Free Access to CRS Reports – 2 new sign-on letters – sign-on by April 4

> ———- Forwarded message from “OpentheGovernment.ORG ———-
> From: “Amy Fuller”
> Date: Mar 24, 2011 10:49 AM
> Subject: [openhouseproject] Free Access to CRS Reports – 2 new sign-on
> letters – sign-on by April 4
> To:
>
> Hi everyone (apologies for cross listing),
>
> We are circulating two new letters promoting free, online access to > CRS
> reports. The letters were drafted in cooperation with Steve > Aftergood of the
> Federation of American Scientists and Daniel Schuman of the Sunlight
> Foundation. One is to members of the Legislative Branch Appropriations
> Subcommittee requesting they no longer use language from past > appropriations
> bills that prohibit CRS from expending funds to make its products > publicly
> available; the second is to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the > Senate
> Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the House
> Oversight and Government Reform Committee asking that they introduce
> legislation to authorize and promote the public distribution of CRS > reports.
> Text of the letters is below.
>
> Sign-ons for all the letters should be sent to me (
> afuller@openthegovernment.org) by *noon on Monday, April 4*. Please > help us
> spread the word!
>
> Thanks,
>
> Amy Bennett
> OpenTheGovernment.org
>
>
> ****
>
> *Leg Branch letter*
>
> Dear [Legislative Branch Subcommittee member]:
>
> We are writing to ask you untie the hands of the Congressional > Research
> Service so that the agency has the option of allocating funds to > make its
> reports publicly available.
>
> Prior legislative branch appropriations language prohibits CRS from
> expending funds to make its products publicly available. This archaic
> provision no longer makes practical sense. It runs counter to the > principles
> of government openness and transparency. And its original purpose is
> undercut by the fact that many CRS products are already available to > the
> public from the Constitution Annotated to bill summaries to a > significant
> subset of CRS reports.
>
> Removing this language would eliminate a legislative stumbling block > that
> currently frustrates efforts to promote the authorized publication > of these
> reports. Its elimination would not necessarily result in more CRS > reports
> becoming publicly available. Rather, it would clear the way so that a
> decision made on the merits of the question could readily be > implemented. We
> are not asking for any new authorization or appropriation for this > purpose.
>
> In support of the requested action, we would note the following:
>
> * 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. 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.
>
> * These reports play a critical role in our legislative process, > and, when
> made available, inform the public debate about our nations 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
> alone.
>
> * More than ten thousand CRS reports have already been made publicly
> available by commercial vendors and by public interest groups, with no
> adverse effect on CRS performance.
>
> * We are not asking you to make the decision regarding whether CRS > reports
> should be publicly available. Instead, we are asking you to smooth > the way
> should such a decision be reached.
>
> We therefore urge you to remove the statutory obstacle to authorized
> distribution of non-confidential CRS reports, and to help promote > their
> distribution in an effective manner.
>
> 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 Amy Bennett, Program Associate, OpenTheGovernment.org (
> afuller@openthegovernment.org or 202-332-6736), at your convenience.
>
> ********
>
> *Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs > letter*
>
> Dear Senators Lieberman and Collins:
>
> 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 nations 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 know you do from your past leadership on this issue, > 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 (
> dschuman@sunlightfoundation.com or 202-742-1520 x 273), at your
> convenience.
>
> *******
>
> *House Oversight and Gov Reform letter*
>
> Dear Representatives Issa and 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 nations 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 (
> dschuman@sunlightfoundation.com or 202-742-1520 x 273), at your
> convenience.
>
> * *

About Bruce

Work for sustainable development of small islands; ex-Peace Corps (Volunteer and staff) in LA & Caribbean; cruised Caribbean on S/Y Meander for three years; like small tropical islands, French canals, Umbria, Tasmania, and NZ. Married 50 years. Former President (1995 to 2016) of Island Resources Foundation.
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