When Congress mandates the production of a report that documents the activities of the federal government, the American people ought to have easy access to these reports. Congress may ignore the information, but vigilant American patriots will not.
After all, these reports include critical information regarding how our tax dollars are spent. But if you’ve ever tried to get your hands on one of these reports, you know the process of tracking it down can be an exercise in extreme frustration and futility.
Often, these reports are pushed off to the hinterlands of the Internet “.gov” never to be seen again or stuffed in the book shelf of some government office collecting dust.
For this reason, Judicial Watch joined other “good government” organizations to urge House leaders to fix the problem by considering legislation known as the “Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports” (HR 1380), originally introduced by Congressional Transparency Caucus Co-chair Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL).
The following are excerpts from the letter addressed to Reps. Boehner, Pelosi, Cantor and Hoyer:
We, the undersigned organizations, are writing to encourage the House to consider the bipartisan Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports (H.R. 1380) during the week of February 24th, when other measures touching upon executive branch oversight and transparency also will be considered, or at the earliest opportunity thereafter…
…Under the legislation, any report required by law to be submitted to Congress that is releasable under the Freedom of Information Act must be posted on a website managed by the Government Printing Office. The reports would become publicly available within 30 days of their transmission to Congress. Unlike now, where reports are often impossible to find, ACMRA creates one central repository for all reports that would be easily searchable by subject matter, submitting agency, the law requiring the report, and additional key terms.
Congressionally mandated reports contain a wealth of information on federal activities. A comprehensive accounting for all mandated reports to Congress, including whether they have been received in a timely fashion, will further efforts to make government more transparent and accountable.
The letter can be read in full here.
The bill was reported favorably by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. It also has the support of the Committee on House Administration. However, the last action taken to advance the legislation occurred in May 2013.
We have a difficult enough time as it is forcing the release of information pertaining to the activities of government officials–information that is often improperly kept under lock and key. The American people should not have to troll through the labyrinth of government agency websites to obtain information that is supposedly “publicly available.”
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton is author of the NY Times best-seller “The Corruption Chronicles” and executive producer of the documentary “District of Corruption.”