Gold Mouse Awards Report Identifies Excellence in Online Communication – Raises Concerns on Transparency and Accountability
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A Member of Congress answering letters from constituents via YouTube; another staging a Facebook photo contest on the polluted waterways in his state; and a Senator candidly sharing his recovery from a stroke on Twitter. These were among the winners of the Congressional Management Foundation's (CMF) 113th Congress Gold Mouse Awards announced today.
CMF's research report and awards were released today, identifying the 87 winners including the 70 best websites in Congress and, for the first time, 17 Members of Congress using innovative social media practices to interact with constituents. However, while praising the best legislators who are promoting transparency and accountability in government, CMF also criticized many in Congress for missing opportunities to enhance citizen engagement, according to the best practices report. "Too few are using social media to build trust and understanding of Congress, and too many are employing 1960s-style 'Mad Men' advertising strategies—repetitive and simplistic jargon wielded like a hammer to hit citizens on the head ... over and over again."
CMF also identified trends in congressional websites, among them:
- While still weak, Member websites have shown signs of improvement, with an increasing number providing basic legislative and casework information and links. More than three-quarters (79%) provide the Member's voting record, compared to 56% in the previous Congress.
- A majority of congressional websites lack substantive elements of accountability and transparency, such as: where the Members stand on the issues, how they voted on key pieces of legislation, and what they're doing in Congress on constituents' behalf.
- Democratic personal offices earned twice as many awards as Republicans, and Republican-led committees won nearly all of the committee awards.
Despite overall shortcomings in online communications documented in the report, CMF praised the winners of the 113th Congress Gold Mouse Awards as "admirable examples of the true spirit of public service," said Bradford Fitch, CMF President and CEO. "These legislators not only improve their own standing with their constituents, they benefit the entire Congress. The winners of the CMF Gold Mouse Awards are to be congratulated by their constituents, applauded by advocates of good government, and emulated by congressional colleagues," said Fitch.
CMF has been studying online communications in Congress since 1998, and issuing the Gold Mouse Awards since 2002. This is the seventh round of awards, now conducted every two years. The goal of the research and awards project is to offer an assessment of Congress' performance in online communication and provide congressional offices with examples and guidance to enhance their interactions with constituents on the Internet. Founded in 1977, CMF is a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to helping Congress and its Members meet the evolving needs and expectations of an engaged and informed 21st century citizenry. Its work focuses on improving congressional operations and enhancing citizen engagement through research, publications, training, and management services.