Our “open government” isn’t so open and some information about those who represent us in the U.S. Congress is hidden from normal citizens unless you travel to Washington, DC.
After a problem last summer in obtaining franking records about members of the U.S. Congress from Kansas, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to visit the Legislative Resource Center. A few extra hours in DC last week gave me that opportunity.
This article explains how to get to Legislative Resource Center. Future articles will give information about what can be found there.
Some information about the U.S. House of Representatives, which would be quite easy to put online on the Internet, cannot be viewed unless one travels to Washington, DC and visits the Cannon House Office Building. The Cannon House Office Building is across the street and southeast of the U.S. Capitol.
The Metro subway in Washington, DC is an easy way to get around much of the city. Fortunately, the Cannon House Office Building is just to the north of the Capitol South Station metro stop, as shown in the picture to the left.
From an Internet search and an exchange of E-mail from last year, I knew the Legislative Resource Center was in room B-106 in the Cannon House Office Building, but knew nothing else about the building. I entered the Cannon Building at the closest entrance to the metro stop, since visitors were allowed in there.
After passing through security I asked an officer about photography restrictions in the building. He said there were none, except around the security scanning equipment. That made sense, and I knew to avoid that (only because of being yelled at for taking pictures in a number of places in recent years).
Since I’m a guy I did not ask for instructions about how to find room B-106. I set out to find B-106 on my own. After finding room 106, I figured out the “B” must mean “basement,” I found a stairway and went down the stairs.
At this point I was basically lost, but continued looking for signs that might give me a clue about where room B-106 was. The basement corridor didn’t seem to match the one on the first floor, so I had no clue at first where B-106 might be.
The sign at the left shows a map of the confusing northwest corner of the basement of the Cannon House Office Building. To have less of an adventure in finding B-106, consider entering the Cannon building closer to the northwest corner and then look for stairs or an elevator. (I had entered a southeast entrance.)
The circular rotunda in this northwest “corner” of the basement had a very interesting model of the U.S. Capitol. One corridor to the left was labeled “U.S. Capitol.” A corridor to the right was labeled “Library of Congress.” In between these two basement corridors, and after going around the model of the Capitol, room B-106 was finally visible.
I entered Room B-106 and asked about the general availability of certain records, including franking records and other financial disclosure records. I soon learned I was at the right place.
My plan was to record what I did at the LRC, and later edit a “how to” video to help others get up to speed during a visit. I asked if it was “OK” to videotape the bookshelves with various government document available for inspection, and the computer terminals, which I planned to use. I was surprised to learn that no photography was allowed, even though the guard had told me earlier there were no restrictions. I asked who made the “no photography” rule and was told the rule was made by the Clerk of the U.S. House. It’s entirely unclear how to get that rule changed.
At that point my only option to collect information was to pay $0.10/page for copies of any documents I wanted, or take notes manually.
The next article will explain some of the information I learned at the Legislative Resource Center about our members in Congress from Kansas.
- The Legislative Resource Center (LRC) Offices & Services
- Democratic U.S. House members from Kansas, Moore and Boyda, spent $367,954 of tax dollars on franking in 2007-2008, Kansas Meadowlark, Oct 15, 2008.
- Clerk of U.S. House hides franking records from average citizens, Kansas Meadowlark, Aug. 15, 2008.