Host: Brian Lamb
May 13, 2009
3:00 p.m. EST
BRIAN LAMB, HOST, CSPAN Q&A: Melanie Sloan, can you remember the first time you got interested in corruption?
MELANIE SLOAN: Um, that is a hard question. Probably back in the seventies with Richard Nixon, ah, when I was paying attention just as a school kid and I thought that what was going on with Watergate was so terrible.
LAMB: Where were you then?
SLOAN: Well, in 1974, I was just eight years old, so it was a while ago, but I can, I have distinct memories of reading the covers of magazines and seeing about Nixon and having my dad explain to me what was going on and it seemed pretty appalling and it was quite a shock that our political leaders might not be everything we thought they were.
LAMB: When did you want to do something about it? How old were you when that started happening?
SLOAN: Well, I was always interested in politics, even as a young kid, throughout school I was involved in politics in school and was always very focused on it. Then I eventually went to work for congress after I graduated from law school and I thought this would be a great way to get involved in issues that are important to people. I’ve always been very public service oriented, I think in large part because I went to a Quaker school where that was really imbued in you, a sense of public service. So, after I got out of law school and I went to work on the Hill, I really enjoyed that. But I worked on a lot of crime issues and thought well, a great place to go next would be the U.S. Attorney’s Office, see how crime really worked for people involved in it. And it was really then, when I was doing that, when I started realizing how many problems there were in Congress that people weren’t talking about. And, of course, I’m really focused at that point on Tom DeLay, first the Whip and then leader of the majority leader who was, I thought, just the worst person out there and yet so little was being done to stop him.
BRIAN LAMB, HOST, CSPAN Q&A: Why was he the worst person out there?
SLOAN: It seemed that he was so blatant, that he had this pay to play Congress going on where it was it very clear that if you wanted legislation you had to pay for it. I mean, he kept a book on his desk of how much money people had given to Republicans and how much they’d given to Democrats, it wasn’t enough that you’d given to Republicans, you couldn’t be giving too much to Democrats. And that he wouldn’t even talk people who hadn’t ponied up enough money and that seemed to me the very antithesis of what our system is supposed to be about.
LAMB: Let me go back and ask you to fill the blanks in, where were you born?
SLOAN: I was actually born in Washington, D.C., which is a rarity, I know. My dad worked for the Justice Department at the time, but then I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware.
LAMB: And what was the Quaker school?
SLOAN: Wilmington Friends School.
LAMB: Where did you go to college?
SLOAN: I went to the University of Chicago for college and law school.
LAMB: And you became an Assistant U.S. Attorney?
LAMB: How did that happen, what year was that?
SLOAN: I became an Assistant U.S. Attorney in 1998, after having spent five years working on Capitol Hill, first for the Senate Judiciary Committee and then for the House Judiciary Committee. And I went because I had always liked crime, even in law school, the stories were just better. I preferred the crime cases to, say, the tax cases and I was very interested, after having spent all this time on Capitol Hill working on crime bills, particularly the 1994 crime bill, which I have hanging on a wall - or just the front page of it, because it’s pretty long. And after that I thought it would be great to go and see what it was like to work with the laws that we had implemented in Congress, see how they really filtered down.
LAMB: Recently, and we talked about it on this program, the public integrity section the prosecutors in the Ted Stevens trial were found in contempt of court. Have you ever, has that happened very often to prosecutors?
SLOAN: That’s quite a rarity that almost never happens to prosecutors. One of the things that’s really drilled into you as a prosecutor, especially in the U.S. Attorney’s Office where I worked here in the District of Columbia, is that you are supposed to be, your ethics and integrity are the most important things. People would worry that we would be going overboard on a particular criminal defendant and I would say there would never be an interest that we would have in doing that. First, there are so many criminal defendants behind him, why would we jeopardize our careers over any particular criminal defendant. But secondly, we were told that when you worked at the Department of Justice, the goal wasn’t to put people in jail, the goal was to do justice, to do the right thing. So, you want to make sure that you give the evidence that you’re supposed to over to the defense. The point is to play fair.
LAMB: This organization, CREW, stands for what?
SLOAN: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
LAMB: Was it your idea?
SLOAN: No, it wasn’t my idea initially. I was approached by a couple of other people who initially had the concept and I think it came out of a couple of things. First, watching what had gone on with the, in the 1990s where ethics were such a big deal in the Clinton administration, and another organization that’s more on the conservative side of the spectrum, but like CREW, Judicial Watch had really managed to make ethics a huge issue in the 1990s. And yet once the administration and Congress changed, that really wasn’t happening. There was no group making an issue of it once the Bush administration was in office, and yet there were so many opportunities to take them on. So, there were a couple of other people, some of our board members, initial board members, and Norm Eisen, who’s now the White House Counsel for Ethics approached me and asked me if I would be interested in starting this organization. And I thought about it for a little while and I thought well, you know, why not me, why shouldn’t I try this? And so I agreed to do it.
LAMB: Where was Tom DeLay at the point you started the organization?
SLOAN: Tom DeLay was the majority leader when I started the organization in 2003.
LAMB: So, in many ways he got you this job?
SLOAN: He did get me this job and he was the reason I took the job.
LAMB: Explain some more of that and what did you do about it once you started the organization?
SLOAN: Well, as I said, the reason that he was so high on my radar was because here in Washington we’d read about Tom DeLay’s tactics on a pretty regular basis, and yet it was considered business as usual. He was called the Hammer and everyone knew about the book on his desk and the K Street project, and yet it wasn’t as if people were shocked by this kind of thing anymore. And yet when I would talk to, say, my parents, in Wilmington, Delaware, only two hours away, educated people who read the papers and are up on current events, they wouldn’t even know what Mr. DeLay was doing and when they did hear about it they thought how can that be? That sounds illegal. And it was that understanding that people outside the Beltway just had no conception of what was going on here and when they did hear about it and learn about it, they were shocked and wanted it to end. That was really why I thought wow, it’s time for someone else to come in and say let’s see if we can do something about this.
LAMB: So what was your reaction when he left Congress?
SLOAN: Oh, I was overjoyed. I danced a little jig. It was, it was the best moment. There is nothing we’ve done at CREW, to my mind, that is as important as helping get rid of Congressman Tom DeLay and having him out of the halls of Congress.
LAMB: So whatever happened to him legally? There was a case down in Texas, has that ever been adjudicated?
SLOAN: That has not been adjudicated, and there’s also still an investigation going on into Mr. DeLay here in Washington revolving around the Jack Abramoff scandal.
