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Tag Archive: official web sites

Congress May Fix Web Site Rules

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Earlier this year, David All and I wrote a section of the Open House Project calling for the House to review and rewrite arcane franking regulations as applied to member Web sites. According to Roll Call, it looks like this is actually going to happen. If you've ever been to a congressional Web site you've probably noticed the lack of interactivity, multimedia, and linking that is common in today's Internet. That's because of unwritten, nonspecific, arbitrary rules that are unevenly applied across member Web sites. Members can't post YouTube videos, link to MySpace, ask people to Digg something on their site, or have a blogroll. All of that may be changing soon:

Regulations prohibit content that can be construed as an advertisement or as purely personal information, such as links to fundraisers or support for partisan causes. Now, the new phenomenon of social networking sites — and the increasing use of them by Members — is testing the application of such rules in a multimedia world.

House and Senate officials say several Members are not in compliance, though none apparently have been disciplined. It’s time, they say, to update the rules to match the technology.

The House Administration Committee has been drafting possible changes for months, as has the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.

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George Miller Taps Web 2.0

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As David All and I have written, the rules governing member Web sites are not fit for the 21st Century Web. If the rules were enforced with any regularity, instead of used as a scarecrow to keep members from innovating, then some of the best practices by members on the Web wouldn't be happening. Case in point: Rep. George Miller (D-CA).

Today, George Miller announced a new campaign, called "Ask George," calling on citizens to send videos, through video sharing sites like YouTube, to Miller's office regarding the War in Iraq. Miller's office describes "Ask George" as a "distributed, virtual town hall". Miller also suggests that participants in this conversation "tag" their videos "askgeorge" so that his office can go and find the questions. This way, Miller is the one going out to seek the conversation rather than the citizen or constituent who is usually the one seeking out the congressman.

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A Modern Congress Needs Modern Web Sites

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The Hill newspaper ran an Op-Ed written by David All and myself on Tuesday in the Open House Project Op-Ed series. We run down the reasons why member Web sites are often just polished brochures, accessories to the actual functions of the office. First and foremost is the rule regime governing member Web content. These rules date from the early to mid-nineties and do not reflect the current nature of the Internet in the 21st Century. David and I advocate for these rules to be changed and for the Committee on House Administration to create a bipartisan panel to solve the problem. I've been blogging about member Web sites over at the Open House Project blog this week. So far, I've covered Ben Nelson's Google Map of his Iraq CODEL, Jack Kingston's dynamic member site, and the attitude on Capitol Hill in regards to member Web sites. Below the fold I've included the Op-Ed that David and I wrote.

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Congressional Websites Need Improvement

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The Congressional Management Foundation released their annual Golden Mouse Awards today for the best Member websites. The numbers, like our own “Tools for Transparency” project, are not too encouraging. The average score for our citizen powered project was 31.3755. The most common score for the CMF Golden Mouse Awards was a “D”, which is between 30 and 39.

The CMF study is a shade different from what we, with your help, were doing here at Sunlight. CMF uses the following categories to determine if a website is operated properly:

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Are Congressional Web Sites Tools for Transparency? — 5th Update

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With tenacity and doggedness, citizen journalists have now completed their investigations of the Web sites for some 334 members of Congress--leaving us with just over 200 to go! The average score has crept up to 31.2679, while the average amount of time taken to complete an investigation holds steady at seven minutes. Thanks to everyone who's participated so far (if I'm reading the handy-dandy internal stats page correctly, there are 93 contributors), and thanks also to Kathy Gill, who gives us a nice plug while offering a very useful criticism.

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Some Member Page Transparency

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What are you finding in the search for Member page transparency? Give a spin around and you're bound to find something interesting. We all now know about Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand and Sen. Jon Tester posting their daily schedule on the web but we haven’t seen too much from other Members. This post highlights some things Members are doing that you might run across while undertaking our new citizen journalist assignment.

Posting a schedule is an innovative way to provide constituents with more information and provide them with a better feel for what a Member of Congress does. While Gillibrand and Tester are at the forefront of a new kind of schedule transparency they were not the first to post some form of personal schedule online. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) has been posting a schedule on his site for years now, although the schedule does not list more than one thing for each day. Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) also posts a schedule on his website that does provide a bit more information than Capuano’s schedule.

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Citizen Journalists: Are Congressional Web Sites Tools for Transparency?

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We're launching a new citizen journalism project to find out what members of Congress are doing with their taxpayer-funded, official Web sites. Are they using the sites to further transparency and be accountable to their constituents? Or are they using them to post press releases touting their actions or to highlight favorable stories from the press? We're asking you to dig through the official, taxpayer-funded Website of a member of Congress, and help determine those that act as genuine tools for transparency. We're asking questions in three broad areas: do they provide access to basic information on what they do in Congress (the bills they sponsor, the committees they serve on); do they provide information from or access to any of the legally-required disclosures they have to file (on personal finances or junkets they take), and do they provide any additional information that furthers transparency (their daily schedule, lists of earmarks they've asked for or gotten).

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