Members’ Web Sites Short on War Info

Posted March 28, 2003 at 5:30pm

Members’ Web sites lack the necessary information to meet their constituents’ wartime needs, according to the Congress Online Project, which advises Members to add several features to their online offices.

The Congress Online Project — through a joint venture between the Congressional Management Foundation and George Washington University — recently reviewed 200 House and Senate Web sites to assess how well lawmakers are responding to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“We learned that while most Web sites had current statements from the Representative or Senator about the war, the overwhelming majority lacked the critical information and guidance that the public most needs,” stated the report, “Responding to War … Online: 10 Ways to Use Your Congressional Web Site in War.”

The project recommends that sites include information on military and nonmilitary services available to families with relatives who have been deployed overseas and links to key government Web sites with war information.

Members also should provide links with information on preparing for potential terrorist attacks, guidance on how citizens can support the troops and guidance for business that have been impacted by reservist call-ups, the project said.

The report — www.congressonline- project.org/032803.html — lists 10 steps Members can take to meet those objectives.

In a “Dear Colleague” letter last week, House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) noted that “constituents from around the country have urgently sought sources of timely news and official information about how they can be of assistance to our troops stationed overseas.”

Ney also urged Members to make sure that Web site changes comply with House rules.

“In publishing Web site links consistent with House rules, official sites should direct constituents to informational materials, and not locations containing only solicitations,” Ney and the panel’s ranking member, Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), noted in their letter.

Members are specifically prohibited from engaging in solicitations for money, volunteerism and other things of value, meaning that lawmakers can’t encourage donations to groups that support the troops.

That means lawmakers can’t provide specific links to sections of the American Cross Web site that ask for donations, but they can link to the organization’s main home page.