LAMB: How many people went to jail because of the Abramoff scandal, do you remember?
SLOAN: I think there have been over 20 people indicted as a result of the Abramoff, some of them have served home detentions, so exactly how many people have gone to jail is hard to say. But that case is not over yet.
LAMB: On your website today, as we’re recording this in the middle of the week, latest actions for CREW, CREW calls for Representative Murtha to step down from Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Are you surprised that after you formed an organization that was to go after Tom DeLay you ended up going after the other side here?
SLOAN: No, I’m not really surprised because I think one of the things I’ve learned is that it’s the power that corrupts. I don’t think anyone starts off good or bad, I think you have to have power to abuse it. For a long time the Democrats didn’t have any so they couldn’t abuse it, and now they have plenty and so they are. Jack Murtha, on the other hand, has been known to walk that ethical line for many, many years, in fact, since the ABSCAM days. He’s been on CREW’s list of the most corrupt members since 2006 and I’m happy to see the rest of Washington catching up with us and we see now a story about Jack Murtha on the paper, front page of the paper every couple of days.
LAMB: You do have these lists, and I’ve got one from 2008. Explain the list, you have corrupt members and also top scandals?
SLOAN: Right. We have a couple different lists, but starting in 2005 we began putting together a list of the most corrupt members of Congress and we initially called it Beyond DeLay, because the point was while we had focused so much on Tom DeLay in our early years, we wanted people to understand that it wasn’t just Tom DeLay, there was a culture in Congress and there were many members of Congress who were involved in unethical actions, not just DeLay. And that was why the report was initially named Beyond DeLay. Now that we’re so way beyond DeLay we can’t call it that anymore, now that he’s gone, so we just call it CREW’s Most Corrupt List.
LAMB: I’m looking at one that says six Democrats out of 24. That means the rest them are Republican, about 18 of them. Why the imbalance?
SLOAN: Well, as I said, for many years the Republicans were in power and they had all the power to abuse. I think that you’ll be seeing more and more Democrats on the list as the Democrats are in power longer.
LAMB: I’ll name the Democrats - William Jefferson, Mary Landrieu - let me just stop, why Mary Landrieu is on this list?
SLOAN: Mary Landrieu is on this list because she was involved in what looks like a traditional pay to play scheme to me, there was an earmark that she put in to a D.C. Appropriations bill for something called Voyager Learning, and in return for the earmark, nearly at the same time as she was putting the earmark in, she got over $30,000 in campaign contributions from people who had never before contributed to her. And somebody, the head of that organization, Randy Best, who was, in fact, a Bush pioneer. So, it seemed that Ms. Landrieu was trading campaign contributions for an earmark.
LAMB: How do you go about, do you contact her office?
SLOAN: We do not contact her office. What we did was we, there was a series that ran about this in the Washington Post and based on what the Washington Post reported and then we did our own digging on looking at her own campaign contributions, looking at Federal Election Commission data. We put all of that together and then we wrote a letter to the Department of Justice asking for an investigation into Senator Landrieu’s activities.
LAMB: So what’s happened?
SLOAN: Nothing’s happened and I think in large part because the statute of limitations would have run by the time we had complained about this.
LAMB: How big is your organization, how much money do you have to have every year to operate?
SLOAN: We’re pretty small, I think people would be surprised to know. We have, I think, about 13 people in our office here, we also have three people in an office in Colorado. And our budget is about $3 million a year.
LAMB: Why Colorado?
SLOAN: We had initially decided to try and see if Colorado could serve as a model for other states, did we want to open other state programs and see if we could do what we do at the Federal level at the State level. And the answer is yes, we can. Most states have things like Election Commission data, campaign finance data and open records laws that you can use the same way we use them federally. But what we’ve decided is we’re not opening any other offices because it’s very expensive and hard to maintain.
LAMB: You have on the list another Democrat, Daniel Lipinski. What did he do wrong?
SLOAN: Right. Mr. Lipinski, member from Illinois, had I think a series of issues with a top staff member who was both working for Congress at the same time as he was trying to bring back money for a smaller city in Illinois, I think it was Oak Park, Illinois, and that violates all sorts of ethics rules. It also seemed that Mr. Lipinski was taking in money on some occasions when he was trading activities for it.
LAMB: What happened to that, this is from your 2008 …
SLOAN: Nothing happened …
LAMB: … most corrupt members.
SLOAN: … to that.
LAMB: Does it, when you name somebody corrupt and there’s nothing that’s happened, is there a problem there with kind of accusing someone without convicting them?
SLOAN: Well, a couple of things on that point. First, I think that it is, members of the American public should know what their members of Congress are up to, they should have to, these members should explain their conduct to the folks back home. So, when we point out that there are problems with these members, the hope is that they will have to explain it to their constituents and if there’s really not a problem, so be it. But we don’t just pick these out of a hat, we base these on things like stories that are written about these members’ activities and campaign finance data and their own financial disclosure information. So, we base all of this information and we put together a report saying hey, folks should know about this. To us, this looks like a problem. Now, that brings us to a whole other series of problems, which is the House, particular, has an ethics process that’s just been broken for 15 years or so now, so no matter what a member of Congress has done, the House Ethics Committee won’t go after them. So, basically unless some member of Congress has committed something so egregious that it rises to the level of a crime, where the Department of Justice gets involved, they pretty much skate free. But my view is just because the House isn’t going to do its job, doesn’t mean I’m not going to do mine.
LAMB: You used to work for John Conyers.
LAMB: And you worked for Chuck Schumer when he was a member of the House, what did you learn from those two gentlemen? And is it difficult for you now, looking back at them and if they did something wrong would you nail them on your website like you did everybody else?
SLOAN: We absolutely would nail them like we do everybody else, but I would, of course, say that that is more difficult. Obviously, in Washington loyalty is valued above almost all things and it is hard to take on your old boss. On the other hand, I have a very different job now than I did when I worked in Congress, when my position was then to support whatever their position was. And now my job is to point out any unethical conduct by members of Congress, so I take that seriously. I think the thing that I learned from Chuck Schumer, which I think anybody who is in Chuck’s orbit learns, is that the media can be a very useful tool and you can make your case by going to the American public even if you can’t get, say, a legislative change or you can’t get a legal fix. So, even if a member of Congress isn’t investigated by the House or Senate Ethics Committee and the Department of Justice doesn’t indict them, just by highlighting their bad conduct we might be able to work a change where their constituents are aware of it and asking questions and perhaps even push a corrupt member out of office.
