Members of Congress send formal “oversight” letters to cabinet departments and independent agencies on a dizzying array of topics. These letters can contain many different kinds of “asks” of the executive branch, including issuing or revising a particular regulation, changing an interpretation of an existing rule, initiating an investigation and many others. Such communication is a core component of Congress’s oversight work and a key way for Members to shape policy. Yet, there exists no simple, accessible way to discover which Members have written which agencies on which issues, and with what outcomes. The Legisletters project aims to fix that by creating a living, searchable archive of the formal letters that Members of Congress send.
Legisletters is an automatic web crawler that gathers and classifies letters written by Members of Congress from legislators' websites. Because letters often are published in ways that are difficult to automatically read, in particular PDF formats, we have a long-term vision of user participation to improve the quality of Legisletters: