Site keeps feds on legislative track

Margaret Stanley's office tracks legislation for the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board. Although she's just a mile from the U.S. Capitol, getting timely information about what Congress is doing can sometimes be tough.

That's why Stanley is turning to a growing Web service from GalleryWatch.com Inc. that provides up-to-the-minute information about what lawmakers plan to do on every subject from boating to budgets.

The subscription-based Web site debuted about two years ago, and now has more than 3,000 subscribers who pay about $8,000 a year for a virtual heads-up on Capitol Hill.

Its customers include the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury, Agriculture and Defense departments, which can get data from the Web site that will directly affect how they do business. They also can get up-to-the-minute feeds and analysis about the federal budget's status.

"Anyone who wants [federal] money ought to be using this," said Eryn Gurnee Cadoff, account manager for GalleryWatch.com.

"It has become one of our primary online tools to track legislation, to keep us abreast of certain things," said Stanley, legislative affairs director for the retirement board, which represents 700,000 former workers.

Not long ago, Stanley and other executives watching Congress had to rely on paper for congressional information. And sometimes it would take two staffers to pull together the information that GalleryWatch.com feeds its clients between midnight and 3 a.m. nightly.

But now Stanley can get critical information in minutes about proposed changes in such policy areas as pension, retirement, civil service, unions and the future of Amtrak.

"It helps us be aware of what bills are out there that impact us in any way," Stanley said.

GalleryWatch.com can also provide extensive searching capacities and alert customers to pertinent data in a timely manner.

When prompted to perform a broad search of a single topic, such as "information technology," the service searches for the keyword and notifies the customer where to find it. The searches run on data fed into the system every 24 hours.

Customization is a key feature, said Mike Romanies, who heads marketing for GalleryWatch.com. "It allows you to follow changes [and get] notification that a hearing has been rescheduled. It enables you to follow the facts without sitting there and watching C-Span," he said.

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Pulling it together

GalleryWatch.com began in 1996 in Texas, but it is in Washington, D.C., that it has found a niche market.

There are other private tracking services in Washington, according to Mike Romanies, who heads marketing for GalleryWatch.com. And there is a wealth of free information available from Thomas, the legislative tracking service that the Library of Congress runs, not to mention the Federal Register. But unlike with GalleryWatch.com, most of the information comes in pieces and is not tied together, he said.

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