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Political Science *: Legislative Branch Resources

Below are links to databases and scholarly web sites that support the study of political science and its related sub-disciplines.

Directories and Resource Guides

Official Websites

  • Center for Legislative Archives -- a part of the National Archives and Records Administration, preserves and makes available to researchers the historical records of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
  • Congressional Directory -- the official directory of the U.S. Congress that contains biographies of each member of the Senate and House, listed by state or district, and additional data, such as committee memberships. Also contains addresses, phone numbers, and other Congressional information. Published since 1888, the online version includes members from 1995 to the present.
  • Government Accountability Office -- the GAO is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress to investigate how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars. Site includes a searchable database of the agency's reports to Congress.
  • House of Representatives -- the official website of the House of Representatives.
  • Résumé of Congressional Activity – site contains PDF files that provide a comprehensive recapitulation of all business transacted by the Senate and House back to the 80th (1947-48), in addition to a record of all nominations submitted to the Senate by the President for Senate confirmation.
  • THOMAS (Library of Congress)--the catalog and database of contemporary Congressional information, including bills, the Congressional Record, hearings, reports, and other Congressional activities.
  • United States Senate -- the official website of the Senate.

Resources

  • Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (1774-present) -- database of member of Congress that can be searched by name, position (e.g. Representative, Senator, Delegate), State, Party, and/or Year or Congress in order to create customized lists and to access short biographies.
  • A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation -- consists of a linked set of published congressional records of the United States of America from the Continental Congress through the 43rd Congress, 1774-1875.
  • Congressional Bills Project -- provides information about more than 400,000 bills introduced in the U.S. Congress, currently from 1947-2008, along with extensive information about each bill's progress and sponsor. The bills database uses Poole and Rosenthal's ICPSR member IDs to incorporate biographical and institutional position information about each bill's sponsor. Also classifies each bill's title according to the topic coding system of the Policy Agendas Project. Each bill is designated to be primarily about one major topic and one subtopic. The Bills Project does not currently include resolutions or the bill texts. Digitized bill texts are available beginning in 1988 at www.thomas.loc.gov.
  • Congressional Research Service Reports -- open access site sponsored by the University of North Texas Libraries that provides access to reports released to the public by members of Congress. Reports are downloaded from a variety of web sites that host CRS reports, either currently or in the past. Many CRS reports are updated on a regular basis, and this site includes all versions of the reports that could be located.
  • Federal Digital System -- FDSys provides free online access to official publications from all three branches of the United States government. The database offers advanced search capabilities and the ability to refine and narrow your search for quick access to the information you need.
  • GovTrack -- research tool that helps researchers locate and track activities in the U.S. Congress. The tool can be used to identify the status of U.S. federal legislation, voting records for the Senate and House of Representatives, information on Members of Congress, district maps, as well as congressional committees and the Congressional Record. Also offers the ability to create customized tracking alerts that can be received via RSS Feed or embedded on a website.
  • Leg/Ex: Legislative Explorer – an interactive visualization website for exploring patterns of lawmaking from the 93rd Congress (1973) to the present. Includes information about the legislative histories, topics and sponsors of more than 250,000 bills and resolutions. The system can be filtered by individual member, by party, by topic, and more. Bulk data downloads are available. LegEx is a collaboration between the Center for American Politics and Public Policy at the University of Washington and Schema, a creative design and technology studio in Seattle.
  • LegiScan -- impartial real-time legislative tracking service that offers bulk download of bills and legislative tracking information for Congress and the fifty states. The site also includes the LegiScan search engine that indexes the entire text of each of the approximately 175,000 bills introduced annually, but also maintains relative document structure ordering to allow for more advanced proximity based searches. Requires free registration.
  • LegiStorm -- as a non-partisan company, LegiStorm is dedicated to providing a variety of important information about the US Congress, including a database of congressional staff salaries and a comprehensive database of all privately financed trips taken by members of Congress and congressional staffers. Also tracks the latest happenings on the House and Senate floors, as well as upcoming floor debates and committee hearings.
  • OpenCongress -- a free, open-source, and non-partisan web resource that brings together official government data with news coverage, blog posts, public comments, and more about what's happening in Congress. Great site!
  • Project Vote-Smart Congressional Information -- provides links to information on current members of Congress, committees, and Congressional leadership. The link "Congressional Resources" contains links to party organizations, guides to the workings of Congress, and historical/architectural information.
  • ProQuest Congressional -- indexes and abstracts a broad spectrum of Congressional publications, including hearings (testimony), committee prints, reports, documents, and full text of bills and public laws.
  • ProQuest Congressional Research Service Reports -- Provides access to the Congressional Research Service (CRS) studies and issue briefs on a variety of topics providing background information for investigations and legislative proposals under study by Congress. CRS works exclusively as a reference and research service for the U.S. Congress. Reports may take many forms: policy analysis, economic studies, statistical reviews, legal analyses, historical studies, chronologies, and two-page fact sheets.
  • ProQuest Regulatory Insight – this resource provides researchers with content and workflow tools to facilitate research associated with administrative law, from 1936-2016. The database offers regulatory histories associated with public laws.
  • United States Congressional Serial Set -- commonly referred to as the Serial Set, this collection contains the House and Senate Documents and the House and Senate Reports. The reports are usually from congressional committees dealing with proposed legislation and issues under investigation. The documents include all other papers ordered printed by the House or Senate. Documents cover a wide variety of topics and may include reports of executive departments and independent organizations, reports of special investigations made for Congress, and annual reports of non-governmental organizations. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, executive-branch materials were also published in the Serial Set.

Descriptions of resources are adapted or quoted from vendor websites and from Jeremy Darrington's American Politics Research Guide, Princeton University Libraries.

Comparison of Content Coverage Among Databases

Type of Resource ProQuest Congressional Congressional Serial Set GovInfo Thomas (Library of Congress)
Hearings 1824-present None 1995-present None
Full-Text Hearings 1824-2004 None 1995-present None
Reports and Documents 1970-present 1817-1994 1995-present 1995-present
Full-Text Reports and Documents None 1817-1994 1995-present 1995-present
Committee Prints* 1830-present [full-text] None 1995-present [full-text] None
CRS Reports 1916-present None None None
Bills and Resolutions 1989-present [full-text] None 1993-present [full-text] 1973-present [full-text]
Public Laws 1988-present [full-text] None 1995-present [full-text] 1973-present [full-text]
Statuts-at-Large 1776-present [full-text None 1951-2007 [full-text] None
U.S. Code Most Recent Only None 1994-present [full-text] None

 

*Note that, when searching for Committee Prints in GovInfo, search under Hearings.

Money and Politics

Listed below are resources that support research about the relationship between money and politics:

  • Campaign Finance Institute Historical Data Tables -- this think tank provides historical data on congressional and presidential election fundraising, expenditures, and party, interest group, and PAC spending. Tables and figures are in PDF and cover 1974-present with many of these tables are available in Excel. The Institute also produces research reports as well as a Money in Politics Bibliography covering academic literature back to 2006.
  • Database on Ideology, Money in Politics, and Elections -- a general resource produced at Stanford University for the study of campaign finance and ideology in American politics. The database contains over 130 million political contributions made by individuals and organizations to local, state, and federal elections spanning a period from 1979 to 2014. A corresponding database of candidates and committees provides additional information on state and federal elections.
  • Federal Election Commission Campaign Finance Data -- the site contains a variety of data files that will allow you to download itemized and trend data and filings for contributions and disbursements by and for candidates, committees, PACs, and independent expenditures. Bulk downloads of detailed data are available from an old FEC site.
  • FollowTheMoney.org – provides data and reports on money and spending in state-level politics. Covers campaign finance donations, spending by outside groups, and spending on ballot measures for all fifty states. You can view national or state overviews of spending; get breakdowns by district, candidate, party, industry, incumbency status, and more. The National Institute on Money in State Politics cleans, verified, and standardizes the data. Site also includes a helpful directory of State Disclosure Offices.
  • MapLight -- a nonpartisan research organization that connects data on campaign contributions in congressional elections, legislative votes by members of Congress, and which interest groups, companies, and organizations support and oppose key bills. The site also includes the Federal Money and Politics Dataset of cleaned up FEC campaign contribution data for each cycle 2008-present.
  • OpenSecrets.org – supported by the Center for Responsive Politics, this is a comprehensive source for data freely available for non-commercial use on campaign finance at the federal level. Covers contributions to candidates and PACs; campaign spending by outside groups; lobbying and interest groups; personal finances of politicians and the revolving door of politicians to lobbyists; political ad buys; and more. Coverage from 1998 to the present.
  • State Campaign Finance Legislation Database – produced by the National Conference of State Legislatures, this database contains state legislation related to campaign finance processes and reform. Bills found here deal with campaign contribution limits, disclosure requirements, independent expenditure requirements and other campaign finance-related issues from 2015 onward. Bill information for the current year is updated each Tuesday. To view bills from previous years, visit NCSL’s Campaign Finance Legislation Database 1999-2013 and Campaign Finance Legislation Database 2014.

Descriptions of resources are adapted or quoted from vendor websites and from Jeremy Darrington's American Politics Research Guide, Princeton University Libraries.