Once again, Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) has introduced a resolution in the Senate to put non-confidential Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports online. Heather West at the Center for Democracy & Technology’s “PolicyBeta” blog writes that a solid bi-partisan group of senators have joined Lieberman as co-sponsors. S. Res. 118 is a Senate resolution, which means the Senate Rules Committee and an overall Senate vote are all that’s needed to open the reports to the public — who paid for them to be produced in the first place.
CRS is a $100 million funded “think tank” housed in the Library of Congress that researches and writes reports for Congressional lawmakers and their staff on current topics. They include serious and smart analysis, and the reports are well worth reading if you are interested in the hot issues of the day. These reports exist on an internal server on the Hill, but the public is denied access to them. The only way you can get them in by calling a lawmaker’s office and requesting a copy. (Of course, how do you know to ask about a report if its existence isn’t publicly listed someplace…A classic Washington Catch-22.)
Open CRS, a CDT project and Sunlight grantee, provides citizens access to CRS Reports already in the public domain and encourages Congress to provide public access to all CRS Reports. OpenCRS gets their copies from various people who choose to ‘liberate’ them. WikiLeaks, a Web site that publishes anonymous submissions and leaks of sensitive governmental, corporate, or religious documents, while attempting to preserve the anonymity and untraceability of its contributors, has released nearly a billion dollars worth of CRS reports, as well. There is one commercial service that manages someway, somehow to get all of them all. This service charges an arm and a leg.
Sunlight shares CDT’s demand that Congress open up all CRS reports to the public. This is an easy transparency reform. Kudos to Sen. Lieberman and his co-sponsors on continuing to press this important and common sense reform.