The values candidate

When Rick Santorum was in the Senate, he introduced a bill that would have turned off open access to data from the US National Weather Service. The NWS would still provide the data free of charge to for-profit, private-sector companies like AccuWeather, who could then sell it to the public without "competition" from the government.

Santorum received significant campaign contributions from AccuWeather and other private, for-profit weather companies. As a result, we can't say that Santorum has a principled objection to open access for publicly-funded research and data. But we can say that he opposes what his major donors oppose.

See my 20 blog posts on his bill, mostly from April and May 2005, <http://goo.gl/z32Zv>. Here are four comments from others at the time:

(1) From David Bollier in On the Commons, May 4, 2005, <http://goo.gl/zhj9a>: "AccuWeather...accuses the government of undercutting its business, and has now prevailed upon Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania to introduce legislation (S. 786) that would require the National Weather Service to suppress a lot of its data....AccuWeather relies upon the Weather Service's free data, then charges 15,000 customers for its proprietary work-ups. For AccuWeather/Santorum to demand that the Weather Service shut off public access to its data is essentially asking that AccuWeather be given a lucrative monopoly and have the public pay for it. Should libraries be shut down because they "compete" with bookstores? Should the national parks be eliminated because they offer an alternative to Kampgrounds of America? The Santorum bill is really about rank protectionism – for a cry-baby business and a vulnerable political ideology. AccuWeather wants a subsidized, competition-free business, and Republican ideologues want to stamp out a "bad example" of government meeting public needs more efficiently than private businesses. Making weather data (or court opinions or SEC filings) available as an open-access public good actually stimulates more business activity than awarding it to a fat-and-happy monopolist. An open-source data platform is more likely to stimulate innovation than a closed, proprietary one...."

(2) From Maeve Reston in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 26, 2005, <http://goo.gl/WsxKB>: "Some have criticized [Santorum's bill] as a giveaway primarily intended to help Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather, whose employees have contributed to Santorum's campaign fund. But a spokeswoman for the senator dismissed that assertion as being without merit. Foes of the legislation view the bill as a major change to the role the National Weather Service plays, one that could drastically restrict free information for the public as well as airplane pilots and farmers, who are among some 6 million people who each day access weather service data on the Web pages of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA...."The legislation appears to be aimed at restricting or closing off a free information service for consumers and, in turn, benefiting one or two big companies that sell weather forecasts and other information," said [Dan McLaughlin, spokesman for Sen. Bill Nelson]. "For Pete's sake, no one suggests shutting down the post office because FedEx has a system of delivery," McLaughlin said. But private weather companies have argued that the legislation is necessary to protect their rights in the marketplace. One of the companies advocating for the bill is AccuWeather in State College, Pa., whose employees have contributed at least $5,500 to Santorum since 1999, according to Federal Election Commission reports."

(3) From Kimberly Hefling in the Associated Press, May 27, 2005, <http://goo.gl/aSTR0>. "Two days before Sen. Rick Santorum introduced a bill that critics say would restrict the National Weather Service, his political action committee received a $2,000 donation from the chief executive of AccuWeather Inc., a leading provider of weather data. The disclosure has renewed criticism of the measure, which Santorum, R-Pa., maintains would allow the weather service to better focus on its core mission of getting threatening weather info out in a "timely and speedy basis." Opponents say the bill would endanger the public by preventing the dissemination of certain weather data, and force taxpayers to pay for the data twice...."I think the timing of it is what makes it so suspect," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government....Combined, Joel Myers and his brother, Barry Myers, AccuWeather's executive vice president, have donated more than $11,000 to Santorum and the Republican Party since 2003, according to FEC filings compiled by PoliticalMoneyLine, a campaign finance tracking group....Dan McLaughlin, press secretary for Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, which is home to the weather service's National Hurricane Center, said the April 12 donation is suspect. Nelson has written to President Bush in opposition to the bill. "It certainly raises questions about motivation as to why someone would push a policy that is so obviously crummy," McLaughlin said....When four hurricanes struck Florida last year, the weather service Web site received 9 billion hits, Nelson said...."

(4) From an editorial in the Chicago Tribune, June 20, 2005, <http://goo.gl/qpDRP>: "Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) argues that the National Weather Service has an unfair competitive advantage against commercial weather businesses. He makes no secret of the fact that more than a dozen of those private companies happen to be based in his state, where he happens to be running for re-election. Santorum has a bill that would require the National Weather Service to give much of its data only to private companies like AccuWeather and WeatherBank, which repackage the taxpayer-funded information for radio and TV and the like to make their tidy profits. The bill appears to block the Weather Service from providing this information directly to the public. The public would still pay to collect this information. It just wouldn't have access to what it's paying for. Come again? ...

#oa, #opendata, #santorum, #lapdog, #corruption,
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