Newt did -- and didnâ??t 

House Speaker Newt Gingrich wasted no time in posting independent counsel Kenneth Starr's report on President Clinton to the Internet. Unfortunately, he has not been as forthcoming with the work of Congress.

Gingrich has promised to put congressional documents online since 1994. In his first major speech after that year's Republican rout, he promised to "change the rules of the House" to require that all documents be filed electronically "so that information is available to every citizen in the country at the same moment it is available to the highest-paid Washington lobbyist." Working drafts of bills, for example, are routinely reviewed by lobbyists in private. But these so-called "chairman's marks" are not available to ordinary citizens, either on paper or online.

"It's easier to find stock market reports online than it is to see the text of a bill that would affect every American," rued Gary Ruskin, director of the nonprofit Congressional Accountability Project.

Lobbyist disclosure reports are another example. These are the records that show who paid lobbyists, and how much. Congress keeps these records on a computer. But they are only released on paper, and only to individuals who request them in person at a back room in the Capitol. The situation is similar for Congress' own financial disclosure and office expense reports.

Congressional Research Service reports and testimony given at public hearings is available online, but it isn't free. The only way to get these and many other public documents on the Internet is via expensive private services that cost thousands of dollars a year.

And when Gingrich does post sensitive information about Congress online, he never does it as swiftly as he did with the Starr report. Last year, for example, the Speaker took several days to get his own story straight before he allowed the House Ethics Committee to post a report about his misdeeds.

Tags: ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

April 21, 2021

View more issues


© 2021 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation