General information, schedules and past Freshmen Forums.
Return to @the Capitol.
Scrutinize the work of several major Congressional committees in online forums with the chairs and ranking members.
Follow the first year in Congress of Freshmen Reps. Kay Granger (R-TX) and Jay Johnson (D-WI)
The largest number of Senators and Representatives ever have established themselves on the Internet and the number keeps growing. In fact, most of the federal government and many state government have made e-mail and other interactive technology an active part of their decision-making process. Although most have praised the idea of a more open and accountable system, some have questioned the wisdom of making the decision with too much interactivity. Journalists Cokie and Steve Roberts recently wrote:
"[M]any ... people get in touch with their representatives, by e-mail, of course. They also get in touch with each other on public policy issues. ... [I]t's like an electronic town meeting. That analogy makes our blood run cold. Remember, that was Ross Perot's big idea. Let's just all get together, via computer, and let the politicians know what we want, so then they will do it!
We hear that and shudder. To us it sounds like no more deliberation, no more consideration of an issue over a long period of time, no more balancing of regional and ethnic interests, no more protection of minority views."
Our forum guests this week will discuss what the proper relationship between the Internet and government. They are Reps. Kay Granger (R-TX) and Jay Johnson (D-WI). Both Members launched their Web sites in the last month and have participated in past forum on March 19 and February 3.
Representative Granger has said she hopes to achieve three goals by establishing her site. "First we wanted to tell everyone on the Internet about the 12th District of Texas," Granger said. "We also wanted to tell our constituents, 'Here is what is going on in Washington.' And finally we wanted to give them the ability to give us feedback." Granger's site launched on April 25.
Congressman Johnson introduced his site to the public on May 5. He highlighted the use of technology to communicate directly with his office. "I'm always looking for new ways to keep in contact with the people of Northeast Wisconsin when I'm at work in Washington," he said at his Green Bay unveiling of the site. "This Web page will give my constituents a new way to communicate with me and a new way to keep track of what I'm working on."
Our forum adressed: How should Congress utilize the Internet? Are they using it mostly as a public relations tool or does it promote more interaction between the Representatives and constituents? Are there possible problems with more direct democracy via the Web?