The United States Senate has announced that it will release expenditure data online for the first time ever, later this year. The release will be made by the end of November, two months after the six month period it covers has ended. Two and a half years after legislation requiring the data to be released was passed. In PDF format. (PDF is famously known as "where data goes to die.")

When the UK government released hundreds of thousands of pages of expense reports from its legislators two years ago, the news organization The Guardian organized a public campaign to split up all the records and hunt for notable disclosures. The publication referred to the heavily redacted records as "Blackoutgate" and "the great sleaze-hunt" in which "we humble taxpayers continue to plough through the sorry trough that is the MPs' expense claims to find out what they've been spending our money on."

The US Senate documents will presumably not be heavily redacted like the UK's were, but the data is none the less a far cry from what advocates of government transparency would like to see. UK records unearthed strange expenses like very overpriced office furniture, appliance repair, office supplies, food and art.

The watchdogs at the Sunlight Foundation say of the decision to release the US Senate data in PDF: "the Senate is getting by on a technicality, and reaching for the lowest common denominator. You can expect us to continue to try to get this released as a proper dataset -- more often than semi-annual, and perhaps most importantly, as structured data."