House GOP takes message online

House Republicans have created a World Wide Web site to allow the public to sign up for specific kinds of news they want to receive and name the members of Congress they want to receive it from.

Operated by the House Republican Conference, www.GOP.gov will deliver the news via e-mail in a "personalized and customized" fashion, a practice that has been widely adopted in e-commerce, said James Smith, press secretary to Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), who is the House Republican Conference chairman.

Someone interested in tax reform would register that interest with the Web site and name the House Republicans he wants to hear from on the subject. When those members of Congress issue a statement or press release, copies are automatically e-mailed to the requester.

For Republican House members, the site is a way to deliver information to their constituents without having it filtered by the media, Smith said. The site should help House Republicans "get information out there that is not normally getting out there. If only 50 people care about an issue," chances are it will not be written about by a newspaper or covered by TV news, he said. But the site will deliver information on the subject to the 50 who have requested it.

But some electronic advocates object to the site. Pam Fielding, who runs the cyberlobbying company e-advocates, says the House Republicans have improperly "co-opted" a dot-gov Web address.

"They have taken a dot-gov address, which most members of the public expect will provide balanced information from the government, and are using it basically to promote one political party," she said. "In essence, this is an advocacy Web site."

According to Smith, the Web site must use a dot-gov address because it is funded by Congress. "We're not allowed to have anything but dot-gov," he said.

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