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(c) 1995 THE HILL - The Capitol Newspaper  
Washington, D.C.  Vol. 2, No. 8  
Wednesday, February 22, 1995  
Reprinted with Permission  
Reposting Permitted if Reposted in its entirety.  
Page 1  
BY Doug Obey and Albert Eisele  
It was an obscure 96-word provision buried deep inside a   
bill to reauthorize the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980.    
But its seemingly innocuous language, inserted by a   
congressional aide, would have changed the rules of the game   
in the decade-long struggle over who controls access to   
hundreds of millions of dollars worth of information spawned   
by a vast array of government agencies.  
Most surprising of all, in a city where taking credit for   
authoring important legislation is an art form, no one was   
willing to claim responsibility for fathering what has   
become a legislative bastard.  But it's clear that two   
former House members who are lobbyists, one of whom is one   
of Newt Gingrich's closest friends, played a leading role in   
persuading the aide to insert the provision in the bill.  
By the time the din if the first information industry battle   
of the 104th Congress subsided last week, subsection 3518(f)   
of H.R. 830 had become a textbook example of how Congress   
sometimes operates to serve private interests.  
The legislative contretemps in the House Government Reform   
and Oversight Committee was triggered when a special   
interest provision favoring America's largest legal   
publisher was quietly inserted into a popular part of the   
Contract with America at the behest of its corporate   
Discovered at the last minute, it provoked a firestorm that   
had widespread and varied effects.  They Include  
--New committee chairman William Clinger (R-Pa.) lost one of   
the first tests of his leadership, after dramatic and at   
Page 12 --Continues from Page 1  
"How the West was lost: a Lobbying Saga" (4 Column   
times angry debate that included Republican charges that   
Democrats were practicing "McCarthyism";  
--West Publishing Co. of Eagan, Minn., headed by a major   
Democratic contributor and friend of President Clinton, saw   
its virtual monopoly over adding value to the huge   
storehouse of law generated by America's legal system   
threatened by public scrutiny it had brought on itself;  
--A battalion of lawyers, lobbyists, and corporate   
retainers, including a former Minnesota congressman who is   
one of Newt Gingrich's closest friends, were given black   
eyes in the media and forced to forgo hundreds of thousands   
of dollars in consulting fees.  
--A group of giant companies in the information industry   
nearly succeeded in cementing their effective control of   
information created at public expense by rewriting copyright   
law in a few sentences--something they have been trying to   
do in the courts for years.  
--An ad hoc coalition of smaller competitors, consumer   
groups, and information industry trade organizations   
favoring greater access to government data were galvanized   
into action by an electronic Paul Revere, who used the   
Internent to create an E-Mail lobbying juggernaut.  
That it was not merely a special interest provision for one   
company was clear--many other comparable large companies   
stood to gain along with West.  They include the Washington   
Post's LEGI-SLATE, which provides some information now   
available on the Library of Congress' THOMAS system, DIALOG,   
Dun and Bradstreet, and LEXIS, who manages the Security and   
Exchange Commission's EDGAR database.  
Understandably there are many conflicting accounts of what   
actually happened, but the one point on which everyone   
agrees is that the saga of subsection 3518(f) of the   
Paperwork Reduction Act is the biggest political and public   
policy fiasco of the 104th Congress.  
"I've been a legislator here for 10 years and I've never   
been embarrassed to own up to a provision I sponsored,"   
declared Rep. Ron Kanjorski (D-Pa.), who with Rep. John   
Spratt (D-S.C.) angered committee Republicans by calling   
attention to the issue.  They also scoffed at GOP claims   
that majority counsel Kevin Sabo was able to act alone in   
writing the offending language and inserting it into the   
Sabo tried to put the best face on his involvement.  "I lost   
the public relations battle," he said last week, after he   
was singled out at the Feb. 10 markup as the staffer who had   
inserted the provision into the Paperwork Reduction Act.  
However, Sabo told the Bureau of National Affairs that he   
was approached on behalf of West Publishing by two former   
Minnesota congressmen, Republican Vin Weber and Democrat   
Gerry Sikorski, with the suggested language.  The provision   
was designed to prevent government from expropriating the   
"value added" products of information companies.  
And although Sabo said he consulted with Clinton   
administration officials at the Office of Management and   
Budget about the West provision, sources said the inclusion   
of the language in the bill was a surprise.  
[[Picture of Former Rep. Gerry Sikorski]]  
"The person you need to talk to is Gerry Sikorski," said a   
lobbyist who said he was present at the committee markup of   
H.R. 830.  "I don't want to be thrown into this ," added the   
lobbyist, who like most people interviewed for this story   
refused to go on the record.  
Weber, who retired in 1988 after four terms in Congress,   
denied that he was involved in lobbying on behalf of West.    
"It sure was a good lobbying job, but I didn't have anything   
to do with it," said Weber who is a close personal friend of   
Speaker Gingrich.  "[Former Rep.] Gerry Sikorski  and his   
Republican partner did it."  
Sikorski, a partner in the Washington office of Schatz   
Paquin Lockridge Grindal & Holstein, the Minneapolis law   
firm that represents West Publishing, could not be reached   
for comment, nor could West president Vance Opperman.  
However, Sikorski's assistant Steve Johnson did not deny   
Sabo's comment that West spearheaded the lobbying effort.    
