Stephanie Vance, the Advocacy Guru, is author of “Government by the People: How to Communicate with Congress” and a former Capitol Hill veteran. She lives and works in Washington, DC, offering workshops and advice on effective advocacy. Find out more at www.advocacyguru.com.
Activism Gossip The Internet and Politics Issue Group Tracking Learning Legislative Tracking Member Tracking News & Information Policy & Polling Portals & Search Engines
Whether you’re lobbying on an important piece of legislation, developing a grassroots network, or researching the history of a law, the world wide web offers amazing resources for anyone seeking to improve their advocacy efforts. Unfortunately, the web also offers some not-so-great resources. Following are brief descriptions of websites I’ve found particularly useful in a range of areas, from activism to legislative tracking to gossip.
Activism: This collection of sites offers tools for users to interact with their government
CAPWEB: Would you like your voice to be heard in the nation’s capital? Do you have views you would like to express to your Congressman or Senator? Would you like to get the e-mail addresses of members of the Senate Judiciary Committee or the House Ways and Means Committee? Well, if so, then CapWeb’s Internet Guide to the United States Congress is the site for you.
E-The People: At this site, you can gain access to up-to-date election and legislative information, sign on to a variety of petitions on a variety of topics, start your own petition, learn about your representatives in Congress, or even pay your parking tickets.
govWorks: This site is a truly innovative combination of information and practical assistance. On the information side, you can look up government websites, job openings, officials, or even auctions. On the practical side, you can use this site to pay parking tickets, utility bills, and taxes for any jurisdiction in the United States.
Grassroots.com: When pursuing a particular policy agenda, whether it’s seeking legislative changes at the federal level, money from the state government, or zoning codes from the local government, it is important to identify potential supporters and enlist them in your cause. This site allows you to identify and connect with grass roots organizations around the country.
SpeakOut: Use this site to learn about current issues and to communicate with your representatives in the U.S. House and Senate. A truly interactive site, Speakout.com will customize your home page to reflect current news and information on the issues you care most about. The site also gives you the ability to flex your citizen activist muscles to “speak out and be heard” through e-mails, petitions, and surveys.
YourCongress.com: At Yourcongress.com, you can send e-mail to your elected officials, learn about the budget process, even write your own bill! But before you send anything to your elected officials, be sure to check out the site’s tips on communicating with elected officials–how mail is handled, how congressional offices make decisions, and who’s in the cast of characters.
Gossip: Washington, DC’s other past time…
HillZoo: Keep up on all the latest hill gossip at this site. Former and current hill staff write interesting columns of what REALLY happens behind the scenes.
Roll Call: Roll Call is considered by many to be the premier newspaper of Capitol Hill. It comes out twice weekly (Monday and Thursday), with most of the content made available on this website. With in-depth articles on current legislation, pieces on current political scandals, and anecdotes about life on the Hill, the Roll Call site gives visitors an insider’s view of Capitol Hill.
The Internet and Politics/ Analysis: These sites represent academic or scholarly approaches to the impact of the Internet on politics
DEMOCRACY ONLINE : Democracy Online is a project of the George Washington University, Pew Charitable Trusts, and other partners dedicated to providing information on the Internet and politics. This site also has concrete numbers on who’s using the Internet and the types of political information available through the Web.
VANISHING VOTER: For true political enthusiasts, this Harvard-affiliated site contains recent polls and monitors voter involvement via the calculation of a “Voter Involvement Index” (calculated by averaging people’s reactions to four campaign-related questions, such as whether they are currently paying close attention to the campaign or whether they are thinking about the campaign).
INCONGRESS: For up-to-date information on what special interests are telling members of Congress, check out In Congress. You can search by group or keyword, and even sign up to post your group’s views on the site.
Learning: Check out the following sites to learn more about our system of government, and where citizens fit in!
Senate Simulation: A wide-ranging, long-running mock government that offers participants insight into debate and politics on a range of issues. Everyone can learn something about the government by joining caucuses, sitting on committees and voting on legislation their peers propose, while occasionally authoring their own.
ThisNation: At www.thisnation.com, you can relearn all the stuff you forgot from High School about American Government. Be sure to check out the online civics textbook, the library of important documents, and pictures of important politicians, places and events. This site has it all! This Nation’s parent site is www.nationalissues.com, which seeks to explain some pretty controversial national issues clearly and without bias.
