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RECORDS MANAGEMENT RESPONSIBILITIES
Managing committee records and information is an important responsibility that is usually delegated to each committee's chief clerk. Because committees vary in size and organizational structure with most having "majority" and "minority" staffs, records management duties must be shared by key minority and subcommittee staff. In addition, committee computer systems managers increasingly will be responsible for designing and implementing system-wide procedures that facilitate the retention of electronic records.
Inevitably, all committee staff bear some responsibility for the preservation of electronic records.
Ideally, each administrative unit within a committee, including the full committee, subcommittees, majority, and minority offices should designate one responsible individual to coordinate records management within that unit. That individual should ensure that all staff within the office are aware of committee policy and that they receive all available guidelines.
The Senate archivist (4-3351) is available to assist chief clerks and all committee staff with the process of implementing good records management and preparing material for transfer to the archives.
DID YOU KNOW THAT:
Committee records are the property of the Senate (Senate Rule XXVI(10)(a); 2 U.S.C. $72(a)(d)) The ownership and disposition of committee records is defined by Senate Rules and federal statute (Senate Rules XI; XXVI(10)(a); 44 U.S.C. $2118; 2 U.S.C. $872(a)(d)) Committee records should not be mixed with personal records of individual
senators (Senate Rule XXVI(10)(a)) o Committee records include all documentary materials either made or re
ceived and maintained by committees as a result of transacting committee business Committee records document the organization, functions, and operations of the committee Committee records document work on bills, oversight, investigations, nominations, treaties, and impeachment proceedings Committee records are retained in the Archives because they contain infor
mation that either is unique, is in an accessible form, and/or is important O Committee records include "staff files"
Committee records should fully document “majority" and “minority” positions on issues Documents provided to committees by executive agencies, by virtue of their provision and use, become Senate committee records Committee records cannot be removed from the Senate's custody, xcept as specified by Senate Rule (Senate Rule XI(1)) Failure to comply with Senate Rules and federal law could result in violation of federal criminal laws (18 U.S.C. $$ 641, 2071)
ing value is available from the Senate archivist (4– 3351).
Congress, in the Federal Records Act (44 U.S.C. 3301), provided the executive branch with the following definition of records: "all books, papers, maps, photographs, machine readable materials, or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received ... in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved. as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the government or because of the informational value of data in them.” This statutory definition serves as the basis for defining Senate committee records as:
all documentary materials, regardless of
sight, and executive business. These records document committee work on bills, oversight and investigations, consideration of nominations and treaties, and impeachment proceedings. They are considered appropriate for preservation either as evidence of the organization, functions, and operations of the committee or because of the informational value of the data and facts they contain. For disposition purposes, it is important to distinguish records of lasting value from those which have only short term administrative use.
There are three tests for "informational value" that should be applied in determining whether to preserve a specific group of records. They relate to the records' uniqueness, form, and importance. In this context, "uniqueness" means that the records cannot be found elsewhere in as complete or usable form. The test related to form concerns the degree to which the information in the records is concentrated. It also relates to the physical condition of the records and the ease of access to the information contained therein. The research importance of a group of records is a somewhat subjective matter that can best be determined by use of similar bodies of records.
Although those who create the records are in a position to evaluate their relative immediate importance, their perspective can be limited by their “familiarity," with the result that they tend to underrate the material's longer range significance. Assistance with the identification and transfer of records of endur
OWNERSHIP AND DISPOSITION
The ownership and disposition of committee records is defined by statute and Senate rule. (See inside front cover.) Section 202(d) of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, 2 U.S.C. $72a(d), and Senate Standing Rule XXVI(10)(a), make clear that the records of Senate committees are the property of the Senate. 2 U.S.C. $72a(d) provides in part:
All committee hearings, records, data,
records. Senate Standing Rule XXVI.10(a) reiterates that "such records shall be the property of the Senate and all members of the committee and the Senate shall have access to such records."