"I would not take issue with the chairman's counsel in terms   
of his characterization, " Johnson said, "[but] a number of   
other information companies [besides West] have supported   
the intent of the legislation. . .that's part of the   
democratic process."  
The culmination of that process began in late January,   
shortly after the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs   
reported out a similar bill. (S.244).  Then on Feb. 3, a   
Senate staffer faxed a copy of the bill to a public interest   
group, which in turn faxed it the same day to Jamie Love,   
executive director of the Ralph Nader-backed Taxpayer Assets   
Project, who discovered that a new subsection (f) had been   
added.  That's when things began to get interesting.  
"It had the effect of completely eliminating the public's   
rights under the Freedom of Information Act to any   
information produced by a private contractor," says Love,   
who immediately embarked on an Internet crusade to notify   
West[`s competitors and public information advocates.    
Committee staffers and lobbyists alike agree that the   
resulting barrage of e-mail and fax messages was ultimately   
crucial in defeating the amendment.  
"They had 19,000 people on their internet," said one   
lobbyist who was tracking the motion of the bill through   
By Wednesday, Feb. 8, the bill was reported out of Rep.   
David McIntosh's (R-Ind.) subcommittee on National Economic   
Growth, Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs with the   
soon-to-be controversial provision intact.  
But in the markup on Feb. 10, Chairman Clinger  referred to   
the bill as the "West Provision."  Democrats Kanjorski and   
Spratt demanded to know who was responsible and Spratt   
demanded that the matter should be referred to the Judiciary   
committee, which has jurisdiction over copyright matters.  
Rep. Tom Davis, a former general counsel with the data   
company PRC, Inc., offered a substitute amendment, which   
would have made clear that the bill was not intended to   
affect any pending lawsuits.  
Although Democrats tried to portray the proposal as a   
Republican special interest boondoggle, Republicans pointed   
out that West's president, Vance Opperman, is a major   
Democratic fundraiser and personal friend of President Bill   
Clinton, and had even been an overnight guest at the White   
According to Federal Election Commission records, Opperman   
gave $20,000 to the Democratic National Committee and $1000   
to the Clinton campaign in 1992.  At the same time, his   
father Dwight gave $100,000 to the DNC and $500 to Clinton.  
Nevertheless, it was the Republicans who were feeling the   
heat.  Tom Field of Tax Analysts claims that Rep. Collin   
Petersen (D-Minn.) told him that Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-  
Minn.) deserved credit for getting the  provision inserted   
into the bill. "It looks as though the West publishing   
provision is a homeless waif without a parent." Field said.  
Gutknecht, who was singled out as the member who asked Sabo   
to put the provision in the bill by Love's group (TAP),   
denied any involvement through his spokesman last Friday.    
"If I had a stack of Bibles under my arm, I'd say Gil knew   
absolutely nothing," a Gutknecht aide said.  "He's about   
ready to go after TAP for slander."  
And a spokesman for McIntosch, whose subcommittee had   
handled the bill just a few days earlier, was similarly   
unhelpful in clearing the confusion about the provision's   
authorship.  "I couldn't help you with any information on   
that," he said.  "it was in his committee, that is the   
extent of it.  So go home and enjoy the weekend, pal."  
On Feb. 10, Clinger made a final attempt to save the   
provision by scheduling a hearing the following week, but   
the hearing was never held.  
"it's been dropped like a dead weight," said Davis'   
spokesman.  "It doesn't have the support of the governmental   
committee to put it mildly, said Davis' office.  
Love, gleeful at what he saw as a major victory for his   
side, offered a final word. "There's a lot of lying about   
who did what, who lobbied whom."  
Even the critics of Minnesota-based West Publishing have   
high praise for its information products--annotated court   
opinions organized according to a citation system that has   
become the standard, and available on West's on-line   
database, Westlaw.  
"People will pay good money for what West sells," says Jamie   
Love, the executive director of the Taxpayers Assets   
Project.   "But they are still monopolizing an industry."  
For a century, West has held a de facto monopoly on the   
legal information field, and was so authoritative that the   
Department of Justice paid them to help maintain JURIS, its   
electronic database.  But in recent years, West has been   
fighting a series of legal battles in the face of increasing   
competition from a series of smaller, cut-rate electronic   
competitors intent on breaking West's monopoly by   
establishing a public domain citation system for legal   
"They are the people who want to do a quick hit..., who want   
to add nothing but frankly leech off others," Vance   
Opperman, President of West publishing, told The American   
Lawyer's Susan Hansen in September 1994. "[They are] the   
people who want to go into a room, take our books,...rip the   
covers off,...copy everything,...and pocket the dough."  
HyperLaw, a New York CD-ROM company, is suing West over its   
claim to copyrights on its page numbers which courts require   
in legal citations.  
When an electronic version is available and if the   
competition sets up a better notation system, then West is   
in trouble," said one House staffer.  "They are trying to   
forestall that time."  
"We are so small and West is so big," says Tom Field of Tax   
Analysts, a group seeking access to JURIS under the Freedom   
of Information Act.  Field is the secretary of the American   
Legal Publishers--a consortium pushing to open the legal   
information field up to smaller private vendors.  
West has been fighting hard to stop the competition from   
gaining an advantage.  Last fall, a proposal for a public   
database run by the Department of Justice was dropped after   
a letter from nine members of the Minnesota delegation to   
President Clinton voicing objections to the plan.  
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