Disclosing financial disclosure

Wednesday - 4/8/2009, 7:24am EDT

WFED's Jane Norris

As heard on sister-station WTOP

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By Jane Norris
FederalNewsRadio

If you are thinking about working at the White House, your financial house better be in order. The Obama Administration is making financial information for senior White House officials available upon request.

Q: Is this unusual?

A: Members of Congress regularly release their disclosure statements, but this will allow the public to request the same information from senior level Obama Administration officials. Generally these financial disclosure forms are filled out by government employees whose pay is greater than the GS-15 level. The financial disclosure statement lists all your assets (stocks and investments), the homes you own, your outstanding debt and your agreements and arrangements for future employment, such as writing a book. A federal employee is not required to provide exact amounts, there are broad ranges between $1,000 and $15,000. $15,000 to $50,000... that kind of thing. So you can really see the assets and liabilities of the person into the millions of dollars and detailed information about their investments, the amounts they earn for speeches and many other items of interest.

Q: How do you request the information?

A:There is a link on the White House.gov website. It's very easy. An online electronic form #SF 278 that takes a few minutes to fill out, just provide your name and address and the name of the person you would like information about. It just takes a few clicks to submit the form on-line.

Q: Who is likely to make the request?

A: Generally members of the media (like us) who want to see who the White House has hired and their agreements for book deals or associations with other groups. It's largely a fishing expedition for more information, but the White House site warns against misuse of the information once given to the requestor. You have to agree that you will not use the report:

  1. for any unlawful purpose;
  2. for any commercial purpose, other than by news and communications media for dissemination to the general public;
  3. for determining or establishing the credit rating of any individual; or
  4. for use, directly or indirectly, in the solicitation of money for any political, charitable, or other purpose.

The Attorney General may bring a civil action against any person who obtains or uses a report for any such prohibited purpose as set forth above. The court may assess a fine of up to $11,000.

For more information and to find the application form, see the White House press release: Financial Disclosure Reports Now Available

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