Tips for Congressional Staffers: Why Are You Not Using Scout?

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I’ll ask the question again: why are you NOT using Scout? If you work on the Hill, tracking legislation, new amendments, or your boss’s speeches, you need Scout. If you work as a reporter, tracking Members, you need Scout. If you work at a nonprofit, tracking Members and new policy, you need Scout.

What can Scout do for you? Scout is a new product by the Sunlight Foundation, that let’s you search keywords in federal law, congressional speeches, federal regulations, and state laws. And after you enter your search terms, you can tell Scout to send you a daily email with a freshly updated search.

For my Life On The Hill project, I’m interested in learning everything about congressional staff. So I searched for “congressional staff” and got the legislation for the Stock Act, the law that makes insider trading illegal in Congress. But I also got speeches by Members praising their staff. For instance, last week Rep. Nancy Pelosi went to the floor to praise John Lawrence, who spent 38 years as a congressional staffer—30 years working for Rep. George Miller and 8 years as Ms. Pelosi’s assistant in the leadership office.

I’m also using Scout as a research tool for an article I’m writing for the Safra Center at Harvard. I’m writing a story on the history of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act. When I put this phrase into the search, I was able to pull up the original bill and every speech in Congress that mentioned it.

I learned about Scout from Daniel Schuman, the Policy Counsel and Director of the Advisory Committee on Transparency, at the Sunlight Foundation. In Mr. Schuman’s own words, “I am an advocate for government openness issues on the federal and international levels.”

So what does he use Scout for? Schuman uses Scout to track any new legislation on the Freedom of Information Act. Specifically, he gets a daily email with updates on the term “552 (b).” Because of a recent reform written into law last year, all new b3 statutes must cite FOIA – USC 552.

Schuman says he currently has about ten active searches on Scout, allowing him to monitor his favorite topics, and he adds that it’s a great tool for Hill staff, reporters, and policy wonks. Best of all, it’s free.

So, I’ll ask the question again: why are you NOT using Scout?

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  1. Thanks for the tip – I work for a nonprofit and this in conjunction with Lexis has made a great difference in tracking bills! I love the format of this tool.