William S. Cohen Papers | Scope, Content,
and Arrangement of the Papers
Scope and Content Note
The William S. Cohen congressional papers consist of the records
created by Cohen and his staff in the course of Cohen's duties as a
member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1973 to 1978 and as
a U.S. Senator from 1979 to 1997. They include correspondence,
memos, reports, press releases, appointment calendars, speeches,
voting records, photographs, videos, and memorabilia. These files
document Cohen's legislative and committee-related work, the
attention and services he offered to his constituents, his public
relations and press activities, and the administrative activities of
his office in Washington D.C. and in the six state offices in Maine.
The Department of Defense documents, primarily in electronic format,
include trip reports, public statements, correspondence,
photographs, and videotapes from 1997-2001. Cohen's private papers,
the bulk of which consist of the manuscripts for the nine books he
has written, are also included.
Private Papers, 1956-1996, 33 boxes
The bulk of Cohen's private papers consist of records related to
writing, Cohen's major avocation. Drafts of his poetry and
manuscripts from the nine books he has written are included here,
and they attest to Cohen's avid interest in writing poetry, fiction,
and accounts of his own experience in Congress. The papers also
document several aspects of Cohen's life and career before he
entered the U.S. Congress in 1973. They include his yearbooks from
Bowdoin College, where he received his A.B. cum laude in Latin in
1962, correspondence with his colleagues in the American Trial
Lawyer Association, and material related to the JFK Institute of
Politics where Cohen was a fellow in 1972.
U.S. House of Representatives Papers, 1972-1980, 211 .5 cu. ft.
This record group consists of the files that were created by Cohen
and his staff in the course of Cohen's duties as a member of the
U.S. House of Representatives from 1973 to 1979. They document the
five major functional areas of a congressional office: a)
personal/political/official, b) constituent services, c)
legislative, d) press/media activities, and e) office
administration. Each of these five functional areas contain records
which form a series.
The personal/political/official records document Cohen's personal
activities, and they consist of biographical information, scheduling
records, Cohen's personal correspondence, and records from the four
campaigns he conducted while he was in the House. These campaign
records include brochures, voting records, position papers and
newsclippings. Audiovisual campaign materials may be found with the
audiovisual materials (record group 4).
The legislative records document the legislative process, and the
bulk of the files contained in this series consist of Cohen's
correspondence with his constituents about specific legislative
issues. Also included are records related to Cohen's service on the
U.S. House Judiciary Committee from 1973-1979. As a freshman member
of that committee in 1974, Cohen participated in the Nixon
impeachment inquiry, commonly known as the Watergate crisis. Draft
articles of impeachment, Cohen's correspondence with other Judiciary
Committee members, and other records which document the decision he
made to vote in favor of Nixon's impeachment may be found in this
A number of Cohen's aides worked on legislative issues such as
health, aging, the environment, and the fishing industry. Files
received on these and other legislative subjects were few in number,
so they have been filed with Cohen's Senate legislative papers,
under the appropriate subject headings. This also includes files
related to long-term Maine issues such as the controversy over the
Dickey-Lincoln power plant and the Indian land claims settlement of
The constituent service records document the representative function
of the Cohen office. This involves activities such as managing
casework and coordinating service academy appointments. Due to the
confidential nature of case work files, they were removed from the
collection before it was transferred to the University of Maine. The
records in this series consists of two boxes of service academy
applications and screening committee records, which are arranged
alphabetically according to the last name of each applicant.
Press/media records reflect the efforts of Cohen's staff to
communicate with the public about Cohen, and they consist of
newspaper clippings, press releases, speeches, and special mailings.
Office administrative records include staff memos, general
correspondence, and applications for internships in Cohen's office.
U.S. Senate Papers, 1973-1996, 1161 boxes
These records were created by Cohen and his staff in the course of
Cohen's duties as a U.S. Senator from 1979 to 1996. Some of the
legislative papers from Cohen's time in the House of Representatives
are also included. The records in this category document the five
major functional areas of a congressional office, which are the same
as they are in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The personal/political/official records include Cohen's personal
correspondence with Presidents Bush, Reagan, and Carter as well as
other political and public figures. Records from his two Senate
campaigns, the first in 1984 and the second in 1990, are also found
in this series, and they consist of Cohen's voting records, position
papers, and newsclippings.
The bulk of the legislative records were created by Cohen's
legislative aides, who were responsible for drafting bills, and
providing him with up-to-date information about pending legislation
and advice on possible legislative strategies. Each aide was usually
assigned to several subject areas, such as agriculture, defense,
education, transportation, and the environment, and the records are
organized according to these subject areas. They contain memos from
aides to Cohen, copies of bills, transcripts of hearings, briefing
books, and staff project files. The legislative records also reflect
Cohen's service on various committees, such as the Committee on
Aging, which he was a member of from 1977-1997, and the Senate
committee formed to investigate the Iran-contra affair in 1987.
Cohen's Iran-contra files include drafts of the questions he asked
of witnesses who participated in the public hearings, advisory memos
from legislative aides, and drafts of speeches and floor statements.
The constituent service records consist largely of correspondence
which was handled by a Correspondence Management System (CMS), used
to produce responses to individual letters from constituents. The
care with which this correspondence was handled documents the
priority status that constituent service was given in the Cohen
office. The correspondence for each year that Cohen was in the
Senate (with the exception of 1996) was microfilmed, and the
microfilm copies and masters of this correspondence are included
with the audio-visual materials.
