I write about the notoriously secretive Congressional Research Service this week in my Townhall column. I make the case that CRS reports should be publicly available — a priority of the Open House Project.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who vowed to make this Congress the Ã¢â‚¬Å“most honest, ethical, and openÃ¢â‚¬? in history, is facing pressure to do something about CRS. A coalition of 20 organizations last week lobbied her to make CRS reports publicly available. And later this month, the Open House Project is expected to deliver a report to Pelosi that will call for CRS to post its reports on a publicly available website.
Granting the public access to this valuable information would also end a burgeoning business in Washington. The Wall Street JournalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s John Fund recently reported that a company called GalleryWatch sells CRS reports for $4,000 a year. Its website boasts of Ã¢â‚¬Å“unprecedented access to thousands of reports previously unavailable or, at best, extremely difficult to obtain.Ã¢â‚¬? (The companyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s president wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t say how he gets them.)
CRS has no way to combat the GalleryWatch problem, which gives Ã¢â‚¬Å“insiderÃ¢â‚¬? information to those with deep pockets and leaves the public in the dark. One ingenious way to put companies such as GalleryWatch out of business would be for a member of Congress to begin posting all CRS reports online. Not only would it solve the problem related to accessing these reports, but it would also eliminate the possibility of government employees profiting at the taxpayersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ expense. (One website, Open CRS, already posts some CRS reports, but only a fraction of what the agency produces.)