USConstitution.net: This site breaks down our county’s most sacred text and explains in modern and simple terms what each section means. Words or phrases that might fly over your head despite the simplification are clearly defined and explained in the glossary of terms. This quick reference to all things constitutional also offers links to other historical texts and pages that further explain and detail each piece of the supreme law of the land.
Legislative Tracking: These sites assist users in efforts to track legislative actions and activities, such as hearing, votes, and the progress of bills.
C-SPAN: At this site, you can watch hearings, floor debate, and other meetings online. You can also keep an eye on the schedule, or ask a question of Illona Nichols, noted congressional scholar.
IQexpress: True political and policy junkies will croon over IQExpress. The site provides access to some of the most important information you can find on a singular page anywhere. Offering users the ability to customize the IQExpress front page with a variety of critical policy and political links, from Congressional information, such as current floor votes, to news stories from the major media, all the most current and cutting info is here.
THOMAS: The Library of Congress’ Thomas website allows keyword, full text and a variety of other searches (date, stage in the process, etc.) of the Congressional Record, proposed bills, public laws, and a range of other resources. You can also use this site to track the appropriations process through the continuously updated appropriations chart.
U.S. House of Representatives: The House of Representatives site provides access to member, Committee, and house office web pages. A particularly useful part of the site is clerkweb.house.gov. This is the Clerk of the House section of the site, which provides lists of members, committee assignments and mailing labels for all members of the House. You can also check on current house floor actions and votes.
U.S. Senate: The Senate site provides similar access to information about the Senate as the House site does for the House.
Member Tracking: If you need information about individual members, check out these resources
Congress.org: Like many sites, Congress.org allows you to identify your representatives, send them an e-mail, and learn more about their positions on the issues. What sets Congress.org apart is the in-depth information on Congressional staff, who are the people who REALLY get things done on the hill.
Congressional Bios: If you’re looking for basic biographical information on members of Congress past and present, take a quick look at the Congressional Biographical Dictionary. This site has information on all current and former Senators and Representatives, searchable by name or state.
Freedom Channel: At the freedom channel, you do more than just read what political candidates are saying. You can actually download full-motion video clips, debates, ads, basically whatever has been captured on video about House, Senate, and presidential candidates.
News and Information: The web offers a range of news and information resources – the following sites are focused on all things political.
Political Insider: Offering a range of news and information on the political and policy world, including a daily briefing, political directory, and serves as a portal for information on learning about and accessing government.
Politics and Issues Daily: The editors of this site feel that an informed citizenry is essential for democracy to flourish, so they select the best articles by sifting through more than 225 politically oriented websites. They then sort these articles into different categories for easy access on one of their three pages.
Politics Online: At Politics Online you’ll find up-to-date information and news on the use of the Internet in politics, from online contribution totals to the latest in online voting.
Purepolitics.com: News and information with a humorous edge.
Real Clear Politics: RCP’s main page offers a great selection of published articles (updated daily) from the media, derived from think tanks and political pundits. A links page provides you with an overwhelming collection of links to nationally known syndicated columnists’ commentaries and links to an extensive variety of political information sites on the Web.
Policy & Polling: Every good policy argument needs fact and figures. These sites might be useful for tracking down evidence to help you make your case
Electronic Policy Network: The EPN website is a derivative of the American Prospect Magazine, and delivers a comprehensive collection of articles and links on many aspects of foreign and domestic policy.
Whether you are a conservative, liberal, moderate or just interested, there will be plenty for you to do.
The Gallup Poll: At this site, users will find summaries of national and local political races, as well as information about what Americans think regarding a host of different political issues, like Congressional approval ratings, Presidential approval ratings, job performance, and the like. Making it all the better is that browsers not only can get the polls’ stats, but can also see how they were conducted.
Portals & Search Engines: For those who know they need something, but aren’t sure where to look, the following sites offer access to a tremendous amount of information.
Geopolitical: Categories include: political commentary, news and resources, political action sites, voter information, political broadcasts, government resources/contact government officials, presidential candidates, political parties, issues/controversies, and political cartoons.
Political Information: From this site, you can not only search the entire Web for information on the political issue or candidate of interest to you, but you can also run a much more time-saving, profitable search of 5000 selected policy and political websites.