Disposition of committee records also is governed by statute and Senate rule which state that the secretary of the Senate is required to obtain noncurrent records from committees and to transfer those records to the National Archives. The Senate Historical Office, which operates under the jurisdiction of the secretary, is charged with the collection and administration of all Senate committee records. (44 U.S.C. $2118) Senate Standing Rule XI states:
No memorial or other paper presented to
to the orders of the Senate. Further clarification is provided in a Senate legal counsel memorandum (See Exhibit 1-1) The legal counsel comments that 2 U.S.C. $72a(d) applies to "all" records of a committee and 44 U.S.C. $2118 upon, the conduct of agency business." The executive regulations provide that such materials should be clearly designated and maintained separately from the records of the office. (36 CFR § 1222.20(d)).
Committee chief clerks should caution staff to follow this example and file any personal records separately from records documenting committee business. This will help to avoid inadvertent destruction or removal of official committee material and to facilitate their disposition.
applies to "all" noncurrent records. "The 'all' in 2 U.S.C. $72a(d) modifies every category of records which follows, including 'files'.” Consequently, there is no tenable distinction between "committee files" and "staff files." All records created or received by Senate committee staff in connection with Senate committee business are the property of the Senate.
Under Rule XI, the Senate adopts resolutions to authorize the production of Senate records to judicial and law enforcement bodies. Ordinarily, resolutions under Rule XI are considered before access to Senate records is accorded. In such matters, consultation with the Senate legal counsel is recommended. In addition, the committee's original documentation should remain with the committee.
Senate staff should be mindful of the responsibilities imposed upon them by the Senate's Standing Rules and federal law. Failure to comply with these authorities governing the handling of Senate records could result in the violation of federal criminal laws. 18 U.S.C. $$ 641, 2071 make it a criminal offense for anyone to convert to his own or another's use, or without authority to dispose of, any government records, or for anyone with custody of records filed in a government office unlawfully to remove or destroy such records.
It is, of course, possible that committee staff also may keep purely personal papers in their office. For example, unless specifically prohibited by individual committee rules, and as long as they comply with Senate Rule XXXVII on Conflict of Interest, and Rule XVI on Political Fund Activity, staff may engage in campaign activities during their free time or off-duty hours. Before engaging in campaign activity, however, it is advisable to contact the Senate Ethics Committee. (See Senate Select Committee on Ethics, Interpretative Rulings, Numbers 3, 5, 22, 59, 88,154, 194, and 263.) The Ethics Committee specifically stated in Ruling Number 153 that the rulings concerning participation in campaigns "are applicable to employees of individual senators, staff of Senate committees, and employees working for officers of the Senate." Any records resulting from campaign activities would be personal papers, not committee records.
Other examples of personal files which might be kept by staff in a committee office include papers accumulated before joining the committee, materials pertaining to outside business pursuits, family and personal relationships, teaching and educational programs, and diaries and personal notes which are not prepared for transacting committee business. Executive branch regulations implementing 44 U.S.C. $3301 exclude those "papers of a private or nonpublic character that do not relate to, or have an effect
Because many committee staff are designated as either majority or minority, there is sometimes a tendency for these staff to regard their files as “political" and, therefore, “private,” or “personal.” It is important to distinguish between committee “political" duties and purely private “political” activities. Jack Maskell, a legislative attorney with the American Law Division of the Congressional Research Service comments on the somewhat confusing aspects of "political activity:
Although the distinction between "official"
nature. 1 For purposes of distinguishing between committee records and personal political records, staff should keep in mind that certain committee activities inevitably have "political" overtones but nevertheless constitute official duties. Committee records, for example, should fully document the majority and the minority positions on legislation or points of view about a nominee. Private political activities, on the other hand, are characterized in Senate rules governing conflict of interest and campaign activities. As listed in the CRS report, activities typically understood by congressional rule, statute, and practice to be "political" or "campaign" activities include the solicitation of political contributions, canvassing votes for a candidate in a primary or general election, organizing a political fund-raiser, coordinating campaign volunteer lists, etc. Such documentation would indeed constitute personal records and not records of a committee.
1 Jack Maskell, “Use Congressional aff on Politica ampaigns,” American Law Division, Congressional Research Service Report, March 16,1981, page 13.