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Article excerpt

On December 4, 1994, the new Republican Congressional leadership via the House Republican Conference eliminated all Legislative Service OrganizatiOns (LSOs). Among the House services eliminated were all congressional caucuses including the minority and women's caucuses, and in particular, the Congressional Arts Caucus.

Like all congressional caucuses, the Arts Caucus, established in 1981, served as a research pool and disseminated technical information on legislation. The Caucus did not engage in direct lobbying for certain legislation, but rather Arts Caucus staff monitored pending legislation that affects broadcasting, recording and film industries as well as government arts programs. The Arts Caucus, one of the largest caucuses with more than 260 bipartisan members, was the only clearing house in Congress for information on cultural issues spanning education, international trade, copyright, tax, and federal cultural agencies and institutions. Funding for the Congressional Arts Caucus came directly out of dues paid by members of both the House and Senate from their discretionary research and office supplies fund. In return, members received updates, reports and status checks on pending legislation. Congressional members received assistance from the Arts Caucus in preparing testimony for committees, formulating speeches, answering related correspondence from constituents, and responding to direct mail campaigns often targeted from citizen's groups.

For the past 14 years, the Arts Caucus has also organized a successful Congressional High School Art Competition in conjunction with state art museums. The 1995 competition, which would have included works by tens of thousands of students from across the nation, has been eliminated with the Republican Conference's decision on caucuses.

U.S. Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY) and U.S. Senator James M. Jeffords (R-VT), Chair and Vice Chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus, denounced the elimination of LSOs as an effort to limit the flow of information on important cultural issues in Congress. In a recent statement Jeffords said, "This doesn't have anything to do with shrinking the size of government. It has to do with options for getting information outside the committee system." Slaughter added, "The more you take away informational resources within the House, the more Congress will be dependent solely on the position promulgated by outside interests who often deliberately distort the facts for their own gain." She continued by stating, "At a time when the Caucus has demonstrated how the arts play a role in community revitalization, the education of our children as well as our balance of trade, this critical informational arm is being cut off."

According to a press release from the House Republican Conference, part of the rationale behind eliminating caucuses is to reduce government spending. …