Web hasn't roped in one congressman

"Online," for Rep. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.), is more likely to refer to a calf at the end of his lariat than a computer linked to the Internet.

The Colorado Republican, who had some practice as a rodeo cowboy in his youth, is the only member of Congress without a Web site. "Up to this point, I have not seen any particular use for it," Hefley said recently.

"I don't have the time to fool with it for the benefit I think we'd get from it," he said.

While his colleagues use the Web to issue press releases, provide information about government services and exchange e-mail messages with constituents, Hefley, 65, said he favors a more personal touch. "We do an awful lot of town meetings. A lot [of other congressmen] have given those up. I prefer to be in touch face-to-face than to have things going on by machine," he said.

Colorado's fifth district, which Hefley represents, is home to some pretty high technology. The Air Force Academy is there, as is the North American Aerospace Defense Command headquarters, the Air Force Space Command and MCI Telecommunications Corp.

And according to the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, the city was Colorado's "fastest growing cybercity by employment" between 1993 and 1998, when 11,000 new high-tech jobs were created.

But so far, Hefley said no constituents have complained about his lack of a Web site. But some have complained about not being able to contact him by e-mail.

"I have two problems with e-mail," he said. "Special interest groups love to push a button and send you a message." They're from everywhere, not just from the fifth district, he said. "And there are a lot of computer hobbyists who think it's fun to dash off a message to Congress." They want "a pen pal relationship," Hefley said.

Hefley said he receives 400 to 700 paper letters a day, "and we have phones and faxes. It's not hard to reach us. If we had e-mail, I'd need another staffer to handle it."

But Hefley and his staff aren't techno-phobes. "We use computers for business all the time," he said. His staff uses the Internet extensively for research, but he doesn't see the need for a Web page, he said. Still, Hefley concedes, he might yield this year and launch a Web site nonetheless. "But I'm not going to put up a Web site that requires a lot of maintenance," he said.

It probably will simply provide instructions on how to contact him by mail or phone, said Hefley.

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