Clinton backs increasing access to federal records Corporate filings available free in test


SAN FRANCISCO -- In the clearest indication yet of the Clinton administration's willingness to offer broader public access to government information, the National Science Foundation is financing a project that will make corporate filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission available free via a computer network.

The decision to support the project, which will provide access to the SEC's on-line data base of financial data from America's public corporations, is a shift away from the federal information policies under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

Those administrations favored letting private companies sell printed and electronic versions of government data.

Although the National Science Foundation project, which will be announced today, is a test, it has broad implications for creating fast, inexpensive consumer access to public records of all sorts. The precedent could threaten the huge industry that has grown up to sell financial records, court cases and other public documents over services like Mead Data Central's Nexis and Lexis networks.

"This is a priority for this administration," said Michael Nelson, special assistant to the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology policy.

"This is another indication of the administration's commitment to make federal information more available to the taxpayers who paid for it," he said.

The project will make disclosure of information from corporations accessible to anyone who has access to the Internet computer network through a modem or a direct network link.

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