Special Collections Department
Thomas R. Carper
Scope and Content Note
The Thomas R. Carper Congressional Papers document his career as Delaware's member-at-large in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1983-1993. The collection spans 1979-1993, but
the bulk of the papers covers the time period 1982-1992, from the final days of Carper's term as
Delaware state treasurer and the announcement of his intention to run for Congress in July 1982,
until November 1992 when he won the gubernatorial election for the state of Delaware. Nearly
84 linear feet in extent with some oversize and audio-visual materials, the contents are typical of
materials found in a congressional collection: correspondence with constituents, colleagues, and
government agencies; memoranda and notes; speeches; bills, resolutions, and amendments of
legislation; financial documents, reports, testimonies, hearings, pamphlets, publications, and
reference materials; calendars, schedules, photographs, publicity, newsletters, news clippings,
maps, and ephemera.
Some parts of the collection are more complete than others in documenting Carper's ten years in Congress, but the collection in its entirety depicts the congressional duties of representing individual constituents and the state of Delaware, creating legislation, serving on committees, and conducting oversight and investigations. Personal material in the collection is limited to campaign files from Carper's political career between 1982 and 1992, and photographs and other personal ephemera.
The collection as a whole is also typical of modern political papers: it is large and reflects the complex working relationship between the Congressman and his staff. Carper's papers are a composite of his own, personally-generated papers and the working files of his supporting legislative and administrative staff. (See Appendix C for a list of all staff members who served in Carper's office between 1983 and 1993.) As a consequence of the number of people involved in creating the papers, as well as the frequency of turnover in job positions and responsibilities, there is great idiosyncracy in the breadth, depth, and continuity of the files.
The majority of the files in the collection were maintained by legislative assistants (LAs) in the congressional office of Carper. Assigned a subject area for which they are expected to develop expertise, legislative assistants research and synthesize information on an issue. They monitor all legislation as it moves through Congress. They provide their member of Congress with concise and informed reports with recommended positions and/or suggestions for a vote. Legislative assistants serve in important advisory roles, but, as evidenced in the Carper papers, their advice is not always heeded. Carper's legislative assistants also composed reports or memoranda to brief him on pending legislation, drafted legislation and speeches, and served as liaisons to agencies or other members of Congress. They supported Congressman Carper in all of his duties which required their subject expertise related to work on legislative issues.
Administrative assistants have management as well as legislative responsibilities and are the senior staff in a congressional office. Staff assistants often cover legislative assignments and provide general support with constituent services. Caseworkers serve as liaisons with federal agencies to procure appropriate government services for constituents. Key senior staff or long-term staff who worked for Congressman Carper and whose names appear frequently in this collection include the following: administrative assistant Ed Freel, communications director (later administrative assistant) Jeffrey Bullock, press secretary Timothy Gay, and legislative assistants Liz Ryan, John Baker, Christophe Tulou, Janet St. Amand, and Helen Wiederhorn. Several of these staff were not long-term employees, but were senior staff toward the end of Carper's career in the House, and their papers were included in the office files. Files created by earlier senior staff and legislative assistants are often missing from this collection.
The content and arrangement of the papers, then, reflects the research methods, filing habits, and organizational skills of numerous staff. The absence of a central office filing system, the frequent reassignment of staff responsibilities and subject areas, and the extent of subject overlap in identifiable file series led to an integrated series outline in the archival arrangement of this collection. The integrated series outline incorporates small groups of files that were created by these numerous staff. In cases where a staff member was clearly identified with the creation and content of a file series, this is detailed in series description notes. (See, for example, Series I.B.2. Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee files, primarily maintained by Christophe Tulou; or Series I.F. Trips, largely created by Liz Ryan.) This introductory scope note explains the overall arrangement and content of the collection; longer, detailed scope notes are found with each series description in the finding aid.
The collection is organized in three main subgroups: I. Official Work Files, II. Administrative Files, and III. Personal Files. The first subgroup, Official Work Files, encompasses eight series: TC (Tom Carper's) Personal Files, Committee Work, Issue Files, Regional Issue Files, Constituent Correspondence, Trips, Voting Records, and Publications. The Administrative Files subgroup includes Office Administration and Communications, and the Personal Files subgroup contains Campaign Materials, Photographs, Audio-Visual Materials, and Ephemera.
