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Policy Letter

POGO Joins Other groups in Asking Congress to Make CRS Reports Public and Online

Representative Darrell Issa

Chairman

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

2157 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

Representative Elijah Cummings

Ranking Member

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

B350A Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Issa and Ranking Member Cummings:

We are writing to ask you to quickly reintroduce legislation to authorize and promote the public distribution of reports that are published by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

As you know, CRS products are a valuable, non-partisan resource for informing discussion of nearly every topic of legislative activity, from agricultural subsidies to the space program. These reports play a critical role in our legislative process, and, when made available, inform the public debate about our nation’s policies. In the last two years alone, major newspapers cited the Congressional Research Service 779 times, with 70 mentions in the Washington Post and 65 in the New York Times. The U.S. Supreme Court has cited CRS 34 times and the circuit court made 112 citations, with 130 judicial citations in the last decade. We strongly believe, as we think you do, that improving public access to CRS reports would help to enrich public discourse and to promote informed citizen engagement in the political process.

We respect the confidentiality of CRS support to Members of Congress, and we have no wish to infringe upon it. We are seeking public access only to those "published" reports that are broadly available to any Member or staff person through the CRS intranet, and not to any private communications between CRS and an individual Member or office.

American taxpayers spend over $100 million a year to fund the CRS, yet current distribution of these reports is haphazard and often expensive. Several private companies now sell copies of these reports for a price, meaning these reports are readily available to lobbyists, executives and others who can afford to pay. Meanwhile, the vast majority of people lack the information necessary to even request reports from their Members of Congress. And the reports that are publicly available are often out-of-date. The public deserves a consistent and official way to access the non-classified, non-biased information CRS provides.

We urge you to act soon to help lead a formal revision of CRS publication policy in favor of public distribution of non-confidential reports. We will strongly support your efforts.

Representatives from the undersigned organizations would be happy to meet with you or your staff at any time to discuss this important issue. Please contact Daniel Schuman, Policy Counsel, Sunlight Foundation ([email protected] or 202-742-1520 x 273), at your convenience.

Sincerely,

American Association of Law LibrariesiSolon.org
American Association of University ProfessorsLiberty Coalition
American Library AssociationNational Coalition for History
American Society of News EditorsNational Security Counselors
Bill of Rights Defense CommitteeNorthern California Association of Law Libraries
Center for Fiscal AccountabilityOMB Watch
Center for Investigative Journalism- Puerto RicoOpenTheGovernment.org
Center for Media and DemocracyPoint of Order
Center for Responsive PoliticsProgressive Librarians Guild
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington – CREWProject On Government Oversight – POGO
Colgate University LibrariesPublic Citizen
Defending Dissent FoundationReporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Electronic Frontier FoundationSociety of Professional Journalists
Essential InformationSpecial Libraries Association
Federation of American ScientistsSunlight Foundation
Free Government InformationUnion of Concerned Scientists
Government Accountability Project – GAPWashington Coalition for Open Government
Investigative Reporters and EditorsWestern Carolina University Libraries
WildEarth Guardians

__________________________

This same letter was also sent to Senate leaders:

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman

Chairman

Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

340 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Senator Susan M. Collins

Ranking Member

Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

350 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510