AALL formally supports the "Congressional Openness Resolution" (S. Res. 21) and is among the signatories of a broad based coalition letter of endorsement to Senators John McCain and Patrick Leahy. Please note, as you read the following announcement from the Congressional Accountability Project (CAP), that S. Res. 21 covers not only CRS reports but also committee documents (including hearing transcripts). In addition, note under Sec. 3 (b) the inclusion of GPO Access as a finding tool:
"(b) DIRECTORY- The Superintendent of Documents, under the Direction of the Public Printer in the Government Printing Office, shall include information about the documents made available on the Internet under this section in the electronic directory of Federal
electronic information required by section 4101(a)(1) of title 44, United States Code."
Please contact your Senator and urge her/him to co-sponsor this resolution. Be sure to note the importance of:
- timely access to CRS information and congressional documents (fyi, choose from the list of these materials in the CAP notice those that are especially important to you, such as hearing transcripts);
- the importance of GPO Access' electronic directory as a centralized finding tool for all congressional information;
- and PLEASE ADD what the bill fails to address, the need to ensure permanent public access to these important electronic publications. Drafters of the resolution neglected to add a provision about permanent public access--so it's very important that you educate your Senator about the need for PPA to these materials.
Additional talking points follow.
Thank you very much, Mary Alice
Congressional Reform Briefings February 15, 2001
Support Senate measure to put key congressional documents on the Internet.
U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Pat Leahy (D-VT) introduced a Senate resolution yesterday to place important congressional documents on the Internet, including Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports and Issue Briefs, CRS Authorization and Appropriations products, lobbyist disclosure reports and Senate gift disclosure reports. The resolution (S. Res. 21) is co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) and Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT).
CRS reports are among the best research done by the federal government. The McCain-Leahy resolution would put about 2700 CRS reports on the Internet. In an notable affront to citizens and taxpayers, these reports are available to Members of Congress and their staff on an internal congressional intranet -- which is closed to the public -- even though the taxpayers will spend $73.4 million to fund CRS operations during fiscal year 2001. To read abstracts of CRS reports, see the Pennyhill Press website which sells the reports to the
public for $49 for up to five reports.
The House of Representatives recently initiated a pilot project to place some CRS reports on the Internet. Several hundred CRS reports are now available on the website of Representative Chris Shays (R-CT), at http://www.house.gov/shays/CRS/CRSProducts.htm.
The resolution would put lobbyist disclosure reports on the Internet, which could help citizens to track patterns of influence in Congress, and to discover who is paying whom how much to lobby on what issues. In another affront to citizens and taxpayers, these reports are computerized, but are made available to the public on Capitol Hill, not on the Internet.
"Citizens need easy access to these documents to discharge their civic duties," said Gary Ruskin, director of the Congressional Accountability Project. "Taxpayers deserve ready access to the documents they pay to create."
The resolution is endorsed by the Alliance for Democracy, American Association of Law Libraries, American Conservative Union, American Library Association, American Federation of Government Employees, American Society of Newspaper Editors, AOL Time-Warner, Better Government Association, Center for Democracy and Technology, Center for Media Education, Center for Responsive Politics, Common Cause, Computer
Professionals for Social Responsibility, Congressional Accountability Project, Consumer Federation of America, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Federation of American Scientists, Friends of the Earth, Government Accountability Project, Intel Co., National Federation of Press Women, National Newspaper Association, National Security Archive, National Taxpayers Union, OMB Watch, Progressive Asset Management Inc., Project on Government
Oversight, Public Citizen, RealNetworks Inc., Reform Party of the USA, Regional Reporters Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Society of Professional Journalists, Taxpayers for Common Sense and U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG).
Congress has yet to put its most important documents on the Internet, including:
- A searchable database of congressional voting records, indexed by bill name, subject, title, Member name, etc.;
- Key texts of bills (especially committee prints, discussion drafts,
chairman's marks and manager's marks);
- All Congressional Research Service reports and products;
- Draft committee and conference reports;
- Lobbying disclosure reports;
- Committee and subcommittee mark-up transcripts;
- All congressional hearing transcripts and written testimonies; and,
- Congressional expenditure reports, such as the Statements of
Disbursements of the House and the Secretary of the Senate reports.
"Congress has been shamefully slow to put its most important documents on the Internet," Ruskin said. "The McCain-Leahy resolution is a good step towards placing the work product of Congress on the Internet."
In 1822, James Madison explained why citizens must have government information: "A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which
The measure contains a Sense of the Senate resolution that Senate and Joint Committees should "provide access via the Internet to publicly-available committee information, documents and proceedings, including bills, reports and transcripts of committee meetings that are open to the public."
FOR MORE INFORMATION
about the failure of Congress to put its documents on the Internet, see the Congressional Accountability Project's website at
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
Please ask your U.S. Senators to co-sponsor S. Res. 21. The
congressional switchboard phone number is (202) 225-3121. To find out who your Members of Congress are, as well as their phone numbers, fax numbers and e-mail addresses, see
The Congressional Accountability Project opposes corruption in the U.S. Congress.
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PLEASE DISTRIBUTE WIDELY
Gary Ruskin - Congressional Accountability Project
1611 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite #3A - Washington, DC 20009
Phone: (202) 296-2787 - Fax (202) 833-2406