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Government Information Connection: Politics and Elected Officials: Researching the United States Congress

Information about politicians and their activities; elections, campaigns, and voting; and political activism.

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Researching the U.S. Congress

Sources of information about members of the U.S. Congress and their activities.

Call Project Vote Smart's Voter's Research Hotline at 1-888-VOTE-SMART (1-888-868-3762), and your own personal researcher can answer your questions about candidates and elected officials instantly over the phone.

Directories and Short Biographies

Current Congressional Officers

List of officers in the current Congress.

Congressional Directory

Biennial compilation of short official biographies of current members of Congress, along with their committee memberships, terms of service, addresses, and telephone numbers. Also provides addresses and telephone numbers of U.S. government agencies, state and territorial governors, foreign diplomats, and news media personnel, as well as maps of Congressional districts.


Congressional Pictorial Directory

List of current members and officers of Congress, accompanied by photographs of each. Includes alphabetical list and location of each member's home post office. Directories from the 105th Congress forward are available.


Biographical Directory of the United States Congress 1774–

Brief biographical information for more than 11,000 persons who have served in Congress. Some entries include bibliographical references.

Almanac of American Politics
Biennial publication by the National Journal. Profiles of every governor and member of Congress, including biographies, voting records, and interest group ratings. Includes narrative profiles of every state and congressional district, including maps, demographic data and trends, and election results.
 
Politics in America
Biennial publication by CQ Press. Profiles of every member of Congress, including analyses of personalities, political styles, legislative agendas, political ambitions, and reputations. Profiles include contact information, biographical data, committee assignments, voting records, and interest group ratings. Also includes information on congressional leadership and caucuses, and statistics on members of Congress. Detailed state and district information, including voting demographics, census data, and election results.

Summaries of Congressional Activities

CQ Weekly

Weekly, unbiased account of current activities in Congress. Includes congressional news and analysis, bill tracking, member profiles, committee coverage, government documents, and transcripts.

CQ Almanac

Annual summary of Congressional activities for a given year.


Congress and the Nation

Published by Congressional Quarterly since 1945, each volume provides a summary and analysis of governmental action during a single four-year presidential term, condensing the legislative, presidential, and political coverage of the CQ Weekly for those years into a single volume that gives an overview of the period, plus additional discussion of earlier years as necessary, along with detailed chronologies of congressional action in major subject areas. Available online through the CQ Press political reference suite.

 

Watchdog Organizations

AFL-CIO Legislative Voting Records
This electronic AFL-CIO Voting Record will let you know where your lawmakers stand on such working family issues as strengthening Social Security and Medicare, freedom to join a union, and workplace safety.
 
American Conservative Union.
Founded in 1964 "to mobilize resources for responsible conservative thought across the country and to further the general cause of conservatism." Includes Ratings of Congress from 1971 to the present. ACU ratings are also available in Congressional Quarterly's Politics in America.
 
Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)
ADA is the nation's oldest independent liberal political organization, dedicated to individual liberty and building economic and social justice at home and abroad. The ADA rates year-by-year and state-by-state the Voting Records for members of the House and Senate based on the 20 issues considered to be the most important to the ADA each year. Ratings prior to 1990 are represented by an average score. ADA ratings are also available in Congressional Quarterly's Politics in America.
 
Business and Industry Political Action Committee
BIPAC, an independent, bipartisan organization founded in 1963, works to get pro-business candidates elected to Congress. The BIPAC Web site lists candidates the group has supported in past years and currently supports.Congressional ratings are also included in the Almanac of American Politics and Congressional Quarterly's Politics in America.
 
Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets.org)
The Center for Responsive Politics is the nation's premier research group tracking money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy. Nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit, the organization aims to create a more educated voter, an involved citizenry and a more transparent and responsive government.
 
Congressional Timeline (The Dirksen Congressional Center)
For each Congress beginning with the 73rd (1933–35), this timeline features session dates, partisan composition, the presidential administration, a list of congressional leaders, and notable legislation passed. This first version only addresses legislative output, not non-legislative events such as the impeachment of President Clinton or internal congressional processes or congressional politics. Other elements may be added later, such as a timeline of notable, non-congressional events and selections from the Dirksen Center's historical collections. For other congressional timelines, see Timeline of Congressional Documents, 1774–1873 from the Library of Congress; The Congress. Timeline from PBS, and U.S. Congress Timeline, 21st Century from World News Atlas.
 