Series I.A. TC Personal Files and Series III.A. Campaign Materials provide the quickest overview of Carper's congressional career. With subject and correspondence files, Series I.A. TC Personal Files reflects the daily workings of the Congressman, his staff, and the offices of the House. File contents are variously broad in topical scope, and in depth of coverage for any one issue, and there are chronological omissions in this file series. But the range of topics illuminates Carper's involvement with important issues and highlights his accomplishments. Some files in Series I.A. TC Personal Files overlap or complement staff files on the same topic found elsewhere in the collection. Campaign files are especially rich as a synopsis of Carper's congressional career. Press releases, publicity, speeches, and other campaign literature highlight positions and accomplishments that Carper chose to feature in campaigns.
Comprising 24 linear feet, the largest series in the collection is Series I.C. Issue Files. The series is organized in twenty-two topical subseries, using subject terms similar to those found in indexes of Congressional Quarterly, Inc. publications and reflecting the subject responsibilities of the legislative assistants. These topical terms correspond generally to committee names (Appropriations, Foreign Affairs) or to the issues regularly referred to in committees or the legislative process. Other issue terms, such as "Women," "Children," or "Amtrak," were named by subject without regard to committee jurisdiction.
The twenty-two subseries are Agriculture, Amtrak, Animal Welfare, Appropriations, Children, Civil Rights, Civil Service, Commerce, Economics and Finance, Education, Energy and the Environment, Foreign Affairs, Health and Human Services, House Administration, Immigration, Judiciary, Mass Transportation, Miscellaneous, Science and Technology, Veterans, and Women. Series I.C. Issue Files is strongly representative of the work done by legislative assistants in Congressman Carper's office.
The legislative assistants' issue files were used to advise Congressman Carper on legislation before a vote, to support the Congressman in his committee work, and to provide context for dealings with constituents. Staff were expected to do background research, either on their own, by using the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress, by speaking with other representatives' congressional staff, by attending meetings, or by all of these methods. Most staff met with constituents or practitioners pertinent to the issue, an invaluable activity that Carper expected of his staff.
A typical issue file might contain research notes, transcriptions of hearings, correspondence, position memoranda submitted by concerned parties, "Dear Colleague" letters, Democratic Study Group (DSG) reports with notations on how to vote or critiques of selected passages in legislation, analyses of issues by legislative assistants, meeting notes taken by legislative assistants, and business cards. Some staff systematically kept almost everything they collected pertaining to a subject; others randomly kept only a sample of articles, correspondence, or publications. In the few desirable cases when longtime staff maintained responsibility for one issue over several years, some issue files are more comprehensive than others; chronological coverage is mostly problematic with frequent gaps throughout the series. Some files on the same topic can be found in several places throughout this collection, either because a new legislative assistant assumed a former staff member's responsibilities or subject area, or because several staff kept overlapping files on topics of special importance to the Congressman. Other issues, such as "Children" could be multifaceted, considered under the purview of several legislative assistants.
In spite of these inconsistencies, Series I.C. Issue Files is a rich source for understanding the scope of legislation and concerns handled by Carper and his congressional staff in the years through the 1980s and start of the 1990s. Most of the legislative assistants' files contain reports and background notes from meetings or personal contacts with other congressional and government staff, which were then compiled into briefing memoranda for Carper's review. Carper tracked any number of issues in a given week, many of which were not related directly to his committee work or pending legislation, but were important to him nonetheless. He had strong interest in following any developments related to the environment; veterans affairs; foreign relations, especially in Central America, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East; and issues relevant to Delaware. The papers contain extensive documentation on these topics and, to a lesser extent, there are issue files on social security, health care, women's and children's issues, and education. Additional issues related to Delaware and neighboring New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania are found in Series I.D. Regional Issues Files.
Legislative assistants were also responsible for the content of most of the files in Series I.B. Committee Work. The official records of House committees are permanently housed in the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives, and, by House rule, are closed for thirty years from the date of their creation. The files that remain in Congressman Carper's personal papers are supporting documentation in the form of news clippings, reference files, position papers, "Dear Colleague" letters, studies, published hearings, and other related information collected by the legislative assistants.
