The Hill on The Net
Electronic Update #12


The amount of information about the U.S. Congress that can be found on the Web continues to grow rapidly, and there is much much more out there than just what is offered on the home pages offered by individual members and committees. On official government and independent sites alike, there is information available for anyone interested in exploring the past and present workings of the U.S. Congress on the Net. Here's a few I recently happened onto:

The Clerk of the House of Representatives has established a home page with information about the office and its functions, information on how to obtain documents, historical information, and much more. Many of the documents available from the Clerk's office are only described here and are not themselves available online. Perhaps that will come in time, but this is still a useful starting point for exploring the House.

Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives

From the House Clerk's page, I found my way to the National Archives and Records Administration - Center for Legislative Archives. The National Archives is the ultimate home for Congress' records, holding materials dating back to the first Congress. The web site provides useful information for those who want to gain access to the records and how to cite them, but no real online access to documents. Both the House and Senate restrict access to their records for between 20 and 50 years, depending on the type of record, so don't come here looking for the recent stuff.

National Archives and Records Administration - Center for Legislative Archives

After all this browsing without finding many real documents, you may be ready to find the beef. You might try the home page of The Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan, non-profit research group based in Washington, D.C. that specializes in the study of Congress and particularly the role that money plays in its elections and actions. CRP has made the Public Financial Disclosure Reports for members of Congress available on their web site. What you'll find are gif images created by scanning hard copies of the original documents. The CRP site makes it very easy to locate the report of any individual member, but the full pages gifs can be cumbersome to view. Still, it's better than nothing. As the CRP points out, both the House Clerk and Secretary of the Senate store this information electronically, but neither office makes it available to the public in that format.

The Center for Responsive Politics - Congressional Public Financial Disclosure Forms

The current headline on the home page of House Majority Whip Tom Delay proclaims "Delay Web Site Sets New Congressional Record" and in a press release states that the site is "setting a new standard for a Congressional Web site" by receiving more hits in a single month than any other site in the House of Representatives.

The release states that "almost 590,000" hits were recorded on Delay's Majority Whip page in the month of July, bringing visitors from around the world and across the U.S. to find the schedules and information available direct from the House's "inner sanctum".

No comment was made on how many of those hits came from individuals who were searching for a sanctum of another sort. In my last update I told you about a Roll Call story that reported that searching for Delay's legislative schedule "The Whipping Post" using popular Internet search engines would also lead web browsers to a number of decidedly non-legislative sites. Perhaps other members will try and drive up their hit counts in a similar manner, imagine the possibilities...

Delay Web Site Tops Half Million Hits for July

Freshman Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming wants to be allowed to bring his laptop computer with him for use inside the Senate chamber. Having looked into the request, Senate Sergeant at Arms Greg Casey (no relation to the author) has submitted a report to the Committe on Rules offering his suggested guidelines under which Enzi's request should be granted. His suggestions include that the laptops not disrupt the Senate by any distracting noices they might emit, that they be used by Senators only and not by staff (with the exception of those already in use by the Parliamentarian and Policy Committee staffs), and that they not be attached to any network outside of the Senate chamber. The Rules Committee will consider the question upon their return from the August recess.

I have not been able to find SAA Casey's report online, but for background info on those involved try:

Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming

Senate Sergeant at Arms - position description

Senate Committee on Rules and Administration

Senator Lauch Faircloth of North Carolina was supposedly shocked to spy a staffer in his Senate office playing a game on his Senate computer. And he believes that he can save the government "millions, if not billions, in lost productivity" by removing all computer games from government computers, and preventing the federal government from purchasing any computer that comes with any games pre-installed.

Congress itself would be exempt from the legislation which applies only to executive branch agencies, so it's possible that some surreptitious solitare survives in Sen. Faircloth's office. And considering the previous item, it might not be long before Senators are themselves spied seeking high scores on C-SPAN... it could happen ;-)

Senator Lauch Faircloth of North Carolina

Sen. Faircloth's Computer Game Amendment

That's all for now!



Copyright 1997 by Chris Casey

Electronic Updates #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7 ,#8, #9, #10, #11 & #13.

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