LAMB: What kind of restrictions do you have, you’re a 501 C3?
SLOAN: We are a C3.
LAMB: Tax exempt foundation.
LAMB: How far can you go?
SLOAN: Well, we’re strictly non-partisan. We take on both Republicans and Democrats alike, and that’s one of the requirements of a C3 organization. The other is we don’t get involved in electoral activities. So, for example, we never say don’t vote for X person, but we say well, when you are voting for X person you should be aware of all of these facts. We’re allowed to be issue oriented, but we can’t get involved in you should vote for or not vote for somebody. And because of that ban on electoral politics, we try not to take actions, say, 60 days before an election so that we can’t be perceived as trying to influence an election.
LAMB: What do you think most members, and you were up there for a number of years, think about the ethics process?
SLOAN: I think they think it’s annoying and it nags at them. Members of Congress tend to think I didn’t come here to police the conduct of other members of Congress, and they feel like it’s like being in high school and tattling. They’re not interested in filing complaints against each other and they don’t think it’s what they’re there for. They also think that groups like mine use this kind of material against them so that their political opponents can run against them based on ethics and make that an issue. So, I think they find a lot of it unfair, but it’s my view that you should be clean as a member of Congress and we all as American citizens have a right to expect that.
LAMB: On one of your links I came across GovernmentDocs.org, what is that?
SLOAN: That is a website we started in order to collect all the documents that we get from the government. For example, we do many, many Freedom of Information Act requests a year and we get literally thousands of pages of documents from all sorts of different government departments. And we wanted to put them up on a website where they were easily searchable, more than just in a PDF format where you usually can find, the way you usually can find documents, because this makes them more accessible. People can read them and tag them and perhaps use them for an entire other purpose. We’ve also started getting other organizations involved and have them putting their documents on the site, as well. The goal is that this could be a repository for a vast collection of government documents that people around the world could access.
LAMB: When I got on GovernmentDocs.org I came across all kinds of other names up at the top, and it just struck me that none of these existed, I know, when I came to town years ago. Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Project on Government Oversight, the Public Citizen’s been around for a long time, that’s the old Nader organization and now Joan Claybrook and Sidney Wolfe and others are involved in it. Sunlight Foundation, that is how new? That’s Ellen Miller’s operation.
SLOAN: Yes, I think the Sunlight Foundation was started after we came in, I believe may have started around 2006.
LAMB: So, and another one was American Rights at Work, and that’s one I wanted to ask you about, I know this is not yours. David Bonior, former member of Congress, is, I think, Chairman of that operation?
SLOAN: Yes, I think he is.
LAMB: But what I found interesting on there is it said, ”We support the Employee Free Choice Act.” Is that allowed on these Web sites?
SLOAN: Well, we don’t control what anybody else puts on the site. They’re allowed to put whatever they want to put up, whichever documents they choose to put up and we just make the site available. And we’ve invited, by the way, a huge spectrum of groups. We aren’t even interested in only having liberal groups or non-partisan groups, any group in Washington would be welcome to join us and put their documents up on the site.
LAMB: But I guess I didn’t see that on your site, but are you allowed under the restrictions, because what I wanted to get to is that a lot of the contributors to all these organizations, on the right and the left, end up being political people.
LAMB: It’s a way for them to support - and correct me if I’m wrong - support, politically, certain points of view through this, you know, other than giving it to a candidate.
SLOAN: Well, as a C3 organization you are allowed to support certain issues and so you can, so that’s not, certainly, a problem. As I said, the real ban is on getting involved in partisan politics and electoral politics, but to say that you support a particular issue, like there are many C3 organizations, for example, that support environmental work or support work on behalf of animals, all sorts of things.
LAMB: What pushes your button, what issue the most?
SLOAN: What issue the most? I would say …
UNIDENTIFIED: I mean - go on.
SLOAN: … I would say for the work that I do at CREW the thing that pushes my button the most is members of Congress who simply deny that there is a link between the campaign contributions and the financial benefits they’ve received and the legislation and earmarks they’re putting out there.
LAMB: And from what you’ve observed all these years, how many of them that you’ve found that do this get caught and get punished?
SLOAN: A small fraction get punished. I mean, first of all you have to realize that the way the American political system is set up this is the status quo. Members of Congress are routinely trading campaign contributions for legislation and when they deny it, I always find their denials laughable because if it was really true that there was no connection, why is it, for example, that Defense appropriators are getting so much money from defense contractors who are, say, not giving any money to members of the Judiciary Committee. Obviously, there’s a connection there.
LAMB: On your list, the six Democrats you have and then we can go to some of the Republicans, another one is Alan Mollohan, and I ask you about him, from West Virginia, because I remember first reading about the accusation in the Wall Street Journal but I also remember it being fed by an organization like yours at the time. What’s ever happened and what were the accusations against him?
SLOAN: The accusations against Mr. Mollohan were, there were several but most of them revolved around the fact that he was earmarking for a bunch of non-profit organizations and in return those, the leaders of those non-profit groups were heavily contributing to Mr. Mollohan’s campaigns. So it looked like there was a direct link between the money that was going to the organizations and that money was going right back into Mr. Mollohan’s campaign coffers. There also turned out to be issues where he hadn’t disclosed everything he was required to on his financial disclosure forms about certain property that he owned.
LAMB: And so what happened?
SLOAN: That investigation is still ongoing. It’s been several years now and I’ve not ever heard that it’s closed, but it can’t be that active given how long it’s been.
LAMB: But from your time in the Justice Department, and we hear this all the time, investigation ongoing, what really slows it down?
SLOAN: So many factors can slow it down. Just for example, if you’re going to do an investigation into somebody like Mollohan, you’re going to want to get his tax forms and you’d think that the Department of Justice would call the IRS and get the tax forms right away, but that can be many, many months in developing, in getting a hold of those forms. Also you have to understand that at Department of Justice, particularly in the Public Integrity section, ever since September 11th they’ve had very few resources. FBI agents and prosecutors have been diverted to terrorism and aren’t spending the kind of time on things like Public Integrity investigations, so they don’t have the staff to make those things go quickly.
LAMB: What do you think of the corruption level in this town compared to when you first really got interested in this? Up or down?
