David All: Modern world, ancient websites

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Paul Blumenthal and David All had an Op-Ed on why Congress needs modern websites on The Hill newspaper this last Tuesday in the Open House Project Op-Ed series. They cover “the reasons why member Web sites are often just polished brochures, accessories to the actual functions of the office.”

Technology and politics are rapidly intertwining in the new millennium as presidential candidates adopt sophisticated online operations to raise money, get out the vote and connect to new voters. Social networking, blogging and online video technologies have taken the political world by storm. But in Washington, members of Congress are forced to watch this race for online superiority from the sidelines.

It’s not their fault. While candidates for office can do as they please with their websites, members of Congress are heavily restricted in the kinds of activities they can partake in on their official websites, because they are governed by Franking Rules. These rules were created decades ago to restrict the use of mass mailings sent to congressional districts at taxpayer expense. Franking Rules, modified to apply to the Web in 1994 and last updated in 1996, state that members may not use non-congressionally provided services for their website, nor link to any site of a personal or political nature.

Paul Blumenthal commented on it on his Sunlight Foundation blog.

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