The Hill on The Net
Electronic Update #3


As the Republicans wrap up their National Convention in San Diego, and Democrats prepare for their own in Chicago, netizens will have the opportunity to attend both via the Net. Party platforms, online chats, speeches, pictures and more can be found in these first time efforts to bring a political convention to cyberspace.

Republican National Convention - San Diego
Democratic National Convention - Chicago

Silicon Valley Representative Anna Eshoo (CA-14) has initiated a new means of using the Net to communicate with her constituents. Using a system called "Citizen Direct", Rep. Eshoo's home page invites visitors to send the Congresswomen some web mail. In order to do so, they must first register and create their own mailbox on the system. Registered users are then able to send their messages and use their own unique login and password on the system to check their private mailbox for a reply (notification via regular e-mail that a reply awaits is an option). The system makes strides in solving some problems inherent in traditional e- mail to members of Congress, such as the frequent mass e-mailings addressed to every member of Congress, and by fully integrating electronic communications with the offices' correspondence management system for tracking communications with constituents. At least one other Representative has also begun using Citizen Direct, but it is still to be seen if the Citizen Direct approach to constituent e-mail will gain widespread use in Congress.

Representative Eshoo's home page
Citizen Direct

Prior to succeeding Senator Bob Dole as Senate Majority leader last June, Senator Trent Lott held the number two leadership position as Majority Whip. Apparently at that time he was developing a home page to put on the Web where he would join the majority of his Senate colleagues who had already done the same. Perhaps the hubbub of moving into his new offices pushed his Net efforts to the back burner, or maybe he decided to emulate Dole's Net absenteeism; nevertheless, a very unfinished and unannounced home page for Majority Whip Lott can be found on the Senate's web server. Better look fast, and watch for how quickly it switches to a page for current Majority Whip, Senator Don Nickles, or disappears completely.

Former Senate Majority Whip Trent Lott

It had to happen. With the slew of web sites that rate and review the best and worst sites on the Web, eventually someone was bound to begin rating Congressional home pages. Capitol Hill Online offers visitors a listing of what it considers the Top 25 Congressional Member Home Pages as well as rating Congressional candidate home pages and providing links to the home pages of Congressional staffers (my own included). The site's creator is a Congressional staffer himself. During working hours Chris Lee is the webmaster of the Senate's home page, but in his own time Chris can spins his own web, he diplomatically declines to share what he considers to be the worst of Congress on the web. Can that be far behind?

Capitol Hill Online

Gary Ruskin of the Congressional Accountability Project maintains the CONG-REFORM listserv, thru which he distributes periodic Congressional Reform Briefings. A recent briefing informed subscribers of legislation (H. Res. 478), sponsored by Rep. Rick White, that would provide access to House documents not currently available online. Although new materials such as committee reports are now available via THOMAS and GPO ACCESS, a long list of important Congressional committee documents including hearing transcripts, committee prints of bills, committee amendments, committee votes and more generally remains offline, a situation this bill seeks to correct.

Congressional Accountability Project
Committee Reports via GPO
104th Congress Committee Reports via THOMAS

A few interesting articles, op/eds, and forums regarding Congress on the Net have appeared in the Washington Post and New York Times in recent weeks. Don't worry if you've already recycled your print edition and missed them, you can still check them out on the Web.

The Washington Post

Wiring Congress
Whitewater Overflows GPO Web Site

The New York Times

Capitol Hill Takes to Cyberspace, Though in Fits, Starts and Stumbles
Electronic Democracy Forum

That's all for now!



Copyright 1996 by Chris Casey

Electronic Updates #1, #2 & #4.

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