SLOAN: I think it’s probably down. I think so many people have come into Congress in the past few years who came in on cleaning up Congress, it was their platform, it was the very issue that they won on. So, I think it’s a huge change, particularly given that the Democrats swept in 2006 on this platform, again, of cleaner Congress. They campaigned on the culture of corruption because it was so bad and it had become so bad under Tom DeLay. Which is not to say, by the way, that the Democrats have never had that problem. When I worked for Congress, I lost my job in 1994 in Congress in large part because when the Democrats lost the House, they lost it on corruption issues. There had been the House banking scandal, the House post office scandal and the scandal involving former Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Dan Rostenkowski. And the Democrats were just deaf, they were totally tone-deaf to the issues of corruption. Newt Gingrich made it a platform of the contract with America and they rolled in on that, and yet, astonishingly, 10 years later the Republicans had forgotten all the lessons that they had learned and they lost on the exact same platform. So, history just repeats itself.
LAMB: Have you ever met Tom DeLay?
SLOAN: No, I haven’t.
LAMB: One that’s very visible, the last Democrat on the list here that’s very visible in this town is Charlie Rangel. Correct me if I’m wrong, it started in the New York Times.
SLOAN: It did start in the New York Times, and the first story that we read about Mr. Rangel was about the number of apartments he was renting in Harlem at subsidized rates and that has, in fact, drawn a lot of anger in New York City because it’s so hard for people to get these rent-controlled apartments.
LAMB: So ...
SLOAN: But that was just one issue. He had too many of those apartments, one of them he turned out he was using for his political action committee, which is a violation of FEC law, as well as New York law, which says these are supposed to be used for residences, not for businesses. And then it turns out he owns property in the Dominican Republic that he hadn’t been disclosing on his, he hadn’t been disclosing the income from it on his financial disclosure forms. And then to my mind the most serious allegation came last, which is that he was, he proposed a legislative fix for a company called Neighbors Industries that would have saved them billions of dollars in taxes, in return for campaign contributions to the Rangel Center that’s being built onto City College of New York and he was soliciting funds for it.
LAMB: So, whatever happened after these accusations were made?
SLOAN: Well, Mr. Rangel himself submitted a complaint to the House Ethics Committee and he did that because he’s trying to clear his name and only members can file against each other and there’s a truce so they won’t file against each other. So he filed against himself for the House Ethics Committee to hopefully clear him. The House Ethics Committee, despite many months now has not come back on that investigation. I think it will be hard for them to clear him altogether.
LAMB: What’s this Office of Congressional Ethics?
SLOAN: The Office of Congressional Ethics was designed by Nancy Pelosi when she was campaigning on this culture of corruption, as this was the answer of how they were going to fix the House Ethics process. They were going to put in this independent Office of Congressional Ethics and since, as I said, groups like ours aren’t allowed to file complaints with the House Ethics Committee - and, by the way, that is Murtha change, Murtha didn’t want anybody to be able to file with House Ethics Committee - so people like us can now file with the Office of Congressional Ethics. The problem with this Office of Congressional Ethics is it doesn’t have any subpoena power, doesn’t have real authority. All it can do is do a preliminary investigation and then refer a matter over to the House Ethics Committee if it needs further action.
LAMB: It’s chaired by David Skaggs.
LAMB: Former member of Congress, and the minority is Porter Goss.
LAMB: These are former members of Congress. Do they lobby now?
SLOAN: You know, I don’t actually know what either one of them does right now.
LAMB: There are other former members on this list also, I think, Mrs. Burke from California and go down the list, but has there been any evidence that the OCE, the Office of Congressional Ethics has changed anything?
SLOAN: No, although the Office of Congressional Ethics has really just gotten started and it’s only in the past few months that they have started taking on any matters, at all. And we’ve yet to see any evidence that they have done anything. Their staff director is a guy named Leo Wise who comes from the Justice Department, who I think is a man of integrity and is a good prosecutor, but truthfully I think he’s going to be stymied by the setup of the organization itself.
LAMB: So, I’m a potential donor to your organization and I’m meeting with you, what do you tell me?
SLOAN: I tell you about many of the things that you and I have discussed, I talk about the kind of actions that CREW takes and I warn, by the way, all our donors that we are non-partisan and so if you’re going to be upset that we’re taking on a Democrat or a Republican, a specific person, we’re going to end up having a problem. And we explain that we believe that honesty and integrity are important values and those are what we are searching for in our political figures and we’re trying to push for those.
LAMB: And how do you show me that you can be successful, I mean what, you know, I’m going to give you $50,000 and how do I get my money’s worth out of this?
SLOAN: Well, I show you our history and I talk about what we’ve done. I talk about the fact that we were the group that wrote the ethics complaint that was filed against Tom DeLay after a 12 year truce and that it did lead to Mr. DeLay being admonished by a unanimous Ethics Committee. I talk about Mark Foley, Mark Foley was the member of Congress who was sending inappropriate sexual messages to some teenage pages. I say that when CREW got those messages we were the only ones who did the right thing with them, I sent them over to the FBI as soon as I got them, because I knew that they were a problem. It looked to me like Mr. Foley might well be a sexual predator and I wanted an investigation. But because I didn’t know, I didn’t even know about the authenticity of those e-mails, I didn’t make them public at the time, because you ruin somebody’s career merely by making such an allegation. So we sent them to the FBI, which chose, ultimately, not to do anything with them. That came out much later. Republicans tried to say that this was an October surprise that CREW had released this information, when it was not true, we’d sent it to the FBI in July, the previous July. But I explain how this is what we do, we try to do the right thing. We try to put the information where it belongs, get it to the right people and then leave it to the American people to judge.
LAMB: Why didn’t the FBI do anything with it?
SLOAN: I think that that became a complicated issue for the FBI. I think he was a member of Congress and he was the head of the Exploited Children’s Caucus and they were loath to look into that. I think that it was also a matter of they didn’t really have somebody with the right experience in that section of the FBI, again, because so many of their resources had been diverted to terrorism. So I think they, through a series of blunders, failed really to look into it. They ultimately decided it wasn’t worth looking at.
LAMB: Go back again to Tom DeLay, you filed it with, go back to the timing on this, when did you file your complaint?
SLOAN: That was in 2004, and we didn’t file it. Former Representative Chris Bell, a member from Texas who had lost his seat because he’d been re-districted out of it because of Tom DeLay, he agreed to file the complaint for us. By then we had been shopping around for a while the idea of filing an ethics complaint, but as I said, there’s been this long standing truce and no one was willing to file a complaint against Mr. DeLay, even though people regularly agreed that there were big problems there. But then I was introduced to Chris Bell and he was willing to file it because he was both on his way out and he thought everything Tom DeLay was doing was terrible.
