Congressional Accountability Project
1322 18th Street NW Suite 36
Washington DC 20036
fax (202) 833-2406
March 8, 1996
Honorable John Warner
Chairman, Senate Rules and Administration Committee
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Warner:
On February 29, 1996, you announced the "Operation Daylight" initiative
to "provide the public with a better understanding of the Senate infrastructure."
Operation Daylight will involve the formation of a "management task force"
to develop a "strategic plan" for the use of information technologies in
the United States Senate. We believe the most important question pending
before this task force is how to provide the public with timely online
access to the core documents of the United States Senate.
Currently, many crucial Senate documents are not available online. This
information failure is exceedingly bad for democracy, because it provides
great advantages to Washington lobbyists -- who have timely access to Congressional
documents -- while effectively locking-out the vast majority of Americans
from participating in the Congressional legislative process, who do not
have timely access to these Senate documents.
We are asking you to break the information lock-out and promise the
American people that the Senate will provide online access to Senate documents,
Committee prints of bills and Chairman's Marks. While citizens are
examining the copies of bills which have been introduced and made available
through THOMAS and GPO Access, Washington lobbyists are studying the paper
copies of a committee print or "chairman's mark" of a bill, which are the
relevant documents for legislation. Senate policy currently prevents the
U. S. Government Printing Office (GPO) from disseminating committee prints
without permission of the chair of the Committee. We believe this policy
is indefensible and should be changed immediately. Do you support allowing
the GPO to disseminate all versions of Senate bills electronically, including
all committee prints and chairmans marks? Will you recommend that this
be adopted as Senate policy as soon as possible?
Verbatim transcripts (both corrected and uncorrected) from Senate Hearings.
Lobbyists can buy transcripts of Senate hearings from transcribers, but
most citizens have to wait months or more than a year for printed hearing
records. Do you support providing online access to verbatim transcripts
-- both corrected and uncorrected -- of Senate hearings?
Prepared testimonies to Senate committees. Do you agree that it
should be Senate policy to ask persons testifying before Senate committees
to provide an electronic copy of their prepared testimony, and then require
the testimony to be immediately placed online on THOMAS and GPO Access?
Do you agree that all government officials should be required to provide
electronic copies of their prepared testimonies for public dissemination?
If so, will you recommend that this be adopted as Senate policy as soon
Voting records of Senators. While the votes on bills reaching the
floor of the Senate are recorded in the online version of the Congressional
Record, it is often time-consuming and difficult for citizens to find these
votes without extensive browsing of the documents. Even worse, the online
version of the Congressional Record only contains 1993-present. Previous
votes are not available online through THOMAS or GPO Access. Do you support
providing online access to voting records of Senators with and easily searchable
database, indexed by member name, bill title, bill number, and bill subject?
Amendments. Do you support providing online access to the texts
of Senate amendments? Do you support the policy that until a bill or amendment
is online, it should not be considered "introduced?"
Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports. In September 1994,
CRS announced a pilot project for the electronic distribution of CRS Reports
and Issue Briefs to Congressional offices. However, citizens are still
without online access to these documents. Do you support providing citizens
with online access to CRS Reports and Issue Briefs?
Committee reports. GPO Access distributes numbered committee reports
for the 104th Congress. But not all committee reports are officially "reported,"
and therefore not all committee reports are made available through GPO
Access. In addition, Senate committee reports before the 104th Congress
are not available online through GPO Access or any other government online
service. Do you support providing online access to all Senate committee
reports, including those not officially "reported"?
We hope that "Operation Daylight" will include a thorough and speedy effort
to provide citizens with online access to these crucial Senate documents.
If you have any questions about this letter, or wish to discuss any of
our questions, please contact Gary Ruskin at (202) 296-2787, James Love
at (202) 387-8030, or Lori Fena at (415) 436-9333.
Conference reports. Conference reports for the second session of
the 103rd and the full 104th Congress are now available online by searching
the online versions of Congressional Record. However, conference reports
before the 103rd Congress are not available online. Do you support providing
online access to conference reports before the 103rd Congress?
Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports. The Federal Elections
Commission (FEC) reports on campaign contributions are of great interest
to millions of Americans. Online access through THOMAS or GPO Access would
greatly broaden the dissemination of this important information. On February
14, 1996, the FEC inaugurated an Internet "World Wide Web page" with campaign
contribution data for the 104th Congress. Though the FEC's web page is
certainly an improvement, it is far from "user-friendly." Users of campaign
contribution data must download large data files, and may have to set up
relational databases. Do you support requiring the FEC to provide online
access to campaign contribution data searchable by contributor, PAC, and
campaign committee? The FEC web page does not provide access to much important
FEC data, including FEC reports before the 104th Congress, and all campaign
expenditure reports. Do you support requiring that the FEC provide online
access to these important materials as well?
Lobbyist Disclosure reports. The Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995
requires collection of valuable information regarding the activities of
lobbyists. Unfortunately, this information is only made available at the
Senate Office of Public Records and the House Legislative Resource Center.
Do you agree that this information should be made available online? Kelley
Johnston, Secretary of the Senate, testified on February 28, 1996 that
"one other technological innovation, which is very important to serving
the public, is to offer...electronic retrieval of the [lobbyist] registration
and report data on file." Will you encourage the Secretary of the Senate
to provide online access to this important data as soon as possible?
Senate Financial Disclosure reports. Do you support providing online
access to Senate financial disclosure reports?
Secretary of the Senate reports. Do you support providing online
access to Secretary of the Senate Reports?
Gary Ruskin, Director, Congressional Accountability Project
Lori Fena, Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation
James Love, Director, Consumer Project on Technology