3 September 2010

The Library of Congress.org?

Filed under Articles

There were recently some updates released for THOMAS, the Library of Congress (LOC)’s online source for all your legislative information. As it turns out, this was the third update this year, which is pretty exciting. The first one, back in January (and celebrating THOMAS’s 15th birthday!) included the addition of a page that answers the question “How can I communicate with a Member of Congress (e.g., email addresses)?

I am clearly in favor of this sort of information being readily available to citizens. What I find strange is that after a list of official links to websites and Congress’s own “Write Your Representative” service, the final suggestion is a link to communication tips on Congress.org. Now these tips seem pretty thorough and I am not taking issue with their legitimacy however, Congress.org is not a government website. Nor is it a non-profit website. It is, in fact  “a project of the CQ-Roll Call Group, the largest news organization on Capitol Hill … [and] … is powered by CQ-Roll Call affiliates Capitol Advantage and Knowlegis — private, nonpartisan companies that specialize in facilitating civic involvement.” (self-described)

So as I read this, even though they are providing direct links to communicate with your elected representatives, if you really want to do it right, you should use Capitol Advantage.

Now first of all, I have nothing at all against Capitol Advantage – from everything I understand they provide a remarkable product and from the interactions I have with them, I have been very impressed with their commitment to enabling citizen engagement.

Furthermore, if I understand correctly, there is nothing illegal about this promotion. Unlike the executive branch, the legislative side is not mandated to propose multiple vendors whenever they promote the offerings of a private company, but given the multitude of independent resources available on this subject, I find it curious that the only one offered is from the largest company in the space.

What do you think? Am I being judgmental for no reason or does this seem out of character for the LOC and a bit unfair to the citizen engagement market in addition?

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