Groups Want Taxpayer-Funded Reports Posted Online - InformationWeek

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4/2/2007
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Groups Want Taxpayer-Funded Reports Posted Online

The coalition is calling for the government to give Americans access to reports that cost taxpayers more than $100 million a year to fund.

A coalition of media, consumer, open government, library, labor, and advocacy groups are urging the federal government to make Congressional Research Service records available on the Internet.

The coalition, called Open the Government, sent letters to Congress last week calling for the government to give Americans access to reports that cost taxpayers more than $100 million a year to fund.

The reports detail political issues and are available to members of Congress through secure Web sites. Some private companies sell the records. Open government advocates argue that lobbyists and others can afford to pay the fee, while ordinary Americans don't even have information they need to request copies.

"Such inequitable access to taxpayer-funded government information should be anathema in an open society, but it is the predictable outcome of an archaic policy that never should have survived this long into the digital age," said Patrice McDermott, project director for Open the Government, in a prepared statement.

A Web site, which offers records that archivists and other have obtained, reports that visitors have downloaded the reports more than 3.5 million times in just over a year. The coalition is urging free access, while some members are calling for hearings on the issue.

The complaint about lack of Internet access to the reports follows similar complaints last month about federal agencies' lack of compliance with federal laws requiring public information to be posted online. The National Security Archive at George Washington University announced in March that only one in five federal agencies are in compliance with the 10-year-old Electronic Freedom of Information Act.

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