Growing chorus calling for CRS reports to be open to the public


The Sunlight Foundation, along with a range of allies, have been pushing for consistent public access to Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports for years.

Now, some powerful voices have joined the chorus.

Last week, The New York Times published an editorial, titled “Congressional Research Belongs to the Public,” that makes a forceful case for public access to these vital reports.

The CRS is a $100 million-plus agency that serves as a nonpartisan source of research for Congress. Its expertise covers the full range of policy areas regularly faced by Washington policymakers, and its reports are respected for their unbiased nature and clarity. Unfortunately, opponents of openness at this taxpayer-funded agency as well as in Congress have prevented wide public release of these reports.

The New York Times editorial outlines the history of public access to CRS reports and the arguments in favor of it, leading with one stunning point that is well worth repeating here: There is a robust secondary market for these taxpayer funded reports.

It’s not just open government groups and the newspaper of record who want to see CRS reports opened to the public. In a recent poll posted on Cloakroom, a social network for Capitol Hill folks, 70 percent of staffers that responded favored opening CRS reports to the public.

Congressional proponents of opening CRS reports should be ready to take advantage of this growing support. There is already bipartisan legislation in the House that would make many reports public. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., has also made attempts to push the issue from his seat on the Appropriations Committee.

The fight to open CRS reports to the public has been a long one, but if news like this continues, it could be nearing its final rounds.

If you’re interested in this topic, you can find a range of resources here.