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Critics say Tester’s government transparency bill is too vague

Sen. Jon Tester’s government transparency bill, the Public Online Information Act of 2010, is drawing some criticism from lobbyists for government contractors and from some transparency advocates, writes Aliya Sternstein at NextGov.

Tester’s bill would require federal agencies to put all their public records online for free and to make them searchable. I have written about it a couple of times already.

Lobbyists for federal contractors and some open government supporters say the language in the bill is too vague, Sternstein writes.

Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, which represents government contractors, said the bill “could well lead to the public exposure of a wide variety of proprietary, company sensitive, employee and/or security sensitive information.”

Soloway also said that some information about federal contracts is already online.

The group OMB Watch also told NextGov that the bill’s language needed to be clarified.

“For example, does it mean all records of the contractor?” said Gary Bass, the group’s executive director. “If only the federal records, where is that line drawn? Is budget information about the contractor a federal record? What if the contractor is 100 percent funded by federal funds? How about if only 10 percent? And does the contractor get to appeal — with clear and convincing evidence — for an exemption?”

Tester had this response to concerns over privacy issues related to contractors: “If they don’t like it, that’s too bad. I think this is information that the public should have.”