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You'd Know if You Were Congressional

Thursday, March 22, 2007

All non-congressionals, or those who think they may be, please take note.

This week, Congressional Research Service chief Daniel P. Mulhollan issued a memo to all staffers in the service, known as Congress's think tank. From now on, he wrote, CRS researchers will require a supervisor's approval before giving any CRS report to a "non-congressional."

Non-congressionals are, said CRS spokeswoman Janine D'Addario, usually fellow researchers in "U.S. government entities and nongovernmental entities, the media and foreign governments, like embassies."

The CRS works exclusively for Congress and is legendarily closefisted with its reports. For years, open-government groups and some members of Congress have fought unsuccessfully to put the reports online. Now it comes out that CRS researchers have been trading reports like baseball cards with these special non-congressionals, sharing knowledge on North Korean counterfeiting, wheat subsidies and other topics commissioned by Congress.

That can continue, according to Mulhollan's memo, but "prior approval should now be requested at the division or office level."

However: "Product requests can also originate from other non-congressional sources including individual researchers, corporations, law offices, private associations, libraries, law firms and publishers. The Inquiry Section typically declines these requests, and most often refers the caller to his or her congressional representative's office," Mulhollan wrote.

So let's review. All governmental, nongovernmental, foreign-governmental, media researcher-type non-congressionals -- and you know who you are -- can still have CRS reports, if a CRS supervisor approves.

For the rest of you non-congressionals, the rules have not changed. The answer is no -- go ask Congress.

-- Elizabeth Williamson

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