The material in Series I.B. Committee Work is useful in documenting the full range of committee work and legislative issues considered by Congressman Carper. His legislative assistants had overlapping responsibilities in their subject assignments, so some of the research reports and legislative analyses found in this series had multiple purposes. For example, the bulk of Series I.B.2. Merchant Marine and Fisheries Files comprises the wider environmental issue files of legislative assistant Christophe Tulou. In addition to reference files, reports, correspondence related to building background information, and news clippings -- all similar to material found in Series. I.C. Issue Files -- there are a number of published hearings, floor statements, press releases, "Dear Colleague" letters, and other public documents that reveal committee actions and Carper's role in committee work. There are almost seven linear feet of files related to environmental issues studied by Carper in the Coast Guard and Navigation Subcommittee, and the Fisheries and Wildlife Conservation and the Environment Subcommittee.
Series I.B.1. Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Files includes nearly 10 linear feet of material related to issues handled by Carper in the following subcommittees: Domestic Monetary Policy, International Monetary Policy, Housing and Community Development, Economic Stabilization, and Financial Institutions Supervision, Regulation and Insurance. Key legislation related to public housing included Lead Paint Abatement, Family Self-Sufficiency Act, Tenant Income Verification, Mixed Populations in Public Housing, and Prepayment and Preservation. The series also includes files related to the National Flood Insurance Plan, and the National Flood Erosion Mitigation Act of 1989, legislation of interest to Delaware and other states in coastal zones. Important material in this series relates to Carper's work on behalf of regulatory and insurance reform for banks and financial institutions, notably the 1991 Banking Reform Bill.
Many legislative assistants kept reports and information in their issue files that were helpful in drafting responses to constituent mail. Whether handled by legislative assistants or other staff assistants, these replies were filed with the incoming letters and postcards found in Series I.E. Constituent Correspondence. Most of the 11 linear feet of files in this series is staff-generated, but the correspondence is useful for documentation of contemporary topics and Congressman Carper's stated positions on a number of issues. There are personal replies from Carper in the Constituent Correspondence series, especially when Carper knew the constituent personally, when the constituent was a frequent correspondent, or when the correspondent was "important." Carper's other personal correspondence with constituents appears in Series I.A. TC Personal Files and, to a lesser extent, elsewhere in the collection.
Series I.F. Trips includes itineraries, correspondence, reports, and other related documents from Carper's participation in several congressional delegations to foreign countries and the state of Alaska. The bulk of the series concerns an important trip to Southeast Asia in 1991, but there are other files from trips to Central America in 1983 and 1987; to the Middle East in 1983/1984; to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska in 1987; to Costa Rica in 1988; and to Panama in 1990. Complementary files are found in Series I.C. Issue Files or Series I.B. Committee Work. A number of sources found in Series I.G. Voting Records and Series I.H. Publications are useful for documenting the final action on legislation or other issues presented elsewhere in the papers. Legislative Activity Guides, published under supervision of the Clerk of the House; Democratic Study Group reports; Congressional Research Service reports from the Library of Congress; and other documents and correspondence record voting action, and provide legislative summaries and voter profiles of members of Congress.
The two series in Subgroup II. Administrative Files include Series II.A. Office Administration and Series II.B. Communications. Office administration encompasses general procedures and housekeeping, House manuals, caucus memberships, financial disclosures and expense authorizations, and guest books and Carper's schedules. Communications includes Capitol Comments, Carper's newsletter for his Delaware constituents, and clippings and other files of the press secretary.
As previously mentioned, Series III.A. Campaign Materials provides a rich overview of Carper's entire congressional career. Each campaign provided an opportunity to recapitulate the major issues of the day and to review Carper's positions, actions, and goals. The remaining photographs, audio-visual material, and ephemera in Subgroup III. Personal Files supplements and illustrates much of the rest of the collection.
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citation and reference information:
Thomas R. Carper
Manuscript Collection Number: 399
Accessioned: Gift of Thomas R. Carper, 1992, 1998-1999
Extent: 95 linear ft. and oversize material
Content: Legislation, correspondence, reports, documents and publications, memoranda, speeches, photographs, audio-visual material, newsletters, news clippings, and ephemera.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: November 1997 - December 1999 by Rebecca J. Altermatt with assistance from Rob Costello; edited by L. Rebecca Johnson Melvin.
Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
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