February 17, 1999
We strongly urge you to co-sponsor Representatives Christopher Shays's (R-CT) legislation, H.R. 654, to put Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports and products on the Internet, including CRS Issue Briefs, and Authorization and Appropriation products.
CRS products are some of the finest research prepared by the federal government. They are a precious source of government information on a huge range of topics. Citizens, scholars, journalists, librarians, businesses, and many others have long wanted access to CRS reports via the Internet.
We believe that taxpayers ought to be able to read the research that we pay for. But citizens cannot obtain most CRS products directly. Instead, we must purchase them from private vendors, or engage in the burdensome and time-consuming process of requesting a member of Congress to send CRS products to us. Often, citizens must wait for weeks or even months before such a request is filled. This barrier to obtaining CRS products serves no useful purpose, and damages citizens' ability to participate in the congressional legislative process.
James Madison aptly described why the public needs reliable, accurate information about current events: "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."
The Shays bill falls squarely within the spirit of Madison's honorable words. We hope you will decide to co-sponsor this fine legislation to put CRS products on the Internet.
American Association of Law Libraries
American Conservative Union
American Society of Newspaper Editors
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Computer & Communications Industry Association
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
Consumer Project on Technology
Congressional Accountability Project
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)
Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics
League of Women Voters of the U.S.
National Association of Manufacturers
National Citizens Communications Lobby
National Newspaper Association
National Taxpayers Union
Project on Government Oversight
Radio-Television News Directors Association
Reform Party of the United States
Taxpayers for Common Sense
U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG)