Before being distracted by the short-sighted pursuits of the Department of Homeland Security I had in mind a tid-bit from the Congressional Quarterly titled, Law Clears Way for House Clerk to Purge Old Documents. [Only available by subscription.] The Lobbying Disclosure Act requires the House and Senate make available lobbying information “for a period of at least six years.”
The clerk’s office already disposes of many of these documents – such as personal financial disclosure statements – as soon as laws, regulations and House rules allow or require. The trouble is that some disclosure laws,
including those that cover lobbying records before the 1995 law and some foreign travel documents, are not as precise about how long these documents must be preserved, which the clerk’s office complains has created problems storing and tracking the filings. At the same time, some materials stored by the clerk are duplicated in records preserved elsewhere – including decades of campaign finance reports also kept by the Federal Election Commission.
A provision added to the fiscal 2005 omnibus appropriations gives the clerk permission to purge some of the material. Under the law, any document the clerk is required “to make available for public inspection” must be preserved “for a period of six years from the date on which the document is filed” – unless other laws, regulations or rules specifically require that they are preserved longer. The provision only applies to House documents – similar documentation maintained by the Senate secretary is not affected.