LAMB: So, did you write the complaint?
SLOAN: I did write the complaint.
LAMB: And did you personally write it?
SLOAN: I personally wrote it.
LAMB: And then so you handed it to Chris Bell.
SLOAN: I handed it to Chris Bell, who worked with me on it, who read through several drafts and had comments on things he liked, didn’t like, and we worked on it together.
LAMB: And then physically what happens then, once you give it to him he gives it to?
SLOAN: Physically he had to bring it and carry it down to the House Ethics Committee himself.
LAMB: Then did you make it public?
SLOAN: Oh, sure. In fact, Chris Bell made it public, there was a big press conference and it was a huge deal at the time because no member had filed an ethics complaint against another member in so long because of this long standing truce. And so that Mr. Bell was willing to do this against the majority leader was, obviously, a very big press issue.
LAMB: What do you think, if he hadn’t, if he wasn’t on his way out, would he have done it, do you think?
SLOAN: I think it would have been hard for him to do it, because he was under pressure, not just, he wasn’t just afraid of Mr. DeLay, there was a lot of pressure by the Democratic leadership not to do this. You have to remember, there was a truce, so the Democrats and Republicans had agreed that no member would file a complaint against a member from the other party. So, Bell had to take on his own leadership in order to file this.
LAMB: Was that truce public knowledge?
SLOAN: It was public knowledge, but it was denied by leaders of both parties, as it is even to this day. And yet, one of the reasons you know it’s true is you constantly see members going to the well and declaring that the House Ethics Committee should look into something, without actually filing a complaint to make the Ethics Committee act.
LAMB: So, once the Ethics Committee got the complaint in 2004, what happened? And who was in charge of the Ethics Committee then?
SLOAN: Joel Hefley, a member from Colorado, Republican from Colorado, was in charge of the Ethic Committee. Alan Mollohan was the ranking member, the leading Democrat on the Committee. This is the only Committee, by the way, that’s evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, and it took many, many months for the Ethics Committee to act, but eventually they did admonish Tom DeLay. And in retribution Mr. DeLay cleaned out the Ethics Committee, got rid of Joel Hefley and he was furious with all the Republican members for admonishing him. And really he helped walk the Republicans over a cliff on ethics.
LAMB: What’s happened since Tom DeLay has left the House, has the kind of, you know, pay to play gone away?
SLOAN: No, pay to play has not gone away, as we see with the Murtha stories, for example, on a daily basis. Mr. Murtha is probably the biggest violator, the king of pork. He trades campaign contributions for earmarks to the tunes of hundreds of millions of dollars. I have to give Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, a lot of credit for calling attention to this practice, but, obviously, Mr. Murtha’s not the only one engaged in it. Jerry Lewis, the ranking member of Appropriations Committee, Republican from California, has been under Federal investigation for his role in trading appropriations for campaign dollars.
LAMB: That’s been going on for a long time. Again, from your experience being inside the Justice Department, why does it take so long?
SLOAN: Again, I think these investigations are longer and complicated, more complicated than people recognize. There are a lot of people you have to track down and a lot of financial material you have to go through in order to trace these things. But, by the same token, I also think it’s a resource problem. There are simply not enough agents and prosecutors put on these kinds of cases.
LAMB: One of the things I read on your Web site was back in January of this year, and it says on January 9th CREW’s Executive Director Melanie Sloan gave an off the record discussion guiding Congressional staffers through the maze of Congressional rules to help avoid the greatest ethical and legal pitfalls. My first question is why is that off the record?
SLOAN: Well, what we wanted to do was go in and talk to members of Congress before they got into trouble. We didn’t just want to be the people who say got you, we wanted to say here are the kind of things that can get you into trouble. Even if the House Ethics Committee isn’t going to take it on, this is the kind of thing that a group like CREW or the Washington Post is going to take notice of and these are the problems you’re going to, you could run into. So, let us explain some of these things to you. And we made it off the record so that people could ask honest questions, they could come in and say well, what if I did this and would this be a problem? And we wanted to have an open dialog.
LAMB: How many people showed up?
SLOAN: No, staff.
LAMB: How many did you invite?
SLOAN: Oh, we invited every member of the House and Senate, and we sent out not just the initial invitation, we sent out a blast fax two days beforehand and there was a front page roll call story. We did everything we could to get notice of this and to invite people. And we held it in the basement of the Capitol so it would be convenient for both the House and Senate …
LAMB: So, what was your …
SLOAN: … to come.
LAMB: … personal reaction when you saw eight people sitting in front of you?
SLOAN: Well, it was a little disappointing. I was very happy to talk to those people and tell them what I knew. I wished more people were interested, but it also makes me that much less sympathetic when some of these folks get into trouble and they’re angry with a group like CREW for coming after them. I feel like we’ve given you the opportunity, we’re trying to show you how you can avoid getting into trouble. If you don’t want to listen, there’s nothing I can do about that.
LAMB: Well, let me just suggest that if I were a member I’d say look, we don’t need you to tell us how to do our, you know, how to be ethical.
SLOAN: Well, that seems not to be true.
LAMB: You also provide, on your website, a memo, guidance on Congressional ethics, did you write this?
SLOAN: No, a lawyer named Brett Kappel who was at the law firm of Vorys Sater wrote it for us and I edited it so we wrote it together.
LAMB: Only reason I ask you whether you wrote it or not because I read it - excuse me - and I just thought it was interesting to read it out loud, what you have said the rules are. And when were these new rules established? This is, I’m going to, under House Rule 25, when would something like that have been written?
SLOAN: Oh, you know, I don’t know the exact year but those rules, the General House rules have been around for a very long time, they’ve just been, particularly I think since the ’60s in the latest incarnation but then they’ve been amended and updated slightly since then.
LAMB: This is what it says, the private sponsor must certify - and this is talking about traveling? One, the trip will not be financed in whole or in part by a registered lobbyist or foreign agent.
SLOAN: Oh, these are new rules, then. I’m sorry. That’s a new rule that came in as a result of the Abramoff scandal, this was when the Democrats came in in 2006, this rule changed.
LAMB: Two, the sponsor of the trip does not retain or employ a registered lobbyist or a foreign agent. My first thought when I’m reading this is, so, if you’re not a registered lobbyist or a foreign agent, you can fund the trip.
SLOAN: That’s right, you can fund the trip. But there are still, there are further restrictions on privately funded travel and you can only go for a certain number of days and the sponsor of the trip has to be paying for you to go. You can’t try to funnel money through somebody else for a trip.
