Public Access Project (Illinois)
The Project is a not-for-profit civic association created to enhance public empowerment in state and local government in Illinois by pressing governmental officials to obey both the letter and spirit of laws requiring open government. Citizen knowledge is truly citizen power, best maximized by expanding the effectiveness of the state's adequate, but inadequately enforced, laws. Led by veteran government reformer and public interest lawyer Richard K. Means, the Public Access Project works toward this goal by filing Freedom of Information Act requests on behalf of media and citizens and by utilizing computers and the Internet to collect, analyze, and broadly publish the public information held by governments and the public disclosures made by lobbyists, office holders and candidates. When patient and polite requests do not result in prompt and full disclosure, the Public Access Project has both the resources and the readiness to litigate to enforce the laws. The Project is intended to be a demonstration project in the use of low-cost computer technology for the gathering, analysis, and publication of government records in reports that are easily accessible, understandable and usable by both news media and the public. The Public Access Project demonstrates how citizen action can leverage media, public opinion, and electoral action – thereby opening the processes of government and exposing the interests of those who govern. Ultimately, our aim is to encourage governmental officials into facilitating broader accessibility, and even publication, of public information. Through alternating threats of litigation and offers of assistance, some units of government are particularly induced by our gracious willingness to let them take the credit for reforming themselves. When numerous sources of public information are analyzed and compared, errors, inconsistencies and omissions often are more informative about conflicts of interest, honesty and candor than are each source when considered separately. As a not-for-profit civic organization, the Public Access Project does not reach conclusions about the performance in office or the fitness for office of any incumbent or aspiring office holder, it only exposes relevant information for the public's and, more importantly, for the electorate's judgment.