For Immediate Release: For More Information Contact:

Tuesday, July 5, 1994 Gary Ruskin (202) 296-2787

CAP Urges Free Online Access to Basic Government Information

Stating that "citizen access to basic government information is shamefully inadequate," the Congressional Accountability Project urged the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) to provide free online access to important government documents, including federal legislation, the Congressional Record, the Federal Register, voting records of members of Congress, Congressional Research Service reports, Federal Election Commission campaign disclosure filings, congressional reports and hearing records, the U.S. Code, and other documents.

"Many Americans are locked out of the political process because they do not have access to basic government information, such as the text of bills, or the Congressional Record," said Gary Ruskin, Director of the Congressional Accountability Project. "All Americans should have free and easy access to the information they need to participate in the workings of our federal government."

In a July 5 letter to Michael DiMario, the Public Printer, Ruskin stated that "Although we as a nation take pride in our democracy, in fact only a small privileged minority have the informational tools needed to access basic government information promptly. Since the majority of Americans cannot quickly, cheaply, and reliably gain access to the text of pending federal legislation, or the Congressional Record, or many other critical government documents, it is extremely difficult for most Americans to participate in the political and substantive argumentation surrounding the federal legislative process, or agency rule-making, or a congressional campaign, or a wide variety of other basic governmental processes."

"Without this basic information, most citizens become spectators in a political process which shapes their day-to-day lives. However, corporate and wealthy elites, which possess the money and political resources needed to access government information, have a greater capacity to affect governmental decision-making processes. Since basic government information is so expensive and inaccessible that only wealthy and corporate elites can afford to retrieve it, these elites are disproportionately powerful in our increasingly information-driven political system. Government resources naturally flow from the information poor to the information rich. This result is particularly ironic, grating, and unfair given the use of taxpayer dollars to generate government information in the first place."

"Free online access to basic government information would likely create substantial economic benefits. Citizens would be better able to observe and comment on congressional and federal agency decision-making, decreasing the likelihood of government waste, fraud, abuse, and boondoggles. Citizens would be more able to help legislators and agencies target government financial and service initiatives, which would make such initiatives more efficient and effective. An informed public is worth the trivial cost in information distribution."