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Right-wing think tank leaks salaries of Florida public employees via new website

Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/Foundation-for-Government-Accountability-360x270.jpgThe Foundation for Government Accountability logo (Photo: Facebook)

The Foundation for Government Accountability debuted a new website Monday — an online database of the salaries of Florida’s public employees: FloridaOpenGov.org.

The website is almost a replica of a project by Foundation President Tarren Bragdon at his last place of employment, the Maine Heritage Policy Center.

According to a press release from the organization, the website is a compilation of “about 35 million public records detailing nearly $1.4 trillion in spending and payroll by state, county, municipality and school.”

Here is some of the data included in the database, according to the release:

  • County government payroll (FY 1997-2011)
  • Local K-12 public education payroll (FY 1997-2011)
  • State government payroll (1995-2010)
  • Local government spending (FY 1993-2010)
  • State vendor payments (FY 2005-2011)

Steve Mistler of the Sun-Journal wrote in September 2010 that Bragdon’s group in Maine “fed the public’s oft-held suspicion that government is too wasteful [when it] published the names and salaries of every state employee on maineopengov.org, and linked it to the center’s homepage.” Critics called the website a “cynical hijacking of transparency to foster public mistrust in government,” Mistler reported.

The Foundation’s new website is very similar to the Maine project in that it details almost every state salary.

According to the press release release, the group’s webpage is also picking up some endorsements from state legislators:

FGA unveiled FloridaOpenGov.org on Monday at a Statehouse press conference, with a bipartisan group of state and local elected officials. These officials helped raise awareness about FloridaOpenGov.org and the opportunities it creates for taxpayers to learn more about politicians’ spending decisions.

State Representatives Matt Hudson (R-Naples), Rachel Burgin (R-Tampa Bay) and Joseph Abruzzo (D-Wellington) and City of Longwood Mayor Joe Durso also endorsed FloridaOpenGov.org as an important addition to Florida’s government transparency movement. Other leaders noted the site’s value as well.

At the Capitol, Bragdon highlighted key findings from FloridaOpenGov.org, including the top ten highest paid state government workers (Department of Education employee Frank Brogan is number one), government workers who are members of the $100k salary club, state vendors with the most in government contract and payments, and local spending data.

The Foundation has so far declined to disclose the source of its own funding. Bragdon has previously said that ”initial donors who were interested in having [him] here” in Florida were responsible for his move to the state. In the few months that the Foundation has been in Naples, one of the group’s pamphlets was included in the state’s defense of a controversial law requiring temporary cash assistance applicants to undergo a drug test before receiving benefits. The law was recently stopped from being implemented; the Foundation’s pamphlet was deemed “not competent expert opinion” by Judge Mary Scriven.

The Foundation has also set its sights on influencing Florida’s 2012 legislative session and has been touting the state’s controversial Medicaid reform with right-wing “free market” groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council.

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