The press/media records are made up of newsclippings, press
releases, speeches, and documentation concerning the television show
Washington Perspective which Cohen participated in with Sen. George
Mitchell. Video and audiocassette tapes of Cohen on television talk
shows and on the Senate floor can be found with the audiovisual
The office administrative records include travel itineraries, an
office policy manual, staff memos, and administrative reports.
Audiovisual Materials, 73 boxes and 63 reels
Records in this group encompass Cohen's career in both the U.S.
House and the U.S. Senate. Included here are over 600 videocassette
recordings of Cohen's speeches, television interviews, his own radio
and television broadcasts, and his statements from the floor of the
House and the Senate. Audiocassette tapes, microfilm, reel-to-reel
tapes and other audiovisual materials, created to communicate
information about issues and events with which Cohen was involved,
are also found in this series. Much of this material was generated
for the four campaigns Cohen waged during his term in the House, as
well as his Senate campaigns of 1984 and 1990.
Photographs and Memorabilia, 120 linear ft.
Photographs of Cohen with family members, constituents, and VIPs, as
well as several hundred negatives which were taken by the Senate
Photo Studio are found in this series, as well as plaques, framed
photographs, trophies, honorary degrees, and other objects that were
given to Cohen as tokens of esteem from constituents, universities,
corporations, and other institutions.
Department of Defense, 1996-2001, 5 GB (16 CD-ROM disks) and 6 boxes
Secretary Cohen's papers from the Office of the Secretary of Defense
consist of files kept in the office for reference purposes; official
federal records created by Cohen and the staff at the Pentagon are
retained by the DOD and by the National Archives. Cohen's DOD papers
are copies of unclassified documents. The records in this group are
divided into five series: official correspondence, trips, public
statements, conferences/hearings/special events, photographs, and
The official correspondence series consists of a variety of letters
to and from congressional leaders, other cabinet offices, and heads
of state as well as reports to Congress and the President; staff
memos regarding scheduling and suggested talking points for
meetings; and related reference material such as President Clinton's
speeches and detailed Congressional committee reports on defense
matters. This is the only series of material generally not available
the public in other forms.
Trip materials include itineraries, points of contact, speeches,
statement alternatives, background papers, talking points, and
reference materials for the specific visits and meetings organized
by country or location. Photographs of travel are in the photographs
Public statements include transcripts of speeches, interviews, press
conferences, and congressional testimony; text of reports,
announcements, and news articles; press advisories and correspondent
memoranda; and copies of related correspondence. This material is
duplicated in seven bound volumes provided by the Historical Office,
Office of the Secretary of Defense.
The series titled conferences/hearings/special events covers
activities of the Office of Secretary of Defense that were treated
separately from other functions. Files generated by Cohen's
congressional confirmation hearings for the Secretary's position,
the 1997 Kassebaum Report on Gender Integrated Training and Related
Issues in the military, preparation for hearings in the Armed
Services and Appropriations Committees in Congress, and Y2K
readiness are included.
The photographs, nearly 3,000 images, document diplomatic meetings
with the Secretary hosting heads of state visiting this country,
Secretary and Mrs. Cohen during foreign visits at ceremonies or
visiting the troops, and Secretary Cohen with important public
figures in this country, either at meetings or social events. These
jpeg images taken by Department of Defense photographers are
identified in most cases.
The news files are items prepared by the American Forces Information
Service on behalf of DOD staff for daily information on world
events. Contents are organized by date and by branch of service and
topic within each date. Press releases from the Pentagon are
The records in this group are divided into five series: official
correspondence, trips, public statements,
conferences/hearings/special events, photographs, and news. Each
series has a corresponding notebook with a hard copy of the Main
Menu along with contents for each CD in the series. The photographs
are JPEG images of official events including award ceremonies,
meetings with dignitaries, and travel. The news files are primarily
the research gathered on behalf of DoD staff for daily information
on world events.
Organization of the Records
Organized into the following six record groups: Private Papers,
1956-1996; U.S. House of Representatives, 1972-1980; U.S. Senate,
1973-1996; Audiovisual materials, 1972-1997; Photos and memorabilia,
1955-1997; and Department of Defense, 1996-2001.
Arrangement of the Records
Original order maintained wherever possible, series and sub-series
alphabetical by function or staff member and chronological within
the sub-series. U.S. Senate and U.S. House record groups are each
arranged into the following five series:
Personal/Political/Official, Constituent Service, Legislative,
Press/Media, and Office Administration. Audiovisual materials and
photos and memorabilia cover Cohen's House and Senate years combined
as they were interfiled in this manner by staff.
The papers are arranged in folders in 1/2 cubic foot boxes, except
where format requires oversized boxes.
William S. Cohen.
United States. Congress - Ethics.
United States. Congress - House of Representatives.
United States. Congress - Senate.
United States. Department of Defense. Office of the Secretary of
Aging - United States.
Iran-Contra Affair, 1985-1990.
National security - United States.
Political ethics - United States.
Watergate Affair, 1972-1974.
Watergate Trial, Washington, D.C., 1973.
United States - Military policy.
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