By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
This whole Internet thing and Congress's use of it have come a long way since ousted Sen. Ted Stevens referred to the World Wide Web as a "series of tubes." Want proof? Nearly 50 House and Senate members are communicating on Twitter, where you have 140 characters to "tweet" about yourself. Even more members of Congress have YouTube channels. And here's a tweet scoop: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will soon Twitter at http://twitter.com/speakerpelosi. "Twitter is a great way for members to share what's happening in Congress in real time and hear back from their constituents," says her spokesman, Brendan Daly.
While Facebook, YouTube, and MySpace have a bigger following in Congress, Twitter is catching on largely because it has a conversational feel, is very timely, and is easy for members to use on their BlackBerrys. There's even a page to locate federal Twitter users. Most lawmakers restrict their tweets to official business or constituent services. Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd is a big Twitter guy, using it to broadcast news of upcoming town halls and comment on the events of the day. "Hillary Clinton confirmed," he wrote on January 21 of the new secretary of state. "I know her tenacity and talent will serve our country well and I wish her the best of luck." Sen. John McCain started Twittering this week, mixing business and fun, like cheering for his fave Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl. The king of tweets is Texas Rep. John Culberson, known to tweet 11 times a day to his 6,000 followers. "My staff does not filter what I write here," he tweets. Naturally, we talked to him through Twitter, and he told us why he's so busy with his thumbs on the keyboard: "I do it bcz I enjoy it & my job description is 'representative.'"
Illustration by Ed Wexler for USN&WR
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