benefits from the state’s assistance programs will not only aid the Department of Commerce in its job but it will assure that citizens will know what is going on with their money.

The North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform is made up of more than 50 groups and individuals and is committed to improving the ethical standards of our state and local governments and to make government more transparent and more accountable to citizens of our state.

For more information, contact Jane Pinsky at 919-833-0092 or j.pinsky@nclobbyreform.org.

Growing up my parents were always saying “We are watching our pennies “. It seemed like a strange phrase to me then but now as I watch our state and federal governments spending the economic stimulus money, it makes sense. I want someone watching our pennies.

Not only do I want someone watching oour pennies, I want someone telling me what they are doing with my pennies. There are some very important facts that we, as North Carolinians, should know about how the stimulus money is being spent–

** What is the money going for ?

** Will the projects being funded benefit the community ?

** Is the money going first to the families and communities hit the worst by our economic downturn ?

** Will there be transparency and openness in the process of awarding money and contracts ?

** Who is receiving the money ? ( If there is more than one contractor or subcontractor, we should know all of them.)

** Is there a timeline for this project? Are there incentives to finish it on time or penalties if it isn’t ?

** Is it creating jobs or preventing people from being laid off?

** How many jobs is it saving or creating ?

** Are these jobs a temporary fix or long term employment ?

** What do the jobs pay?

** Do these jobs have benefits like health insurance ? disability ?

** Are people receiving contracts becuase of their past campaign contributions or another connection to an important official ?

** Who is going to be accountable for the success or failure of these projects and grants ?

**And perhaps most importantly of all, how are we going to know any of this?

The state and federal governments each have recovery websites but there is no easy way to figure out exactly who is the recipient of a grant or contract, who any subcontractors may be, whether the money is really creating a job, and if the people most in need are being served.
They are our pennies and we should be able to watch how they are being spent. We need regular, frequent reports from the President, Governor, Congress and the General Assembly that are public, easy to understand and easily accessible. We need to be able to hold our elected officials and other public servants accountable for how they are spending our money. We also need to pay attention and hold them accountable.

Remember to watch your pennies

You can do it at

www.recovery.gov
www.ncrecovery.gov
www.ncstimuluswatch.org
www.stimuluswatch.org
www.goodjobsfirst.org
www.accountablerecovery.org

and many more

Try it

Questions regarding the circumstances of former First Lady Mary Easley’s employment at
NC State University and former Governor Mike Easley’s travel records are renewing the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform’s call for tighter ethics rules for the Executive Branch.

“Public’s confidence and trust in government is once again being compromised because of what appears to be some people believing that the rules don’t apply to them, said Jane Pinsky, director of the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform. “State lawmakers need to strengthen ethics laws. More sunshine and brighter lines would have prevented some of these activities we are reading about on a daily basis.

The Coalition is currently calling on the legislature to address some of the key problems with the following bills-

• Disclosure for Board and Commission Appointees (H 944) would require people appointed to fourteen key boards and commissions to disclose to whom they have made campaign contributions.
• Pay to Play (H961) prohibits companies doing business with the state from making political contributions to the elected officials who awarded the contract until the contract ends.
• Expanding Revolving Door (H1136) prevents top-level state employees from going directly from state employment to working for a company that they regulated or to which they awarded contracts while working for the state. It requires a six-month cooling off period.

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The North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform is made up of over fifty diverse organizations and individuals. It led the effort for comprehensive lobbying and ethics reform laws that were adopted by the NC General Assembly in 2007 and continue to push for a higher ethical standard in North Carolina government.

The N and O is absolutely right.  North Carolinians have to demand that public officials – not just those elected to office but those appointed as well- begin to think of their responsibility to the people of the state and not to enhancing their power or their pocket books. It should not be limited solely to the state level but should include city and county officials as well. 

People should not be named to a board or commission solely or even largely because they have done favors for candidates. We need expertise and experience and a commitment to serving the state and there are lots of North Carolinians who can do that – not just the few who make or raise large money for campaigns