Ralph Nader
              P.O. Box 19312, Washington, DC 20036
                           James Love
                 Consumer Project on Technology
              P.O. Box 19367,  Washington, DC 20036
January 6, 2000

President William Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, D.C. 20500 

Dear Mr. President,

     We are writing to ask that you issue an Executive Order
setting procedures for every agency of the federal government to
place its contracts on the Internet. 

     We believe this initiative will help fundamentally change
the accountability of government agencies to the public, and
greatly reduce the number of poorly conceived contractual
agreements now issued by federal agencies.  We are in an era when
private firms spend public funds for a wide range of activities,
and there are daily transfers of public property to the private
sector for a variety of purposes and rationales.  The development
of the Internet has created a new opportunity to empower scholars
and the interested public to review and evaluate this growing and
profoundly important aspect of government and budget allocations.
     In referring to contracts, we are speaking broadly about a
wide range of written agreements, including such items as leases
for mineral rights from public lands, research grants, industry
government cooperative agreements, joint ventures with industry
for the development of energy efficient cars, contracts for
prison services, contracts with the independent counsel,
consulting contracts, agreements to dispose of nuclear wastes,
concession agreements for national parks, contracts for logging
on public lands, licenses to government owned patents on
biotechnology inventions such as the so called terminator seed
patent, licenses to use public spectrum for broadcasting and
telecommunications services, agreements with firms that do
security clearances for federal agencies, debt collection
contracts with private collection agencies, bank bailouts, loans
and loan guarantee agreements, and countless other agreements.

     At present there are wide disparities among federal agencies
with respect to access to government contracts. To its credit,
the US Department of Commerce has placed existing and proposed
contracts with the Internet Corporation for Names and Numbers
(ICANN) on the Internet for public inspection and comment. 
However, most agencies make it difficult or impossible to obtain
copies of government contracts.  There is no public depository
library that catalogs these documents for historical purposes.  

     For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) enters
into hundreds of agreements giving private firms and Universities
exclusive rights to use patent and other rights from billions of
dollars in federal research. The NIH refuses to disclose these
contracts except under freedom of information Act (FOIA)
requests, and even then only after long delays and typically with
extensive redactions, including, for example, NIH's suppression
of the amount of money or royalty rates private firms agree to
pay in return for commercial rights worth millions or even
billions of dollars. 

     Mike Palmedo and Shawn McCarthy recently investigated the
availability of government contracts to the public.  They
attempted to obtain 81 federal contracts that were listed in the
Washington Post on May 10, 17 or 24, 1999, by contacting both the
businesses and the government agencies that signed the contracts. 
We are attaching their notes.  In no cases were they able to
obtain copies of contracts from the businesses, and none of the
federal agencies voluntarily provided copies of the contracts.   

     The only mechanism available to Palmedo and McCarthy would
have been to file requests under FOIA, a process that would be
very time consuming, particularly when compared to making
contracts directly available on the Internet, and in too many
cases unsuccessful.  In a period when your Administration is
highlighting the brave new information age and the Internet and
is focusing on ways that e-commerce can make transactions faster
and more efficient, it is long overdue for you to harness this
technology to make government accountability work in Internet

     After we receive your reply, we would like to meet with
officials from your Administration to discuss this proposal


Ralph Nader

James Love

cc:  Palmedo and McCarthy notes on access to government