I was shocked to learn of a 116-page report based on surveys of congressional staffers and registered lobbyists that the authors are selling for $600. Among the earth-shaking findings: staffers prefer email contacts; lobbyists like to meet in person [so they can tell or introduce their clients]; staffers grant access in the hope of obtaining credible and reliable information; for staffers, the most valuable information source is the Congressional Research Service.
I'm not going to pay $600 for this. Fortunately, Politico has a summary story -- for free.
But this points to a larger point about information about Congress: it's expensive, and many people are willing to pay the high prices. In many cases, the most significant information is not what routinely makes the public record in congressional hearings and debates; it's who said what to whom in the cloakroom, or what group is planning what initiative.
That kind of information is especially valuable to lobbyists, so they'll pay. Politico now has a subscription enws service in addition to its free daily paper; starting cost for the minimal subscription is $2500 per year. BloombergGov is hiring journalists [hooray!] for its subscription service costing $5700 per year. The old standbys that we academics rely on --the newspaper RollCall and the CQ Weekly -- now cost around $600 per year each.
Knowledge is power, but only the rich can afford to gain the knowledge.