LAMB: But what’s really the difference between a registered lobbyist versus, say, somebody from a corporation?
SLOAN: Well, a corporation that has a registered lobbyist might come into restrictions on trips, as well.
LAMB: Sponsor - who can pay for travel - sponsor is an institution of higher learning, as defined by section 101 of the Higher Education Act of 1965, that’s the one that really I find interesting, is that these schools of higher education in this country gets billions of dollars from the Federal government, but they can sponsor trips.
SLOAN: Right. Well, this was initially even called the AIPAC exception, there was this exception that 501 C3 organizations and universities could, in fact, still sponsor trips.
SLOAN: That was the compromise that was reached in the House. They didn’t want to ban all private travel and they thought that these were the kind of trips that were more easily explained and didn’t have the same kind of appearance of corruption.
LAMB: What do you think of that?
SLOAN: You know, I don’t, I was never opposed to all travel or all privately funded travel. I think members of Congress would do well to get outside of Washington and learn about things that they’re legislating over. I always use this example, if you’re going to start regulating meat packing plants, I’d like you to have actually seen a meat packing plant. I think that it really helps to learn more. What I think you start seeing problems in is when every trip that a member takes is to Boca Raton and to Paris and to those kinds of places that are clearly luxury resorts and the trip is really just an excuse for a boondoggle.
LAMB: Well, the next one is the trip is for attendance at a one day event and a registered lobbyist involvement in the planning, organization, organizing, requesting or arranging the trip was de minimis. What’s the difference between a one day event and a two day event?
SLOAN: Well, I think the concept then is that a member of Congress could, indeed, go somewhere and give a speech, for example. I won’t be the person defending these rules, these were not rules that we necessarily thought were the best choices, but these rules that were put in place because of the Jack Abramoff scandal, because of things like the golf trips to Scotland.
LAMB: So, the scandals, how do you do that? The 10, the 20, what is it, 20 top scandals of the year? No, 10 …
SLOAN: Ten …
LAMB: … ten ethics scandals.
SLOAN: Right. Well, we look over the year and see what a big scandal. I mean, the Jack Abramoff scandal was such an obvious scandal, but sometimes there are, you know, there are many other scandals, like the Foley scandal didn’t involve Jack Abramoff, in that year there was the Cunningham scandal. There tend to be several scandals a year. Last year, for example, Charlie Rangel became quite a scandal at the end of the year.
LAMB: On this list, no guarantee that Bush administration records will be properly archived. We know that story, but what are you doing for the Obama administration and is there any evidence that they’re going to change it?
SLOAN: Right. Well, this was one of the stories that CREW was, I think, most proud of. We were the ones who got a tip that there was missing e-mail and we first issued a report that there were millions of missing White House e-mails, and then we filed a suit to discover what became of those e-mails, why there were missing. And that litigation is still ongoing, although we’re trying to settle it working with the Obama administration. And by the same token, we’re also talking to the Obama White House to find out what they’re doing to properly archive material now to make sure that this doesn’t repeat. And they are going to be explaining to us exactly what they’re doing to make sure that there have been changes in the archiving system.
LAMB: You started out in some references earlier of being excited about the transparency of the Obama administration, have they lived up to their promise?
SLOAN: Well, I think they’re working on it. I think that they are clearly more interested in transparency than the last administration, which really prided itself on secrecy. And I think that the Obama administration came out with some terrific stuff in the first couple of days with their ethics executive order and the changes on how the Department of Justice would treat Freedom of Information Act lawsuits. So, I think that has all been very positive. I think the administration has gone a little too far on its anti-lobbyist rhetoric and I think there have been some real problems there. And I think people have been surprised at CREW’s reaction to that because we’re seen as an organization that bash lobbyists because we were so on top of, for example, the Jack Abramoff scandal. But we think there are good and bad lobbyist, like good and bad everything else, and the administration is not doing itself any favors by banning the hiring, for example, of any lobbyist. I mean, there are all these terrific people who worked for, say, environmental organizations as lobbyists during the past eight years and we’d want the benefit of their expertise over in the White House.
LAMB: So, what are the most important things you’re working on right now?
SLOAN: Right now we’re working on these lobbying issues, the other half of that is not only can people not go and work in the White House, but the White House has banned lobbyist from coming in to ask for Stimulus Act money. This is something that I think has been a little disingenuous by the administration. They said well, lobbyists can’t come in but they can file something written. But the problem is that big corporate executives can come in and so really, and none of those meetings will actually be disclosed, so meetings or discussions with lobbyists will be disclosed, these meetings with corporate titans won’t be. We’re actually going to have less disclosure, not more and we think that’s a problem. In addition, we’re just shifting the lobbying, rather than an actual registered lobbyist being the person who comes in, the person in the firm who isn’t a registered lobbyist comes in and asks for the Recovery Act funds. So, that’s one of the things we’ve been plugging away at.
Another thing we’re working on right is to make sure that records are being preserved throughout the administration. One of the problems that we’ve seen is that records management is, the laws have not kept up with the technology and so things like electronic records are just not properly managed across the administration and there are just gaping holes. The National Archives and Records administration is just not doing its job and we’re working to see that they are, that they change their laws and they change their oversight and act much more aggressively to improve the maintenance of records. Another thing that we’re working on that I think is important is the problem of veterans returning home with post traumatic stress disorder. We’ve seen a couple of instances now where first the VA and now the Army are refusing to diagnose veteran with PTSD because it’s too expensive and they want to diagnose adjustment disorder instead. So, we’re working both to push Congress to investigate this and to gather documents to prove that this is happening.
LAMB: You told us you have about a $3 million a year budget, 13 people working for your organization. You’ve been in business for about …
SLOAN: Six years.
LAMB: … six years. How long are you going to stay with it?
SLOAN: You know, that’s hard to say. It’s a lot of work and it is hard to always be the one telling everybody else they’re doing the wrong thing. Sometimes you’d like to be a little more positive and that was I think part of the reason we did the ethics training, for example, to try and be more positive. But I think it’s important that groups like CREW are around and focused on these kinds of issues because I think it’s the only way we’re going to be able to keep politicians honest.
LAMB: I’m looking at your board of directors, one, two, three, four, five, six including you. The Chairman, Daniel Berger?
SLOAN: No, Louis Mayberg.
LAMB: Louis Mayberg, who is Louis Mayberg?
