Archives for May 2023

Developments from the Congressional Data Task Force Meeting on March 14, 2023

The Congressional Data Task Force convened on March 14, 2023, to discuss a range of topics related to the use and management of data within the legislative branch. The meeting, which included representatives from various government offices and civil society organizations, highlighted several new and interesting developments. Go here for video and slides from the presentations.

Among the highlights:

  • Implementation of the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act is due by the end of the year
  • The Library of Congress is planning to update/release an API for committee meetings, hearings, and committee prints by the end of 2022
  • The House Statements of Disbursements will soon be published as CSV with a number of new identifiers
  • The House Digital Service is planning for the upcoming Congressional Hackathon
  • The Senate is continuing to make progress on the availability of its video
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A Biased Yet Reliable Guide to Sources of Information and Data About Congress

Big Picture

1/ There’s big gaps in the data story

2/ Even when there’s data, it may not tell the whole story

  • Info about Congress isn’t entire reliable, even when it is official, e.g., the Congressional Record (“revise and extend”)
  • Congress historically is a paper-based institution, driven by people with agendas, and it has inconsistent archival practices, e.g. GPO established in 1860, National Archives created in 1934
  • Its institutions are built to solve a particular problem, not work for all time. Plus there’s a lot of turf wars, e.g., the former
  • Analyses, even by experts, can be unreliable because of the source data or unexpected actions. See, e.g. CRS report on the number of staff in an office (done by counting phone numbers) or the various supplementals

3/ The people who dogfood the data, such as Josh Tauberer at GovTrack, Derek Willis formerly of ProPublica, and OpenSecrets, are often forced to build additional reliability and usability into the data than that available from official sources.

4/ This presentation is idiosyncratic and focuses on particular use cases. Major topics include:

  • Federal spending information
  • Oversight and accountability
  • Legislation
  • Congressional committees
  • Information about Congress
  • Money in politics and ethics
  • Other interesting and important stuff
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