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One of the things that most scares me about the current administration is the terrible — and possibly long-term — erosive effect it is having on the entire executive branch. One of the best books to document this systemic tragedy is Michael Lewis’ Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy (many libraries have access to it via Overdrive so check your local public library. They’re still working hard even during the pandemic!)
If you can’t get your hands on Lewis’ book, then check out the American Prospect, which has done a massive investigation into the Trump administration’s dodgy practices.
In three years as president, he has transformed the executive branch into a giant favor factory, populated with the agents or willing partners of virtually every special interest. Add up all the routine, daily outrages—the quasi-bribery and quasi-extortion, the private raids on public funds, the handouts to the undeserving, the massive flow of cash, jobs, and freebies back in return—and Trump’s attempt to squeeze a little re-election help out of the fragile government of a desperate Eastern European country does not loom particularly large in the reckoning … The Trump administration has brought its brand of corruption and self-dealing to every agency in the federal government, and it’s hard for anyone to keep on top of it all. We’ve mapped it out for you. Click on any agency building below, and unlock an extensive dossier of the activities happening inside.
via Mapping Corruption.
Gary Price at InfoDocket reports that Senators Claire McCaskill and Tom Carper from the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs sent a letter to David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, "regarding concerns over compliance by President Donald Trump’s Administration with the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act."
- McCaskill, Claire, and Tom Carper. 2017. Letter to Honorable David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States (March 7, 2017).
The letter re-expresses concerns the Senators had already sent about reports that four senior Administration officials are maintaining active email accounts on a private email system, the President’s use of an unsecured smartphone, and White House officials’ use of social media platforms, such as Twitter, that may not comply with federal recordkeeping requirements.
The letter raises new concerns about the use by White House staff, including staff from the National Security Council and the Office of the Press Secretary, of the smartphone app known as Confide, which allows individuals to communicate digitally through messages that self-destruct, for work-related communications. The Senators say, "While our goal is not to encourage inappropriate leaks of presidential or federal records, prevention of any such leaks is not a recognized exception to federal recordkeeping requirements, nor does it outweigh statutory recordkeeping requirements."
The Senators ask the Archivist to respond to several questions about these reported activities including asking if NARA is aware of any instructions to Executive Office staff to avoid using email as a method of work-related communication.
GPO’s Government Book Talk blog posted an item yesterday about the Sourcebook of the United States Executive Agencies with links to the GPO online bookstore and a suggestion to search for hardcopies of the book in FDLP libraries, using WorldCat. The Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt University has a digital copy (pdf) available online.
- All the President’s Men and Women: Sourcebook of the US Executive Agencies, Government Printing Office, Government Book Talk blog (May 24, 2013).
…a first-of-its-kind publication by the Administrative Conference of the United States.
This first edition of the Sourcebook of the United States Executive Agencies was published in December 2012 to break down information and numbers by what they refer to as the “executive establishment,” which is the executive branch and all the other Federal agencies, offices, bureaus, and boards that serve the President that do not fall neatly under any of the three branches of the Federal government.
- Sourcebook of United States Executive Agencies, [announcement] Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, Vanderbilt University.
- Sourcebook of the United States Executive Agencies, [pdf] David E. Lewis and Jennifer L. Selin, Administrative Conference of the United States, Vanderbilt University, First Edition, 2012.
- ACUS Sourcebook Codebook/Appendix. [pdf] This document describes the data collected for theh ACUS Sourcebook of the United States Executive Agencies. It includes the codebook describing the variables and their coding and the statutory provisions justifying the coding.
- ACUS Sourcebook Data. This Microsoft Excel spreadsheet includes data on 55 statutory characteristics for 10 agencies in the Executive Office of the President, 15 executive departments, and 81 independent agencies. The data was collected by a team of researchers during the summer of 2012. Data collection details are included in the accompanying Sourcebook Codebook and Appendix.
For all you Presidential historians out there, the Smithsonian has a funny/sad/strange article about the history of the vice-presidency — a job that John Adams, the first vice-president, described as “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived” and John Nance Garner, the 32nd VP from 1933-1941, said “wasn’t worth a bucket of warm spit.” Read on. It may make you want to visit Huntington, Indiana and the Quayle Vice Presidential Learning Center (yes THAT Quayle :-)).
Read more:The Vice Presidents That History Forgot: The U.S. vice presidency has been filled by a rogues gallery of mediocrities, criminals and even corpses. Tony Horwitz. Smithsonian magazine, July-August 2012
The Constitution also failed to specify the powers and status of vice presidents who assumed the top office. In fact, the second job was such an afterthought that no provision was made for replacing VPs who died or departed before finishing their terms. As a result, the office has been vacant for almost 38 years in the nation’s history.
Until recently, no one much cared. When William R.D. King died in 1853, just 25 days after his swearing-in (last words: “Take the pillow from under my head”), President Pierce gave a speech addressing other matters before concluding “with a brief allusion” to the vice president’s death. Other number-twos were alive but absentee, preferring their own homes or pursuits to an inconsequential role in Washington, where most VPs lived in boardinghouses (they had no official residence until the 1970s). Thomas Jefferson regarded his vice presidency as a “tranquil and unoffending station,” and spent much of it at Monticello. George Dallas (who called his wife “Mrs. Vice”) maintained a lucrative law practice, writing of his official post: “Where is he to go? What has he to do?—no where, nothing.” Daniel Tompkins, a drunken embezzler described as a “degraded sot,” paid so little heed to his duties that Congress docked his salary.
[HT to BoingBoing!]
This past Saturday, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered Dick Cheney to preserve all vice presidential records–huzzah! Read more about the case below:
- news story about the case
- Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly’s memorandum opinion
- the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), who filed the lawsuit
- more about the Presidential Records Act
Thanks again to Rebecca Blakeley to alerting me about this story!