SLOAN: Louis Mayberg is the head of a mutual fund in Maryland called ProFunds. And he is one of the initial founders of CREW and he is a non-partisan guy, very independent, but just thought that there was a real problem with Congressional ethics. He ran into some problems with bank regulators back in the 80s, during the whole savings and loan crisis and he thought people behaved dishonestly and disingenuously depending on who their campaign contributors were, and this just has been an important issue to him.
LAMB: And when did he get into this?
SLOAN: Well, he helped found CREW back in 2003. Although, it’s interesting, we actually started talking about CREW in August of 2001, or July 2001 and then after September 11th, we tabled the discussion for a while.
LAMB: Who is Daniel Berger?
SLOAN: Daniel Berger is a trial lawyer in Philadelphia, and he’s been involved with the organization since its early days, as well.
LAMB: So, how did you meet him?
SLOAN: I met him through Louis Mayberg and Norm Eisen, who knew him.
LAMB: And - excuse me, can’t seem to clear my throat - Irwin …
LAMB: … Chemerinski, who is he?
SLOAN: Mr. Chemerinski, Professor Chemerinski is a leading constitutional law professor. We’re so excited to be able to work with him, and he is now the Dean of a new law school out at the University of Southern California - I’m sorry - UCLA at Irvine, the first new law school in decades. And he, we met him through our work on the Wilson case, he consults with us and helps us. In the lawsuit we represent Joe and Valerie Wilson in their case against Scooter Libby, former Vice President Cheney and Karl Rove.
LAMB: You represented them?
SLOAN: Yes, we do still represent them.
LAMB: How does that work?
SLOAN: They’re our client. We currently have asked, their case was dismissed at the District Court level and that was upheld by the Court of Appeals. We have petitioned for certiorari with the Supreme Court, which Professor Chemerinski wrote for us and we’re waiting to see if the Supreme Court will take the case.
LAMB: So, do you operate as a law firm then?
SLOAN: We have represented clients before, so yes, in that respect. We have, in addition to the work you and I have talked about Congressional ethics, CREW has at least 12 lawsuits going on at any given time.
LAMB: What are some of the others?
SLOAN: We have a lawsuit, as I said, regarding the Office of Administration regarding the missing White House e-mails, that’s the White House technology office. We have a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security over visitor records, whether people who visit the White House, whether those are agency records, which are subject to the Freedom of Information Act or whether they are Presidential records and can be kept secret. We’ve been winning in the court on that and so far it looks like those are going to turn out to be public accessible records.
LAMB: When you were an Assistant U.S. Attorney, did you appear in court?
SLOAN: Very regularly.
LAMB: Now do you do it on some of these cases?
SLOAN: I have not, I have appeared in court only once where we handled a criminal matter for somebody. But generally speaking, our chief counsel, Anne Weisman has done most of the court appearances.
LAMB: Craig Kaplan is a member of your board, who is he?
SLOAN: He’s a lawyer in New York.
LAMB: And how did he get on this board?
SLOAN: He is involved in lots of progressive organizations and progressive causes and I met him and he expressed a lot of interest in CREW’s work, and he’s also worked with a lot of non-profits, so he’s great at advising us on how we can best meet our fiduciary obligations as a non-profit.
LAMB: One more, John Luongo.
SLOAN: John Luongo is a venture capitalist out in Southern California. Again, he’s very involved in a lot of progressive causes and that was how I met him.
LAMB: Now, there’s so many organizations in town, how do you differentiate what you do from all the, we just talked about some of the others and we haven’t even talked about some of the conservative organizations.
SLOAN: Right. Well, CREW was started because we thought that there was really a gap not being filled, a gap that there was no organization using the legal system to aggressively target unethical conduct. And that’s what we came in to do. We have specific legal tools that we try to use to go after unethical members and that can be a Freedom of Information Act request, or we file IRS complaints, we file complaints with the Federal Election Commission, we file complaints with the Department of Justice. But everything has a legal angle, we look for the legal hook to expose the unethical conduct. That’s really, I think, the main difference between what we do and what so many other good government organizations do, as terrific as they are.
LAMB: Do you feel you’re competing for money a lot with other organizations?
SLOAN: Well, I think in this environment, particularly now that there’s this financial turn down, every organization is competing for money and it’s always an issue. You’re always worried about where your next dollar’s going to come from and are you going to be able to stay in business. But I think that our donors like our more aggressive approach, that we are so out there on a day to day basis, fighting for these things. Not just, we engage in educational campaigns but we don’t just try to educate. We really try and see if we can find a legal hook to push our issues hard.
LAMB: Who are some of the biggest donors you have, and is there a restriction on how much money they can give you?
SLOAN: We don’t have any restrictions, but I would say our biggest donors are, for example, the Open Society Institute is a very big donor, the …
LAMB: And whose organization is that?
SLOAN: Well, it’s a foundation but it’s well known to be, George Soros is the one funds it. The Wallace Global Fund gives us money, the Arca Foundation gives us money, those are some of the big foundations where we, the Carnegie Corporation gives us money.
LAMB: You do see a thread through the different sides in this where a big donor like George Soros will give to an awful lot of progressive organizations. Has he ever asked for anything directly?
SLOAN: No, and I have met him and he’s never asked for anything, at all. And I meet with the program officer from the Open Society Institute and they’re very happy with what they do and they’re very keen on transparency, we’re part of their democracy program.
LAMB: How often does somebody call you at your desk and say I want you to go after somebody?
SLOAN: Do you mean a donor or just a regular person or?
LAMB: Probably a donor, somebody that, you know, is invested in what you’re doing and they say that guy ought to, you ought to go after him.
SLOAN: I would say it’s pretty rare. Somebody may call me and say are you aware of X? And we may look into it and then we’ll make a judgment on whether or not we’ll go after X or Y person. But we have, I can say absolutely assuredly, we have never taken on any particular member of Congress or other political figure because somebody asked us to. It was always our judgment that it was the best … course.
LAMB: How political a person do you consider yourself now and do you look toward the opportunity of getting back in government some day?
SLOAN: I consider myself much less political now than I used to be. I was once, obviously, a Democrat, I worked for three different Democrats on the Hill. I worked for Senator Biden before I worked for Chuck Schumer when he was on the hill and then John Conyers. And I would say doing this kind of work has made much more of an independent. I’ve realized that neither party has a lock on ethics, you can see problems on both sides. And now really I just like members who are independent and ethical and believe in the values that I do.
LAMB: If you could do anything you could to bring better ethics into this town, what would you do?
