Giving the Public Access to Congress' 'Brain'

The flip-side of that argument is the idea that CRS reports may become politicized as members seek to have reports produced, not for the wealth of insight and information they contain but merely to prop up a political point.

Such sentiments may be sad reflections on the role of facts in policymaking, but these are not legitimate reasons to deny U.S. citizens access to information that they pay to produce.

Here, too, technological advancement has rendered moot the question of whether the public should have access to CRS reports.

For many years, commercial services have obtained the reports through their own channels and selling them for a fee. For lobbyists and other insiders who rely on the information, the fee is inconsequential, but for ordinary U.S. taxpayers, it means that they can only have ready access to the reports if they pay for them ... twice.

In 2008, 3 Million Reports Were Downloaded From OpenCRS.com

In 2005, my organization sought to address this disparity by creating Open CRS (www.opencrs.com), a Web site that collects and indexes CRS reports and makes them available to the public free of charge.

Just how popular is this free service? Last year, almost 3 million reports were downloaded from Open CRS.

We're proud of Open CRS, but it should not be viewed as the full solution. We don't have access to all the reports and can't always be sure what we're missing because, well, CRS doesn't even publish a publicly accessible index of their reports.

In any event, these are Congressional documents and the policy of making it hard for citizens to get the facts is a congressional policy. In an era of openness and transparency, it is Congress's responsibility to finally open CRS to the public.

The good news is that Congress may finally be coming to the same conclusion. Sen. Joseph Lieberman has proposed a resolution to make CRS reports available to the public.

He has been joined by six other senators. This isn't the first time that lawmakers have sought to end the long-obsolete CRS policy but, hopefully, the new spirit of openness that is sweeping Washington will help push this common-sense policy to passage.

Leslie Harris is president and CEO of the Center for Democracy and Technology.

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 7639245. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 7639245. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 7639245. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 7639245. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 7639245. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 7639245. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 7639245. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 7639245. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 7639245. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 7639245. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 7639245. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 7639245.
Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...