Someone else has caught Castoritis. This affliction is spreading quickly among Pennsylvania Republicans. It began when Montgomery County DA and County Commissioner candidate (at the time) Bruce Castor emailed me trashing his running mate Jim (Chris' brother) Matthews for taking large sums of money from Bob Asher (once convicted of political corruption).
Now Congressman Bill Shuster's Chief of Staff has sent some unfortunate, embarrassing emails. They weren't to me but they did wind up in my inbox. It seems the financial disclosure forms for federal staffers are public information. A website called LegiStorm.com posted those of Jeff Loveng. He is Congressman Shuster's (PA-09) Chief of Staff.
Upset with this public disclosure Mr. Loveng left this comment at the website:
"Since you have put financial disclosure's on your web site I (and my wife and children) are being harassed by telemarketers with specific information about the stock holdings we have and the financial institutions where we have them. Calls like, " Hi I am calling about your investments with Northern Trust Bank..."
Apparently the little box that you have to check to log into your site does not dissuade evil doers. What do you intend to do to protect me and my family? Just because I am a public servant does not mean I should be subject to this type of harassment. Please tell me how you will protect me. I am eagerly awaiting your reply.
Sincerely, Jeff Loveng"
This was his response after the website owner responded:
Mr. Friedly –
Thank you for responding to my inquiry regarding the placement of Financial Disclosure Forms (FD) on your web site. I would like to point out a couple of errors in your response.
You mentioned that you already take measures to protect staffers from unauthorized use of disclosures by putting a legal warning on the site and requiring use only by registered users. Your site does do these two things, however these are protections in name only, they have no effect. As you may know, the 1978 Ethics in Government Act and subsequent amendments do not contain any penalty provisions for misuse of the data – the law simply states in the Appendix that it is unlawful. I don’t know of any criminal case where an individual has been charged for an unlawful event cited in an Appendix of an Act. Additionally, if hypothetically an individual was charged, the Act has no penalty provisions, thereby rendering it useless.
You also noted that you do not believe telemarketers phoned me because of information obtained on your site… that financial records of millions of Americans are available to customers of Lexis-Nexis and other specialized databases for this purpose and that it “strains credibility” to believe that someone spent hours culling through your site looking for the holdings of a small handful of individuals. Your answer here is not only insulting and accusatory, but again incorrect. As you may know, proper compliance with the FD form requires the inclusion of all financial data including the names of financial institutions, specific names of holdings and their value range, property, mortgage information and the creditors and debt levels associated with the owned assets, as well as other information. Your statement that this type of data is widely available also “strains credibility”. This type and level of financial data detail is not available anywhere else through any purchasable data source - period. For a person to acquire this type of information without access to FD's would require a breach of banker/client privacy that only a grand jury or judge could grant.
You also mentioned that you doubted people would spend the time to look through the data. Apparently (and confirmed by a Google search reveling your plethora of self promotion you flood the internet with that shows your limited professional experience) you have never been in a job that was sales/commission based while in a downward trending economy like most brokers are today. Brokers will go to great lengths to find leads on potential new clients. Not to mention it is very easy and quick to go through the reports. Once potential abusers of the data know it is a potential good source of new clients and since it has been widely reported on the news and on-line that Legistorm is making this data available – it does not take a rocket scientist (or even a physicist) to figure it out.
You also mentioned that if I continue to believe companies may be misusing this information, you would advise me to refer these telemarketers to the Justice Department so that any illegal behavior can be stopped. Given my response above in reference to no penalty section in the 1978 Act…how exactly is the Justice Department supposed to stop this illegal behavior? With a time out or a wag of the finger?
I realize that the FD’s have been publicly available under section 105 of the Act for 30 years, but I think any logical person would agree that the 1978 Act did not foresee the internet and all its mass media potential. When FD's were contained to the basement of the Cannon Building it was a different world where staff could find out the identity of anyone who looked at their records. However, now once the FD file goes through your Legistorm web laundering process the old check and balance system is lost, striping staff of what little privacy they had and of any ability to keep the highly personal data out of the hands of the unscrupulous. But given that you think it is no big deal, I challenge you to put your own Financial Disclosure on your web site in an up front positioning where anyone visiting the site can see it.
Your biography indicates that you have led all of your adult life on the “peeping Tom” end of the microscope of public servant scrutiny and thereby you do not have a semblance of a clue to know what it feels like to have your personal financial information strewn about the internet. But I would hope that since you are a person that has a family you might possibly understand the feeling of protection that a man will have for his wife and children. To see the personal financial information on public display of the people closest to you leaves you with only a feeling of nausea.
I recognize that my ability to protect the privacy of my family is significantly limited as long as I continue to perform my duties as a public servant. But I do think that the actions by yourself and Legistorm violate both the spirit and intent of the 1978 Act.
Sadly, I feel that I will have to sit idly by and wait for harm to be done to either myself or my family before I will have any legal recourse against Legistorm and specifically you Mr. Friedly - a situation that I deeply hope and pray will never occur.
I hope you savor this time in your life where you feel you have other people at your mercy while you conduct your witch hunt. Because the recent events of the man you appear to admire, Governor Eliot Spitzer show – you may some day find yourself as the Emperor with no clothes.
Chief of Staff
Congressman Bill Shuster
Wow, how over the top can you get? He makes it all personal and insults the man for posting public information. Perhaps someone should tell Jeff Loveng about the federal Do Not Call List. Also note Mr. Loveng used his official Capital Hill email address for this personal correspondence. Jock responded with the trump card:
You seem to have a lot of time on your hands. Therefore, I would suggest that rather than engage in name-calling, you could take it up with your boss and his colleagues and set about changing the law in the manner you suggest. After all, you guys write the laws. We don’t.