Earmarks (U.S. Office of Management and Budget)
Earmarks are funds provided by the Congress for projects or programs where the congressional direction (in bill or report language) circumvents the merit-based or competitive allocation process, or specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the Executive Branch to properly allocate funds. Congress includes earmarks in appropriation bills - the annual spending bills that Congress enacts to allocate discretionary spending - and also in authorization bills.
FactCheck.org
FactCheck.org is a nonpartisan, nonprofit consumer advocate for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics by monitoring factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases. Use this site to cut through the spin and verify what is true and what is false.
 
The Fact Checker
The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler fact-checks the truth behind the political rhetoric.
Federal Election Commission (FEC)
Official Homepage of the independent regulatory agency that discloses campaign finance information; enforces the limits, prohibitions and other provisions of the election law; and administers the public funding of presidential elections.
 
House History
Online site containing biographies of current and past members of Congress, election statistics, and information on the history of Congress.
 
League of Conservation Voters
A bipartisan political arm of the national environmental movement, the LVC works to elect a pro-environment majority to Congress and publishes a National Score Card rating Congressional members on environmental issues from 1993-2002. The LCV Congressional ratings are also included in Almanac of American Politics.
 
LegiStorm: Transparency’s Sidekick
LegiStorm helps bring transparency to the U.S. Congress by disseminating public documents and non-partisan information over the Web. Information includes information on congressional and staff salaries; personal financial disclosures of members of Congress and their staff; data on privately financed trips taken by members of Congress and their staff; and information on what gifts and travel are provided to legislators and their staff when traveling abroad.
 
OnTheIssues: Every Political Leader on Every Issue
Provides non-partisan information for voters in the Presidential election, so that votes can be based on issues rather than on personalities and popularity. Information is compiled by volunteers daily from newspapers, speeches, press releases, and the Internet, then sorted by topic and by candidate.
 
PolitiFact
Reporters and researchers from PolitiFact and its partner news organization, the Tampa Bay Times, examine statements by members of Congress, state legislators, governors, mayors, the president, cabinet secretaries, lobbyists, people who testify before Congress and anyone else who speaks up in American politics. These statements are rated for accuracy and consistency, and a record is kept of whether campaign promises are kept, compromised, or broken.
Political Money Line
Detailed FEC data on federal campaign contributions for elections held in 1993 to the present. Access to some information is only available to subscribers.
 
Project Vote Smart
Tracks the performance of over 13,000 political leaders. Gives issue positions, voting records, performance evaluations, campaign finances, and biographies.

Sources of Congressional Publications

United States Senate Official site.

Includes directories of senators and committees, information on learning about the Senate and tracking legislative activities, and other resources.

United States House of Representatives Official site.

Includes directories of representatives and committees, as well as information on tracking legislative activities.

FDsys: Federal Digital System

Provides online access to the Congressional Directory, the Congressional Record, the Congressional Record Index, the full text of all published versions of bills introduced in Congress, the history of bills, a list of lobbyists, House and Senate executive reports, and House and Senate treaty documents.

THOMAS: Legislative Information on the Internet

Offers full-text of bills from recent (i.e., since 1989) sessions of Congress, searchable by bill number or by keywords and browsable by bill type. Bill summaries and status are available from 1973. Also provides full text of recent issues of Congressional Record, searchable by keyword or speaker and browsable by date and part; and Congressional Record Index, with links from bill numbers to the text of the bills, and links from a Congressional Record page number to the full text of that page.

Government Resources

Includes information about Congress with links to both Congressional Committees and the publications necessary to trace the actions of Congress and legislative histories, e.g. committees, e-mail, calendars, schedules, journals, floor proceedings, rules, bills, votes, etc.

Indexes to Congressional Publications

The following sources, all located in the Abstracts and Indexes section on the Third Floor of Willis Library, are useful for identifying hearings, prints, and reports issued by Congress. All can be searched online in ProQuest Congressional.

CIS U.S. Serial Set Index
Indexes committee reports and other miscellaneous documents issued from 1789-1969. (Does not cover hearings, debates, or committee prints.)
 
CIS U.S. Congressional Committee Hearings Index
Indexes Congressional hearings issued from 1822-1969.
 
CIS U.S. Congressional Committee Prints Index
Indexes committee prints issued from 1830-1969.
 
CIS Index
Indexes and abstracts the working papers of Congress issued since 1970, including committee reports, committee hearings, committee prints, House documents, and Senate documents. Includes a comprehensive legislative history for every act passed by Congress since 1970.

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