Legisletters: A Hub for Congressional Correspondence

Daniel Schuman at Congressional Data Coalition: “…GovLab beta launched a new tool, Legisletters, which automatically gathers congressional correspondence with agencies and publishes it in a searchable, user-friendly interface….Members of Congress have a hard time tracking their correspondence with federal agencies, in part because of staff turnover and the absence of an inexpensive, easy-to-use tool. It is very hard for an office can be aware of the letters that other offices send. Frequent staff turnover means current staff often have no idea of what was sent in the past.

Fortunately, since members of Congress often publish their correspondence on their websites–often in the less-than-helpful PDF format–it is possible to reconstruct some of the communications….Legisletters can help address several problems. It can serve as:

  • An archive of correspondence by individual members of Congress to agencies, which is very useful for current staff and historians alike.
  • A finding aid for other offices interested in partnering on issues, perhaps incorporated into a tool like the nascent “coalition builder.”
  • A data source for an alerting tool, like Scout, so journalists and advocates can keep an eye on what a particular office is doing.

In addition, the underlying technology can be repurposed to gather other documents published on the web, such as CRS reports….

feedback here. Let them know what you think.”