Bill Would Require All Public Documents to Be Online

Online, and on a system where those public documents would be freely searchable.

Transparency indeed.

It certainly would cut out a lot of garbage about things being hidden, or how certain interpretations are made. If you want to know the facts, look them up – no third parties to add spin or comment.

Senator John Tester (D – Montana) is the one pushing this bill, which should have no detractors, as it has been made clear how little effort it would take, and that no work to bring older documents online would be made – the bill would only affect things ongoing from its adoption.


A U.S. senator has introduced legislation that would require U.S. government agencies to post all public documents online in a free, searchable database.

Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, said the Public Online Information Act is part of an effort to bringing accountability to the federal government.

“Montanans sent me to the Senate partly to help clean up Washington, and I’m doing just that,” Tester said. “A little sunshine on government is always a good thing.”

The bill, introduced Tuesday, is similar to a piece of legislation introduced by Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat, in March. Tester’s bill would require all public documents, including government contracts, to be posted online within three years. Classified documents would be exempted.

The bill would also set up an independent advisory committee that would issue recommendations for all three branches of the U.S. government to make documents available online. The bill requires only executive branch agencies to put documents online, but that’s where the majority of government documents reside, Tester said during a press conference.

The bill “will blaze a new path toward transparency and accountability,” Tester said. “Some bureaucrats in Washington think they’re being transparent when they load up millions of pages of paper into a box and ship them off to a warehouse somewhere. They may be public documents, but if you need them, you might have to go there and sift through them yourself or wait ages for copies of your own.”

The cost of the bill would be minimal, Tester said. The bill applies to government documents going forward, not to old documents, he said.

Among the documents that would be required to be put online: details about executive agency travel paid for by outside parties; details of lobbying activity; and financial disclosures by government officials.

Tester was the first member of Congress to post his daily public schedule on his Web site, and he has banned all gifts, meals and travel from lobbyists to himself and his staff.

This would certainly change the way that lobbying works, or doesn’t. If everyone made a similar pledge, or cut the gifts, meals, and other inducements to a minimum, the country would work more in a state of merit-based decisions, and that could never be a bad thing.


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