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SBA Appeals Federal Court Ruling to Release Contracting Data

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The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has decided to appeal a United States District Court ruling against them, directing the agency to release the specific names of all recipients of federal small business contracts during fiscal years (FY) 2005 and 2006. The case was filed by the American Small Business League (ASBL) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) after the SBA refused to comply with the ASBL's request. The ASBL requested the data to prove that during the Bush Administration most small business contracts were actually awarded to Fortune 500 firms.

The SBA's decision to appeal the case is the latest in a series of moves by the Bush administration to limit the public's access to information regarding federal small business contracting programs.

Even though the SBA is responsible for virtually every aspect of federal small business contracting programs and policy, the SBA has attempted to convince the court that they do not possess any information regarding the specific names of firms that received federal small business contracts. In an August 25, 2008 court hearing, SBA lawyers told United States District Court Judge Marilyn H. Patel that the information requested by the ASBL was "not an agency record."

Judge Patel disagreed and ruled against the SBA. In the court's summary judgment, Patel held that not only was the information requested by the ASBL an agency record, but the SBA was even responsible for compiling the data. As a result of the court's decision, the SBA will be required to pay the legal fees incurred by the ASBL during the course of litigation. (pdf)

The ASBL's case against the SBA will now go to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Court documents indicating the SBA's justification for appealing the case have not been released.

"The Small Business Administration's willingness to take this matter to the 9th Circuit Court should be an indication to the media, public and Congress that transparency is not a priority for the SBA at this time. We can see no legal theory which would support an appeal of the district court's decision," attorney for ASBL, Robert Belshaw, said.

In addition to its decision to appeal the Federal District Court ruling, the SBA is also refusing to comply with a second ASBL Freedom of Information request for the names of firms that received federal small business contracts during 2001 through 2004.
To date, the SBA has also refused to release the government's small business contracting statistics for FY 2007, which ended almost a year ago.

It's obvious the Bush administration has something to hide. Why else would they be willing to go to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals over simple information that should be readily available to every citizen? Since 2002, there have been 15 federal investigations) that have found the Bush administration has diverted billions of dollars in federal small business contracts to large corporations. That is the real reason the SBA is withholding this data, particularly this close to an election. I am confident we will win this case. I won my first FOIA case against the Defense Department in the 9th Circuit Court back in 1994. I've won every FOIA case I have ever filed against the Bush administration, and I'll win this one too.