CQ-Roll Call Group Loses Long Fight To Keep Lawsuit Documents Secret

Jun 08, 2010, 11:24 ET from Aristotle

Federal Court rules secret partnership agreement with NGP Software "improperly designated as confidential"

WASHINGTON, June 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A federal court has rejected the confidentiality claim of The CQ-Roll Call Group concerning its partnership with so-called Democratic firm NGP Software Inc. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia generally agreed that there was "no good faith basis whatsoever" for the parties to ask the Court to keep their business relationship secret.

Since 2007, Capitol Advantage LLC (now part of The CQ-Roll Call Group owned by The Economist Group) has fought to keep its partnership agreement with NGP under seal in a lawsuit between NGP and non-partisan rival Aristotle International, Inc. Under the now partially unsealed "PAC Partnership Agreement," CapAd was authorized to sell NGP's software to "corporations, trade associations and right-leaning 527s."

Aristotle has alleged in court that NGP has for years deceptively marketed itself by falsely claiming to serve "only Democrats and their allies," and NGP has filed counterclaims.  NGP now appears to have removed such marketing claims from its website.

In multiple court submissions over the last several years, CapAd has fought to be able to continue to conceal the true source of its "PACBuilder" software from its customers, who include numerous groups that heavily support Republicans. Despite having selectively disclosed the arrangement to some, CapAd claimed that "[it] would create confusion if its customers were to learn that NGP is the true developer of the software."

The court rejected this argument, and found that the NGP-CapAd agreement "was improperly designated as confidential." The court noted that the previously sealed agreement "ostensibly expired in January 2009, but NGP and Capitol Advantage have 'renewed their arrangement for another term ending on January 13, 2013.'"

The court's ruling effectively gives PACBuilder users the information they need to ask questions that will allow them to fairly evaluate CapAd's software, data security policies, and technical services under the "renewed" arrangement, as well as to determine whether they will need new software when the "renewed" arrangement with NGP expires.

"CapAd has been concealing this information from most of their customers since the deal was signed in 2004. That's a long time to pull the wool over their clients' eyes," said Aristotle CEO John Aristotle Phillips. "The court's ruling corrects an abuse by CapAd and NGP of the Court's protective order process and helps level the playing field. The newly unsealed information will give the political community reasons to question the candor and judgment of those running CQ-Roll Call," he added.

Phillips stated "CQ-Roll Call paid $43 million to buy CapAd in 2008.  Are they concerned that customer 'confusion' over the new revelations might lead to refunds?  A credible news organization would have been exposing this, instead of joining the cover-up. Those that purport to cover Congress were fighting in court to conceal embarrassing facts from their readers on the Hill."

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