The Hill on The Net
Electronic Update #19


It's just short of a month since Congress released Independent Counsel Ken Starr's report on the Internet, and Congressional webs haven't looked the same since. Both the House of Representatives web site, and the Library of Congress' Thomas site replaced their main pages with new road sign pages to help direct traffic for those where were looking for the Starr report, and those who really wanted to reach the House or Thomas. Even the Senate web site, which didn't carry the report, put up a new front page in an attempt to help divert some of the traffic that was bringing the Senate's web server to its knees.

Waves of Starr generated e-mail also hit the Hill like meteorites on doomsday. Some condemning the President, some supporting him, and much of it copied to every member of Congress. It generated even larger outbound blasts of e-mail when every members 'auto-acknowledgments' kicked into action. For days, e-mail was useless in the Senate. The Senate Rules committee granted a special waiver to permit the 'frozen' web pages of members of the class of '98 to add an apologetic disclaimer explaining their e-mail and web woes.

Perhaps a happy consequence of all this hubbub will be that many people who sought out the Starr report (somewhere between 6 and 20 million depending on who's counting) will have also discovered Thomas, or their member's page, or a committee web site, and learned that there's more to the Hill on the Net than just the dirty stuff.

The House of Representatives

Thomas: Legislative Information from the Library of Congress

The United States Senate

Last June the Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government sponsored a forum on "Internet and the '98 Elections". Representatives from major online media organizations, non-profit voter participation efforts, political organizations and academia were present. Discussions focused on ways to promote the exciting and growing amount of election information on the Internet with a particular interest in how the Internet could help increase voter participation in 1998.

The result? Web White & Blue, an online public service campaign that is designed to promote and provide fast, easy access to valuable information on the 1998 elections.

Web, White & Blue

Sure, candidates are springing up all over the web, but in the relatively young field of online campaigning it can be difficult to judge the quality of what you find. It's easy to form a quick first impression of a candidate's web site, but more challenging to gauge how that site stacks up against its competition. Take a look at Campaign Web Review, a bi-weekly newsletter examining the use of the Internet by political campaigns in 1998. Here you will find unbiased analysis and comparisons of campaign webs written by guys who know what they're talking about. You are certain to develop a more critical eye towards any online campaign once you've learned from the experts how to look past the glitz and seek out true functionality.

Campaign Web Review

Have you been inspired by recent headlines to begin your own investigations into money and sex in politics? Where else to start but Congress? The Center for Responsive Politics has created the 'Do It Yourself Congressional Investigation Kit', an excellent resource that allows you to compare the contributions that members have received from different special interest groups and how those members voted on issues of concern to their contributors. Is there anything shocking about members of Congress being supported by the beneficiaries of their votes? That's for you to decide.

And if the Starr report only whetted your appetite, you may be interested in a survey sent to every member of Congress by a group called the No Privacy for Privacy Hypocrites Committee. The very brief survey firsts asks the members opinion on whether government has any role in investigating the private sexual lives of elected officials, and to any who respond 'yes' asks, "Have you ever committed adultery, and have you ever lied about it?". But don't expect to find members beating the door down to answer this one. So far the site contains only a single response, and not surprisingly, it's not a confession. Maybe Larry Flynt will have better luck with his approach.

Do It Yourself Congressional Investigation Kit

No Privacy for Privacy Hypocrites Committee

Larry Flynt's $1,000,000 Reward Offer

That's all for now!



Copyright 1998 by Chris Casey

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