Lawmakers lag in publishing schedules online

Only four senators and six House members post their daily schedules on their official Web sites, but 22 senators and 58 representatives use Twitter to update constituents on their activities, according to the OpenCongress Web site.

The Sunlight Foundation and Participatory Politics Foundation sponsor OpenCongress. Both groups advocate more transparency in government. The site has been encouraging lawmakers to publish their daily schedules since 2006.

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) have been releasing their public schedules online since January 2007, the longest on record, according to OpenCongress. Gillibrand made a pledge to publish her schedule when she ran for the House and has continued the practice in the Senate, the groups said.

Many lawmakers say they don’t post their schedules because of security concerns, but Sunlight Foundation spokeswoman Gabriela Schneider said they can easily address those concerns by posting schedules a day late. That is what Gillibrand, Tester and most other lawmakers do.

“Posting the schedule really shines a light on what a member of Congress is doing, who they are meeting with and who is bending their ear,” Schneider said.

The groups also record congressional use of Twitter but note that it does not necessarily boost transparency because the tool can be used for a broad range of purposes, Schneider said.

“Twittering tends to be used more promotionally,” she said. “Ideally, we would love to see [members of Congress] Twitter their daily schedules, financial disclosures and earmark requests.”

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Thu, Apr 16, 2009

Publishing schedules ahead of time is a security risk, unless the venue they are appearing at has a good perimeter in place already when the schedule is released. As to Twitter- sorry, I want them paying attention in meetings, not looking under the tabel while they are thumb-typing. IMHO, this is mere pandering to a current fad, trying to look hip. A daily blog, done at the end of the day and in complete sentences, would be much more useful for keeping constituents informed. Unless they are also monitoring Twitter posts from the people subscribed to them, their Twitter posts (I refuse to say Tweets), are basically one way, so no feedback loop justiies the immediate posting.

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