Here is a summary from WisBlog, “Exclusive Rights to GAO Legislative Histories Sold to Thomson West?” (thanks, Bonnie!), with links to relevant documents and related stories (and here is the one from the Law Librarian Blog).
Excerpt from Boing Boing story, “Did the US gov’t sell exclusive access to its legislative history to Thomson West?” :
“John Wonderlich of the Sunlight Foundation alerted me to a situation about a month ago that we’ve been pursuing (with EFF’s help) at the Government Accountability Office, which is an arm of the U.S. Congress.
The law librarians at GAO have compiled complete federal legislative histories from 1915 on. These are the definitive dossiers that track a bill through the hearing process and into law. If you want to divine the intent of Congress, this is where you go.
GAO cut a contract with Thomson West to have these documents scanned. Thomson West claims they have exclusive access to these public documents and even go so far as to boast that you should purchase this exclusive “product” from West because the GAO law librarians (public employees!) have done all the work for you! ….”