This book you are about to read, browse, buy or return to the shelf is part history, part how-to, and part hypothesis about the United States Congress' developing and future use of the Internet. It will tell you something about the efforts that Congress has made (or hasn't) over the last few years to put itself on the Internet, and about the unique problems and possibilities that doing so presents to the world's most powerful legislative body. It will assist you in your exploration and use of Congressional Internet resources, and offer you suggestions for what to look for and how to best utilize the Net in order to learn about and communicate with members of Congress, and the candidates who hope the Net can help make them members. It will also do some speculating as to how Congress' use of the Internet is likely to develop in the near future.
This book is not a directory of Congressional resources on the Net. Certainly some information on how to find Congress on the Internet is included, but no attempt is made to be an Internet phone book for the Legislative branch of the U.S. Government. Other books exist that attempt to do that (some may be found in the bibliography), but sadly they often fall victim to the fact that the Net changes faster than books are published, dooming them to datedness as soon as they hit the bookstores. My focus will be directly on the efforts of the House of Representatives and the Senate, their members and their committees, and not on Congressional support agencies such as the General Accounting Office or the recently closed Office of Technology Assessment, which also post information on the Intenet.
And finally, while this book offers a history of Congress on the Internet, it is a personal history written by a participant who was present for much, but not all of it. I have not set out to write a comprehensive history that covers every single event of note, or every legislative branch agency's efforts to get wired. This book describes events as I saw them as a participant, and as they've been described to me by people who were participants when I was not. As my own experience has been working for Democrats in the Senate, you can expect this book to reflect the point of view that this has offered to me. I have tried to offer a balanced description of events, and any perceived tilt in my coverage is more likely to reflect the state of the Net in Congress at the time of this writing rather than my own political leanings. It just happens that at this moment Democrats cling to the only majority they have left, the one in Cyberspace.
Generalizations can often be made about the way members of the House of Representatives or the Senate work and behave; however, for every rule their is an exception and any generalizations made in this book won't necessarily apply to all of the 535 individuals that together are the United States Congress. Also, the descriptions of Internet sites in this book reflect their state at the time this book was written and hopefully many of them will have changed by the time you read this. Please, let this book tell you something about their beginnings, and then go online and give them a look for yourself.
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