Dirt Diggers Digest No. 60

April 18, 2005

Editor: Philip Mattera

1. Concerns grow over secrecy claims for federal data

2. Center for Public Integrity creates comprehensive lobbying database

3. Feds put hospital performance data on the web

4. North Dakota close to enacting subsidy disclosure law

5. Access to info from European business registries

6. A behemoth begets a Goliath

7. "Best corporate citizens"; leading corporate greenwashers

8. Full-day workshop on strategic corporate research: May 11 in Baltimore

9. SEIU seeks new research director [omitted from web archive]


1. Concerns grow over secrecy claims for federal data

Public-interest groups, first-amendment organizations and others are

expressing growing concern over the federal government's efforts to restrict

access to various types of unclassified public data by using designations

such as "sensitive security information." Some of the practices border on the

nonsensical. The Wall Street Journal reported on March 22 that the

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has barred airplanes from flying

near nuclear power plants but it will not give pilots data on the exact location

of the nukes.

Other actions are impeding organizations working on issues of public safety.

An environmental group in Utah was denied access to flood maps showing what

areas would be inundated if a major dam failed. OSHA refused to make public

a study of work-related hazards at an airport. A report issued by the Congressional

Research Service last year < http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/RS21727.pdf > claimed

that the feds were working to alleviate concerns over the issue, "but some experts

are not convinced."

OMB Watch, for example, has warned that agencies such as the TSA are

overusing the sensitive security designation "to hide information from concerned

citizens"  < http://www.ombwatch.org/article/articleview/2773/1/1?TopicID=1 >.

In a recent article distributed by the Scripps Howard News Service and picked

up by numerous papers, Paul McMasters of the First Amendment Center wrote:

"In a breathtakingly short time, one of democracy's core principles, 'the right to

know' for the public, has devolved into a 'need to know'  for certain individuals

and now threatens to become a 'right to control' for government officials only."


2. Center for Public Integrity creates comprehensive lobbying database

Special interests and their lobbyists have reported spending almost $13 billion

since 1998 on buying influence in the federal government, according to a

comprehensive new report issued by the Center for Public Integrity

< http://www.publicintegrity.org/lobby/report.aspx?aid=675&sid=200 >. The

report is based on the Center's examination of all of the lobby disclosure forms

filed with the Senate Office of Public Records since 1998. As part of its project,

the Center created an online, searchable database of all registered federal

lobbyists in the United States and their clients. The site also includes a list

of some 250 former members of Congress and federal agency heads now

working as lobbyists.

Speaking of the revolving door, the Edmonds Institute has launched a

searchable database < http://www.edmonds-institute.org/newdoor.html >

focusing on individuals who have moved back and forth between the

biotechnology industry and government agencies that are supposed to

be regulating it.


3. Feds put hospital performance data on the web

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently launched a web-

based database on the performance record of nearly all of the country's 4,200

hospitals. Called Hospital Compare < http://www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov/ >,

it provides data on 17 widely used yardsticks relating to the treatment of heart

attacks, heart failures and pneumonia, though it lacks measures such as mortality

rates from cardiac surgery. The site complements a similar service  the Centers

created for nursing homes < http://www.medicare.gov/NHCompare/Home.asp >.


4. North Dakota close to enacting subsidy disclosure law

Members of the House and Senate in the North Dakota legislature reached

agreement last week on an economic development accountability law that

includes a provision for disclosure of subsidies granted to corporations. The

measure, House Bill 1203, would require reporting of the value of the subsidy,

the job-creation goals (including wage levels) and the consequences if the firm

does not meet the goals. The state would be required to publish an annual

compilation of data on subsidy deals beginning in 2007. North Dakota would

join a group of about a dozen states that have some sort of subsidy disclosure



5. Access to info from European business registries

Your editor has just learned of a service that was launched last year to

provide a single gateway to information from official business registries in most

of Europe. Called EuroInfoPool < https://www.euroinfopool.com >, it is owned by

a subsidiary of the Swedish investment company Ratos. The service allows

searches of registries from 15 countries, the most recent addition being the

UK's Companies House. Apart from the data provided by the registries,

EuroInfoPool sells access to credit reports on more than 22 million companies

in 19 countries. Use of the service requires payment of a monthly fee of

5 euros plus pay-as-you-go charges that vary by country.


6. A behemoth begets a Goliath

Thomson Gale, a behemoth among the providers of business databases for the

institutional market, has now introduced a lower-cost service for individuals

and smaller organizations. Called Goliath < http://goliath.ecnext.com/ >, it

draws on various Thomson services to provide company, industry and market

profiles as well as individual articles from the trade press. The company profiles

are said to cover 450,000 firms, though with varying levels of detail.

The service is designed to discourage pay-as-you-go usage: individual reports are

priced at a steep $30, and individual articles at $10, while unlimited usage in

one of the categories is $50 a month.


7. "Best corporate citizens"; leading corporate greenwashers

Business Ethics, "the magazine of corporate responsibility," has published

its latest list of what it calls the "100 best corporate citizens"

< http://www.business-ethics.com/whats_new/100best.html >. The

ranking, based on data compiled by KLD Research & Analytics,

evaluates firms in eight categories such as governance, environment,

diversity and human rights. At the top of the list this year is Cummins Inc.

Apparently, the engine maker's increasing use offshore outsourcing did

not tarnish its reputation.

The same issue of Business Ethics has an article by Tracey Rembert

on the backlash against corporate reform:


Meanwhile, the Green Life, an environmental non-profit, has released a report


highlights the companies said to be most guilty of using misleading and exaggerated

marketing and public relations to project an eco-friendly image. The report,

available at < http://www.thegreenlife.org/dontbefooled.html > put Ford Motor

at the top of its list because of its campaign touting the Escape hybrid and the

installation of green features at its River Rouge factory while obscuring the

fact that hybrids account for less than one percent of its sales, which remain

highly dependent on heavily polluting vehicles such as the F-150 truck. Other

companies listed among the worst greenwashers were BP, General Motors

and ChevronTexaco.


8. Full-day workshop on strategic corporate research: May 11 in Baltimore

A full-day workshop on corporate research techniques designed for staffers

and activists of unions, environmental groups and other progressive

organizations will take place in Baltimore on May 11.

The workshop will be one of five training sessions being held on the first day


by Good Jobs First. For more information on the entire conference as well

as registration forms, see http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/2005gjfconfagenda.htm.

You can register for one of the workshops alone (at a reduced price) if you

do not wish to attend the entire conference.

The workshop--which will cover a wide range of topics on companies small

and large, public and private--will be led by Dirt Diggers editor Phil Mattera

and Rick Rehberg of the Food and Allied Service Trades department of the



A cumulative list of resources featured in the

Dirt Diggers Digest can be found on the web at:



Philip Mattera

Research Director & Director of the Corporate Research Project

Good Jobs First