With LegiStorm, Jock Friedly Provides Access to Capitol Hill Salaries
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Go ahead. Hate him.
Jock Friedly couldn't care less. This is a man who counts being burned in effigy among his career highlights. So he's hardly going to be bothered by all these congressional staffers who think he's pretty much the Devil incarnate.
Friedly became the scourge of Capitol Hill by creating LegiStorm.com, a Web site that makes it super-easy to look up the annual salaries and financial disclosures of congressional staffers. All this stuff is public information, mind you. But it used to be a pain to find: Hike up to Capitol Hill, descend into the bowels of a House office building and thumb through books filled with tiny type.
Friedly brought it all into mouse-click range. His site offers a trove to keep the snoopiest snoop occupied for hours -- bank accounts, investment portfolios, trust funds, even information about spouses. Wondering why so-and-so cruises to work in a Beemer? Aha, that's why: His wife's a big-shot partner at a law firm. It's all there in the reports.
Often, the site is one of the first things that pops up in a Google search of a staffer. It's enough to make many of them -- especially the most senior and highest-paid -- supremely cranky.
Jeff Loveng, chief of staff to Pennsylvania Republican congressman Bill Shuster, shot off an e-mail to Friedly calling him a "peeping Tom."
"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," wrote Loveng, who worries about identity theft and pesky sales calls from stockbrokers.
Others have taken the preferred Capitol Hill route -- trashing Friedly anonymously because their bosses frown on them speaking publicly about, well, almost anything. Internet chat rooms swell with outrage.
Friedly chuckles about all the fuss he's wrought with the site he's nicknamed "transparency's sidekick." In person, the scourge does not appear particularly menacing. He's a self-effacing, youngish-looking 40-year-old with thick, somewhat dowdy glasses, a nascent bald spot at the crown of his head and soft features. Nothing about him screams "bird of prey."
He's matter-of-fact, and utterly unmoved, by all these people who despise him and his site.
"I've never found it to be a problem to be a hated person," Friedly said one recent afternoon. "I'm perfectly happy when people are yelling at me."
The Salary Question
Going to work for the government has always involved trade-offs. When the public is your boss, it gets to ask annoying questions, like "How much do you make?" Still, that doesn't stop some public employees from viewing their salaries as a kind of taboo.