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
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."