1st Edition

Congress Online Bridging the Gap Between Citizens and their Representatives

By Dennis W. Johnson Copyright 2004
    256 Pages
    by Routledge

    256 Pages
    by Routledge

    While more than a million e-mails clog the inboxes of Congress each day, some legislators can't even find their own websites without the help of their staffers. In fact, laptops aren't even allowed on the floor of the House or Senate.

    But, as Dennis W. Johnson demonstrates in Congress Online, there are some savvy legislators who are taking advantage of new media to expand their power and influence-and the Congressional communications revolution is just beginning. Born out of a Pew Charitable Trusts research project of the same name, Congress Online is the definitive guide to electronic politics, pointing the way to a system that could forge a new and more immediate connection between legislators and the American people.

    AcknowledgmentsList of TablesIntroductionWho Uses E-Mail and the InternetHow Congress Communicates with the PublicDifferent AudiencesForms of CommunicationPart One: The Wired Citizen1. The New Grassroots CitizenryInformation at the Click of a MouseConnecting with Other CitizensDirect Electronic Advocacy2. Rise of Electronic AdvocacyWhere Do All the E-Mails Come From?Attraction of E-Mail as an Advocacy ToolThe Perfect Communication ToolWebsites as Advocacy ToolsElectronic Advocacy BusinessElectronic Grassroots and Future Advocacy3. Electronic Government Transformation of GovernmentState and Local Governments Go to the WebPromise of WebsitesExamples of Best WebsitesInteresting FeaturesOpportunities and Issues with Government Websites and E-MailE-Democracy at the Local LevelThe Federal Government on the WebOpportunities and ChallengesElectronic Government and CongressPart Two: Congress Responds4. Old Communications and NewAdapting to New TechnologiesCyberCongressInternal Review and Criticism of New TechnologyComputers, E-Mail, and Websites5. E-mail Overload Current State of Congressional E-mailWho Reads the Mail?E-mail IssuesAfter September 11thReaching Out to ConstituentsThe Promise of Electronic Mail6. Congressional WebsitesEvaluating Congressional WebsitesMember WebsitesOutstanding FeaturesProblems PersistCommittee and Leadership WebsitesWhat Is Not on Congressional WebsitesA Congressional PortalPart Three: Online Democracy and Communication7. Challenges and OpportunitiesSpending More Time in the DistrictAccess to Committee Hearings60-Day RuleA Congressional Chief Information OfficerCommunication after September 11th and AnthraxDigital InformationLearning from State Legislatures8.Congress and the Deliberative Process A Virtual CongressCommunicating Across the Divide Appendixes A. Research Methodology and Best PracticesB. Best Websites in CongressC. Other Government Websites D. Citizen-Oriented WebsitesE. Congressional Website StatisticsF. Project VoteSmart: National Political Awareness TestNotesIndex


    Dennis W. Johnson, Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, is the Principal Investigator of the Congress Online Project. A leading expert on political life inside the beltway, he is author of No Place for Amateurs. He has been interviewed about his current work in the New York Times, in the Washington Post and on NPR.

    "Dennis Johnson is a triple threat: a veteran of Capitol Hill, a thorough scholar and a clear writer. In Congress Online, he shows us the future of representative democracy. I consider it an indispensable tool for those who want to govern in the 21st Century.
    ." -- Paul Begala, CNN
    "This is a balanced and creative analysis of the opportunities and challenges of Congress' use of new information technologies, particularly the Internet. Employing original data and extensive secondary research, the author distills 'best practices' which apply not only to Congress, but to anyone hoping to effectively use new technology in the political process."
    -- Steve Frantzich, Professor, Department of Political Science, U.S. Naval Academy
    "An information-age revolution in citizen expectations is running smack dab into the slow evolution of Congressional practices online. The future of democracy is in the balance. Congress Online presents an informed communications road map for those determined to ensure democratic legitimacy in the 21st century.
    ." -- Steven L. Clift, online strategist and publisher of Democracies Online
    "Some on the Hill consider e-mail to be a bane, but we should consider it a boon. It's a powerful new link between the public and their representatives. There are ways to do it right and ways to do it wrong, and Congress Online shows the difference." -- U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Internet Caucus