Saturday, February 04, 2006

NYT Defends SSDP Against White House Bullying

Last year, the Department of Education demanded $4,000 of SSDP's lunch money in return for public information regarding the drug provision of the Higher Education Act. SSDP has taken a stand against the federal government's bullying, and today, the New York Times took our back:

The High Cost of Public Information

The Bush administration has made a habit of keeping public information from the very public that owns it. A good example can be found at the United States Department of Education. After dragging its feet for months, the agency has asked a tiny nonprofit group to pay a ruinous sum for information on the impact of a law that bars students who have committed drug offenses from receiving federal grants and loans.

The law, which cuts off former offenders from receiving financial help even when the crimes they committed were minor and long ago, has become a subject of intense debate. Congress recently approved changes that should moderate some of the law's most destructive effects. Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a small nonprofit group, asked the Department of Education to provide a simple state-by-state breakdown of the people who have been denied aid under the law so far. But the department demanded more than $4,000 for this information, an amount the group clearly could not afford. The government argued that the request was not in the public interest and implied that Students for Sensible Drug Policy had some commercial interest in seeking it. These claims are both implausible.

The fee represents an increasingly common tactic that is used by the government to discourage public inquiries. The student group has acquired pro bono representation and filed suit in federal court. Members of Congress could end the battle by requesting the information on the group's behalf. Beyond that, Congress should reinforce the Freedom of Information law — which was meant to prevent this kind of thing in the first place.
Congrats to SSDP's national staff on working with the New York Times to get this important issue covered. To help with SSDP's lawsuit, donate today and sign up for SSDP's action alerts.


800 pound gorilla said...

I'm sorry but I keep having to say this: the government does not keep information and statistics about embarrassing information that it can't use. They don't keep track of drug dependencies. I should know: there are no stats on the level of drug dependencies - which are all due[by definition] to health problems. They only keep track of information that those in authority want them to track.

It will cost the Department of Education money to compile those statistics. They don't have them readily available. They didn't keep them when Clinton was in office either so the problem isn't exclusively Bush's.

Clinton administration kept as many kids off student aid as GW has. Clinton increased the prison rolls much more than Bush. Admittedly, GW couldn't do any better than Clinton because there seems to be a threshold of incarceration that states and their taxpayers will tolerate.

Both parties make a ton of money from pharmaceutical companies. They don't consider drug dependencies to be a problem - especially if their benefactors have record profits thanks to these health problems. They don't consider students denied aid because of drug convictions a problem. This provision was a feel good measure added to make the legisliars look "tough on drugs" to constituents. They really don't care how many peoples' lives are affected or how little the provision actually accomplishes: they took a stand against "dangerous drugs"!

What I find ridiculous is the fact that - despite my shrill efforts - no news editor has publicized the fact that the DEA and the FDA both operate with no standards for restrictions whatsoever. Their so called "protection for consumers and taxpayers" is a total hoax. There is no clear line between easily available drugs, restricted access or criminalization. Drugs pass easily between these designations with impunity. It's all based on politics. If you have the money you can get any drug legally available or criminalized. If any other product was openly restricted in this arbitrary a manner the public would be outraged. Of course the fact that no newspaper will dare point out this fact seems to indicate that - while nobody is openly denying this fact - no denial is required. Like all scams and hoaxes they rely on people to make false assumptions.

Anonymous said...

What are you basing your case on? Double jeopardy? That will NEVER work and only good for press coverage. In order to be considered double jeopardy you have to be trialed or sentenced twice in court. HEA drug repeal though an unfortunate conseqence does not fall in to this category at all. Get a clue!

Anonymous said...

The lawsuit mentioned in this post is based on the SSDP's eligibility to be granted a fee waiver under the Freedom of Information Act.

SSDP is working on another suit with the ACLU that will challenge the constitutionality of the Drug Provision itself, but that suit wasn't mentioned in this post.