The Congressional Sunbelt Caucus was formed in 1981 as a bipartisan coalition of U.S. House of Representative members from Southern and Southwestern states. Initially called the Congressional Sunbelt Council, this Legislative Service Organization (LSO) later changed its name to the Congressional Sunbelt Caucus. In 1993, senators were formally invited to join the Caucus, making it bicameral. Caucus members represented the states of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Established in part as a reaction to the success and influence of the Northeast-Midwest Congressional Coalition, the Sunbelt Caucus studied, monitored, provided background information, and formed policy positions on issues, legislation, and government actions affecting the Sunbelt states. The caucus set out to propose and track legislation concerning the Southern and Southwestern states and provided a forum for the evaluation and resolution of problems and/or concerns associated with the Sunbelt region. Also working to improve the quality of life in their states, caucus members sought to enhance the economic development and competitiveness of the region. They also advocated more federal funding for their states.
To help further these goals, the Sunbelt Caucus fostered information-sharing and cooperation among its members and provided numerous services and activities. These included the Sunbelt Report newsletter; issue briefs and updates; news clippings; and briefings, seminars, conferences, and meetings with federal and state officials. Additional services and activities included press conferences, press releases, and opportunities for cooperation with other regional groups such as the Southern Governors' Association, the Southern Legislative Conference, and the Southern Municipal Conference.
The caucus's goals were also met through the activities of its task forces. These were formed throughout the life of the caucus and included the following:
As a Legislative Service Organization governed by rules of the House and the Committee on House Administration, the caucus could not receive funding from outside sources, and was therefore supported through dues paid from members' office accounts. The bipartisan leadership of the Sunbelt Caucus included an elected chair and vice-chair, each from a different party. The titles of chairman and vice-chairman were changed in 1990; thereafter, these positions were held by two co-chairs. Charles Wilson (D-TX) became the caucus's first chairman, and Floyd Spence (R-SC) served as its first vice-chair. The following members also served in these positions: Stephen L. Neal (D-NC), Michael A. Andrews (D-TX), E. Clay Shaw, Jr. (R-FL), Lindsay Thomas (D-GA), Dave McCurdy (D-OK), and Thad Cochran (R-MS).
John H. Buchanan, Jr., the Sunbelt Caucus's first executive director, was a former member of the U.S. House who represented Alabama. Joseph W. Westphal became executive director in 1988 and held that position until 1995. He has since served as Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) and as chancellor of the University of Maine System.
Scope of the Collection
The Congressional Sunbelt Caucus Collection includes documents and a small photograph collection covering the period 1981-1995. The bulk of the collection is from 1981-1982 and 1987-1994. Materials in the collection include administrative, organizational, and membership information; legislation; news and press releases; task force agendas, strategies, and proposals; briefing materials; reports; statistical information; booklets; and journal articles. The Sunbelt Caucus set out to propose and track legislation concerning the Southern and Southwestern states and provided a forum for the evaluation and resolution of problems and/or concerns associated with the Sunbelt region of the United States. Caucus members sought to enhance the economic development and competitiveness of the region in order to improve the quality of life in their states.
Detailed Description of the Collection
The following is a detailed listing of series, boxes, folders, and documents that can be found in the Sunbelt collection.
Series 1: Administration, Organization, Membership, 1981-1994. 2 cubic feet.
Arranged alphabetically by folder title, this series mainly contains materials related to the general operation of the Sunbelt Caucus. Memoranda make up a significant portion of the series and cover a wide variety of topics, ranging from the routine activities and procedures of the caucus to issues of importance to it and the Southern and Southwestern states. There is also information relating to caucus policies and procedures, finances, budgets, membership dues, and fund-raising. Several folders provide substantial information on the general management of Legislative Services Organizations (LSOs). A number of folders now house materials formerly contained in notebooks.
Caucus membership lists are available for 1981-1994, and statistical profiles and congressional and gubernatorial election results are included for the 103rd and 104th Congresses. Folders documenting chairmanship elections contain materials on Mike Andrews, Lindsay Thomas, Dave McCurdy, and Thad Cochran. Other items of note consist of annual and quarterly reports, biographical material on Mike Andrews, correspondence concerning the establishment of the Sunbelt Council, materials related to senators becoming formal members of the caucus, and background information on the history and purpose of the Sunbelt Caucus and Sunbelt Research Coalition, Inc.
Series 2: Press and Newsletters, 1982-1994 (Bulk: 1987-1994). 0.5 cubic foot.
This series is arranged alphabetically by folder title. Sets of folders with the same title are further divided chronologically. Wire copies from the Associated Press and other news organizations are included, along with press releases issued by the Sunbelt Caucus and others. The bulk of the series is comprised of the following materials: miscellaneous news clippings, "Sunbelt Clippings" (packets of news clippings compiled by caucus staff and distributed to its members), and the Sunbelt Report (the caucus newsletter). The series also contains a folder of memoranda, documents on Lindsay Thomas becoming caucus co-chair, materials regarding the creation of the Sunbelt Report, and drafts of newsletter articles. Biographical information on Joseph Westphal is also present.
Series 3: Task Forces, Briefings, Issues, Correspondence, 1981-1994 (Bulk: 1981-1982; 1987-1994). 2.5 cubic feet.
Much of the information contained in this series relates to various issues and legislation of concern to the Sunbelt Caucus and the Southern and Southwestern states. The arrangement is alphabetical by folder title, with folders of the same title also subdivided chronologically. Correspondence comprises a substantial portion of the series. Incoming correspondence is filed alphabetically by sender, while outgoing correspondence is filed alphabetically by recipient. Additional correspondence may be found in folders entitled "Dear Colleagues Correspondence." These letters were sent to Sunbelt Caucus members and cover a variety of topics. Materials on briefings sponsored by the caucus constitute another significant body of documents. Several folders also contain issue, legislation, and news updates produced by the caucus and distributed to its members.
Topics covered in the series include the following: science, technology, industry, and economy of the Sunbelt states; public housing and community development; energy conservation, weatherization, and the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP); redistricting and the census; climate, global warming, and water resources; Civil War battlefields; Medicaid; banking; drug control; income taxes; presidential primaries; and unfunded mandates. Several folders also provide information regarding the Southern Governors' Association, the Southern Legislative Conference and Summit, and the Southern Municipal Conference.
Series 4: Subject, 1981-1995 (Bulk: 1988-1994). 6 cubic feet.
The subject series is arranged alphabetically by folder title and chronologically within. Materials in the subject series are concerned with various issues affecting the Congressional Sunbelt Caucus and the Sunbelt states. Subjects included in the series are battlefield protection; economics; energy; the environment; the Gulf of Mexico and the "Year of the Gulf of Mexico"; health care; infant mortality; science and technology; wetlands; and workforce literacy. Topics also included within the series are education; census; defense; agriculture; North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); and poverty. Materials that can be found in the inventory are legislation and legislative profiles; news and press releases; memoranda; news clippings; briefing materials; reports; statements and testimonies; journal articles; task force agendas, proposals, and strategies; booklets; and statistical information. The descriptive inventory also includes names of prominent individuals, organizations, and departments within the United States government.
For more information on archival holdings, please contact the Carl Albert Center.