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Members Warming to Google Hangouts

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Cantor is one of a number of members who has started using Google Hangouts to connect with constituents.

The Connecticut Democrat hosted his first Hangout on April 22. In the Hangout video, he said that the only previous experience he had with the social-media platform came when he and some of his friends from college used it to hold a fantasy baseball draft.

Murphy hosts a Google Hangout every two weeks when he is in D.C. The format varies — sometimes Murphy has guests join him in person or virtually — but he often takes questions submitted by people via Facebook and Twitter. Each Hangout lasts between 30 minutes and an hour and can be watched live online (the live Hangouts are called Hangouts On Air). One of the longest sessions to date focused on gun-related legislation, and another centered on U.S. military intervention in Syria.

“Google Hangouts are a great way to connect with even more people in Connecticut, particularly when [Sen. Murphy is] in Washington for votes,” Ben Marter, Murphy’s communications director, said via email. “Sen. Murphy holds these a couple times a month, and we seem to get a bigger crowd each time.”

A video archive of Murphy’s past Hangouts can be found on his Google Plus and YouTube pages.

Other members of Congress have dabbled in the art of the Google Hangout. Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin hosted her first Hangout on Sept. 26 to discuss a bill she sponsored called the Next Generation Research Act (S 1552). During the Hangout, Baldwin conversed with guests, including a medical school dean and a cancer survivor, who shared why they believed medical research is an important investment.

Baldwin will host more Google Hangouts in the future, according to John Kraus, her communications director.

“It’s an easy platform to use once you use it for the first time and get used to it,” Kraus said. “It’s also easy to tune in and watch because of the versatility of the platform.”

Some other members of Congress have participated in issue-specific Hangouts. Republican Reps. Diane Black of Tennessee; Virginia Foxx of North Carolina; Cory Gardner of Colorado; Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania; and Susan W. Brooks, Larry Bucshon, Todd Rokita and Jackie Walorski of Indiana hosted a series of three Google Hangouts on the topic of student loan interest rates.

Members of the executive branch have also dabbled in Google Hangouts. President Barack Obama held what he called a “fireside Hangout” on Feb. 14 — a nod to the fireside chats President Franklin D. Roosevelt broadcast over the radio in the aftermath of the Great Depression. Obama fielded questions about his State of the Union address from the founder of an online magazine focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, and Latino issues and a conservative video blogger, among others.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. participated in a January fireside Hangout on gun violence. And, more recently, Secretary of State John Kerry participated in a September Hangout during which journalists and others asked him questions about possible U.S. responses to the civil war in Syria.

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