Congressional Web sites come up short, study says

Congressional Web sites come up short, study says

Most congressional Web sites still fail to meet the needs of constituents, the Congress Online Project of Washington reported yesterday.

Acknowledging that some sites have improved dramatically, the project surveyed 605 personal office, committee and leadership sites and awarded 35 gold or silver honors. Most of the sites received fair to poor grades in the report, Congress Online: Assessing and Improving Capitol Hill Web Sites.

The Congress Online Project examined how congressional offices use Web sites and other forms of online communications. It is a two-year program funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and conducted jointly by the George Washington University and the Congressional Management Foundation.

House members received 24 gold or silver awards, with Republicans collecting 19. In the Senate, Democrats were dominant, claiming eight of the 11 gold or silver awards. In a 1999 survey, the project awarded only 12 honors.

Researchers said most Web sites are used primarily as promotional tools instead of providing basic legislative information such as position statements or vote rationales.

The study graded each Web site on a 4.0 scale. The project found Senate member offices averaged a 2.12 and House member offices averaged 1.67. Overall, Congress averaged 1.76.

The personal office sites of Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) received gold awards, as did the sites of Reps. Kay Granger (R-Texas), Michael Honda (D-Calif.), Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Richard Pombo (R-Calif.).

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