SLOAN: I think everything else we do is really tinkering around the edges until there’s real meaningful campaign finance reform. The fact of the matter is members of Congress need money, the people who, in order to run for re-election and the way they’re going to get that money is mostly from lobbyist who want something from them. Until we break that link between the campaign contributions and the legislation, everything else is simply tinkering around the edges.
LAMB: When you look at the figures it turns out in the top 10 or so you’ve got, maybe six of them are unions. And I’ve never heard you mention the word union. Do they contribute to what you do and do you ever go after that connection?
SLOAN: We have not gone after any particular union, I wouldn’t say that there’s been an issue where I think that a union has given in money in some way that has been, that some member has changed their vote simply because of a campaign contribution. In the same reason, in the same way we haven’t gone after, you know, huge corporations that also give huge amounts of money. I think we’d say that although the corporations themselves can’t give money as obviously their top executives give a lot of money and most of the time we don’t go after that.
LAMB: What’s creating this ethical problem?
SLOAN: The ethical problem is really that members of Congress, as I said, need the money so badly. Literally the day after your election you start dialing for dollars and the only people who are going to give you the kind of money you need want something from you. And it’s just going to be human nature to give more access to those people, not because you’re evil and a member of Congress and corrupt, it’s because you need something. And the people who help you are people who you’re going to help out in return.
LAMB: Is there any other answer besides public financing?
SLOAN: To my mind that’s really at the heart of it. I don’t know, I’d be open to other people’s suggestions on what else might, what might make a difference but, you know, banning private travel is really, again, I think kind of tinkering. To say a member shouldn’t go on a trip to, you know, to New Mexico or something, I don’t see how that’s, ultimately, going to fix our problem in the same way that if members of Congress were making decisions really in the public interest and not based on their own financial interest. Often they’re also making distinctions because of parochial (ph) financial interest, like this is good for my district even though it’s bad for the country. We see that, for example, so much when we talk about things like base closings. Members will fights so hard to keep bases open or have weapons being built in their districts, even though these weapons or these bases might not actually be good for the nation as a whole.
LAMB: What about the fact that with organizations like yours and the public disclosure requirements and the competition that happens in a district, that in effect really there’s no better way to do it than just public exposure and let the constituency know how they’re, what’s happening with the money that’s being contributed to them.
SLOAN: Well, I think that is a start and I think that’s why the Federal Election Commission laws are so important, campaign finance law is so important, that those records are available. But regular people are not going to spend the time, and let me say it’s very difficult to grow through campaign finance data, it’s very time consuming to track down. And the FEC website is not user friendly, you have to really go to another one like OpenSecrets to use the data. But most people aren’t going to do that, so you’d really then rely on groups like mine to make the connection, to say hey, did you know that while your member of Congress is deciding on this banking issue, here’s all the money they got from banking executives. Because regular people don’t have time to do that kind of research.
LAMB: The Federal Elections Commission website’s government, OpenSecrets.org is Center for Responsive Politics?
SLOAN: Yes, it is.
LAMB: Why is it that the private groups do a better job than the government groups that every tax payer pays for?
SLOAN: Right. Well, I don’t think the government has such a strong interest in making all that data that accessible, in truth. I mean, for example, the Senate, Senators don’t have their campaign finance data automatically uploaded on to, electronically and that’s because they don’t want you to be able find it. Remember, it’s Congress that makes the laws and they’re not that keen on groups like mine digging through their campaign finance data.
LAMB: What does that say, though, to people that think government’s going to do a better job than industry or private groups in this world?
SLOAN: Well, I think what it tells you is members have a vested interest, in this case, in not disclosing this information. And it’s the power of incumbency and they want to protect their power bases and so they don’t want this information out there. That’s why it’s so important to have these non-profit groups, good government watchdogs, to say hey, look at these links, look at these members of Congress who might be making these decisions not because it’s a great decision but because they got paid for it.
LAMB: But the Federal Elections Commission is independent of Congress.
SLOAN: Well, the Federal Election Commission is literally a completely broken down agency. It’s well accepted that it just doesn’t work. It is an organization that is split evenly, three Republicans, three Democrats. They always seem to vote as a party. Right now there are some vacancies. Obama has, President Obama has pledged that he will repair the Federal Election Commission, but it is just a dangerously broken place and many members of Congress, particularly Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has no interest in having a working FEC. He hates the FEC, he has made no bones about it. There are a lot of members who don’t want to see any kind of campaign finance law enforced and right now that’s working for them, because they’re not being enforced, at all.
LAMB: What kind of grade would you give the Obama administration on disclosure of where the TARP money is being spent?
SLOAN: You know, I think they could be doing a much better job on that. They’ve been saying that some of that, they need to keep some of that information secret because banks, otherwise, won’t want to take the money. And we, for example, have submitted two different Freedom of Information Act requests regarding the expenditure of TARP funds and one we’re now suing the Federal Reserve Board for failing to tell us which 22 different banks received over $2 trillion in aid. So, I think that there could be a lot more transparency there. We’re looking forward to litigating that because we don’t think that the Obama administration has a leg to stand on in refusing to make that information public. It’s our money, we have a right to know where it’s being spent.
LAMB: When you file a Freedom of Information Act request, where do you file it?
SLOAN: Well, you file it with the agency from which you want the information. So, if it’s, you want information from the Federal Reserve, you file it with the Federal Reserve.
LAMB: How does the public know that that’s been filed?
SLOAN: What we always, whenever we file those we put them up on our website right away. It’s rarely a media story when you file a Freedom of Information Act request or even when you file the lawsuit, which we then did in the Federal Reserve case because the Federal Reserve has refused to give the information, so then we’re suing for it. If we, ultimately, obtain some information from the Federal Reserve, that’ll be public not only on our website and the GovernmentDocs website where we put all our documents, but the media.
LAMB: What is the average length of time it takes to get a Freedom of Information Act request acted on?
SLOAN: Well, it can be very quick or it can be years. I mean, we still have one, for example, that we’re in litigation over the Justice Department with over the department’s decision to lower the fees, lower the settlement in the tobacco litigation. We sued back in 2005, we’re just now starting to get documents in that case. But more recently we have asked for documents from, say, the Army regarding its treatment of domestic violence offenders and we’re getting those documents.
LAMB: So, if somebody wants to go to your Web site?
SLOAN: It’s CitizensforEthics.org.
LAMB: There’s no shortcut, like CREW, it’s …
SLOAN: No, you have to go CitizensforEthics.org.
LAMB: It’ll be on the bottom of the screen. Melanie Sloan, thank you very much.
SLOAN: My pleasure.