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Judge orders SBA to release contracting data

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  1. Freedom of Information
The United States Small Business Association (SBA) must reveal the names of businesses to which it provides government contracts, U.S.…

The United States Small Business Association (SBA) must reveal the names of businesses to which it provides government contracts, U.S. District Judge Marilyn H. Patel ruled Tuesday.

The American Small Business League (ASBL) requested lists of the companies classified by the SBA as “small businesses” in an attempt to prove that the Bush administration inflated the federal small business contracting reports for fiscal years 2005 and 2006 by including billions of dollars in contracts to Fortune 500 companies, according to ASBL spokesman Chris Gunn. The ASBL first requested the information under the Freedom of Information Act in September 2007.    

The ASBL estimates it has spent $100,000 in attorney fees on matters involving the SBA. In order to recover attorney fees under FOIA, they would need a separate judicial ruling for fees, Gunn said. In 2005, the ASBL was successful in recovering attorney fees in a similar suit against the SBA.    

“Our hope is to blaze a trail for other organizations because very few individuals have the resources to obtain this kind of information from the federal government,” Gunn said.

The ASBL most recently filed a FOIA request to gain access to the e-mail records of Mike Stamler, the director of the SBA press office, who the league believes may have contacted reporters to make false statements regarding the ASBL’s investigation, Gunn said. The ASBL said it received a “partial reply” to this request.    

Stamler said the agency is complying with the requests, though he said the classification information is available through another agency, the General Services Agency, and not something the SBA normally may access.    

“We’ve given more than 12,000 e-mails in installments,” he said. “We have the right to review them before we send them.”