Ask Congress To Make Public Domain Congressional Research Service's Reports Public

from the yes,-please dept

A couple of years ago, we wrote about how the Congressional Research Service's reports were technically public domain, but were often hidden from the public by a Congress, who doesn't want you to see the CRS reports. That's because CRS is known for publishing research that is non-partisan, extremely credible and useful. And, of course, our elected officials in Congress don't want that sort of information out there. They prefer the information that's been spun to their political advantage first. Wikileaks has been able to publish some CRS reports, but a ton of CRS stuff still remains hidden, even though it's technically public domain.

A bunch of organizations are trying to change that. 38 groups have sent a letter to Congress asking them to open up and release CRS research. The full letter is included after the jump, but this is a proposal that really should be supported by the public. Check it out, and if you agree, add your voices to those pushing to finally open up this valuable resource to the public who paid for it.February 25, 2010

James H. Billington
Librarian of Congress
The Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20540

Dear Dr. Billington:

We the undersigned organizations concerned with government openness and accountability are writing to urge you to appoint a Director of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) who will work with Congress to provide online free public access to the unclassified, non-confidential, taxpayer-funded reports produced by CRS.

The public needs access to these non-confidential CRS reports in order to discharge their civic duties. American taxpayers spend over $100 million a year to fund the CRS, which generates detailed reports relevant to current political events for lawmakers. But while the reports are non-classified, and play a critical role in our legislative process, they have never been made available in a consistent and official way to members of the public.

Predictably, to fill the public void left by the CRS, several private companies now sell copies of these reports at a price. This means that non-confidential CRS 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.

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 knowledge gives." In the spirit of Madison, we ask you to appoint a Director of CRS who will help advance the goal of online free public access to CRS reports.

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, ( or 202-332-6736), at your convenience.


American Association of Law Libraries
American Library Association
American Society of News Editors
Association of Research Libraries
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Center for Democracy and Technology
Center for Media and Democracy
Center for Responsive Politics
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
Defending Dissent Foundation, Inc.
Essential Information
Federation of American Scientists
Free Government Information
Government Accountability Project (GAP)
Knowledge Ecology International
Liberty Coalition
National Coalition Against Censorship
National Freedom of Information Coalition
National Security Counselors
No More Guantanamos
OMB Watch
Point of Order
Project On Government Oversight (POGO)
Public Citizen
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Society of Academic Law Library Directors
Society of Professional Journalists
Special Libraries Association
Sunlight Foundation
University of Missouri Freedom of Information Center
Washington Coalition for Open Government

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  1. identicon
    Jose_X, 2 Mar 2011 @ 10:38pm

    Re: Re:

    >> If you want to "hurt" the elite take away their "insider" advantage by drastically simplifying the tax laws.

    I agree with the essence of your comment that we want to work towards a situation where there is a true level playing field for all people (if that is what you were hinting at), but there are many variables. Progressive taxes are the final equilizer.

    Note that people start off totally different. While one gets a loving family, interesting valuable education, access, etc, another doesn't even have parents that can read well and perhaps beat the kid often. These two children will never really be on a level playing field. We will never be in a situation where a flat tax will do justice to citizens.. this even as we try to fix wrongs and level fields. Progressive taxes are not the answer but are the final equilizer as we seek a better solution to what exists.

    From this perspective, if it makes sense to you, we can see that, while there might be some disincentive to the wealthy from progressive taxes, we have to match that with the fact that many who are not wealthy also have to deal with the great disincentive that is their own tax burden where they have much less disposable income and many fewer levers to "combat" some others in the market place.

    If we cater to the wealthy and their ideal state, we have a much greater social and economic opportunity cost from the many more that recognize they are working on a biased field.

    I generally believe, for individual fairness, that people should have similar opportunities (impossible to measure, but this is a model/ideal I am talking about). And I believe that this overlaps with what is maximal social gain because all being mostly equal I think anyone can do roughly what anyone else could otherwise do (meaning I don't think genes create such vast differences.. for the most part subtle ones but which magnify (butterfly effect) as a person responds to environment minute by minute).

    And part of the problem with unbalanced field is that their will be a tendency for those favored to end up further ahead at the end of the day (year). This tendency, absent feedback mechanism (eg, like progressive yearly and like death taxes), would produce a very skewed wealth/control/happiness/etc distribution.

    This is a Union of the majority. ("to promote the general welfare" not the welfare of a minority).

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