September 17, 2010 •
The Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives is the chief record-keeper of the House and has a Web site that shouldn’t be missed!
For anyone who is interested in government relations, the Web site for the Office of the Clerk is a powerful tool. From this site you can watch live video of the House floor proceedings, get information about any member of Congress, and keep up with the lobbying disclosure requirements though the site’s FAQs, news points, and guidance on the Lobbying Disclosure Act. You can also find the foreign travel reports, gift and travel filings of Members, officers, and staff; as well as financial disclosure reports of Members of Congress, “officers, certain employees of the U.S. House of Representatives and related offices, and candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives.”
But this is only the beginning of the many resources offered on the site. Did you know the Office of the Clerk has a YouTube account with oral histories of the House of Representatives. You will find Benjamin C. West talking about the Nixon Impeachment Hearings, and a Cokie Roberts interview about the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And there are 19 other great videos!
If you have children, the Office of the Clerk Web site has a great feature called “Kids in the House.” Whether your child is preschool, grade school, middle, or high school age – there are inviting presentations for the kids to discover what Congress is all about. They can see how a bill becomes a law, read about the art and history of the Capitol, and even take an interactive tour of the House Chamber. Teachers will love the site’s weekly “Teaching Tips” feature.
Want to impress your friends with timely trivia about our government? The Office of the Clerk offers a “Weekly Historical Highlights” page. Did you know that on September 14, 1837 there was a debate in Congress about whether to the ban hats on the House Floor? On September 18, 1893, the federal government celebrated the centennial of the laying of the Capitol cornerstone. There were parades, decorations, and all government offices were closed that day. I wonder what was going on in Washington on my birthday?
The Web site of the Office of the Clerk offers loads of information, beautiful photos and graphics, and easy site navigation. Anyone can become a polymath in American government by frequenting this treasure.
See you next week!
Screen captures courtesy of the Office of the Clerk Web site.
September 3, 2010 •
With mottoes such as “Government as Platform,” and “Opening the Door to Innovation,” the Gov 2.0 Summit promises to be the spot where social media and government mix!
Next week there will be an exciting conference in Washington, D.C. called the Gov 2.0 Summit. This is its second annual conference and is hosted by UBM TechWeb and Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media – famous for all of those computer manuals.
From September 7-8 at the Grand Hyatt Washington, the Gov 2.0 Summit will gather thinkers from all over to share ideas about the relationship between social media and government. According to its Web site:
“Gov 2.0 Summit brings together innovators from government and the private sector to highlight technology and ideas that can be applied to the nation’s great challenges. … Our focus this year is on opening the door to innovation, learning about the latest technology and its application, and breaking down the barriers to its adoption.”
The private sector cost to attend Gov 2.0 Summit – $1495, public sector – $995.
This is a great Web site. The list of sponsors, speakers, vendors, and attendees is fascinating – and you can even watch videos of presentations from last years’ gathering. (That alone makes the site worth visiting, even if you have no intention of attending the Summit.) Who knows, maybe I’ll go!
Let me know if you are going. And if you do go, please share your impressions of the Summit!
August 27, 2010 •
The lobby of this Beaux-Arts hotel was the scene where Ulysses S. Grant smoked cigars and drank brandy. Did the people who flocked around him in the lobby start the use of the term lobbyist as we know it?
Since 1847, the Willard Hotel has been an important political hub and has hosted most of the U.S. Presidents since Zachary Taylor. Starting out as a row of small homes, the beautiful Beaux-Arts hotel you see today was built in 1904.
According to the NRHP site, the hotel has had quite a guest list:
“Presidents Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan, Lincoln, Grant, Taft, Wilson, Coolidge and Harding stayed at the Willard. Other notable guests have included Charles Dickens, Buffalo Bill, David Lloyd George, P.T. Barnum, Lord and Lady Napper, and countless others. Walt Whitman included the Willard in his verses and Mark Twain wrote two books there in the early 1900s.”
Part of the legend of the Willard Hotel is that it is the place where the term “lobbyist” became associated with people who try to influence government. According to the legend, people seeking to gain favor from President Ulysses S. Grant would find him smoking cigars and drinking brandy in the lobby of the Willard Hotel.
Here is a 2006 NPR recording of Liane Hansen on “Weekend Edition Sunday” talking to Barbara Bahny about the hotel’s reopening and its history of lobbying.
Apparently many people called NPR to point out that the term “lobbying” had existed long before the Willard Hotel, so Hansen did a follow-up piece called “A Lobbyist by Any Other Name?” on the history of the term.
In case you would like to visit, here is the Web site for the Willard InterContinental Hotel today. I wonder if they still allow cigar smoking in the lobby?
On that note, I’ll end with this quote from the NRHP Web site:
“It was Vice President Thomas R. Marshall, irritated at the Willard’s high prices, who there coined the phrase ‘What this country needs is a good 5-cent cigar.’”
The photo at the top is by AgnosticPreachersKid on Wikipedia.
August 20, 2010 •
A ten year project assessing the real effect of lobbying on government and policy-making.
This week we highlight The Lobbying and Policy Advocacy Project, a site hosted by Penn State University. The project asks the question: What has been the true effect of lobbying on policy making in American government?
After ten years of work, the authors propose that the answer is – it has not had much effect at all. Running counter to what many people think, the project’s resulting book: Lobbying and Policy Change: Who Wins, Who Loses and Why is saying lobbyists – most of the time – are not getting their way with Congress.
Are lobbyists wasting their time?
For a good analysis of the project, here is an article published in Miller-McCune called “K Street and the Status Quo,” by Melinda Burns.
Unlike many previous studies that looked at cases of lobbying and legislation connected with scandal, The Lobbying and Policy Advocacy Project used nearly one hundred cases that were randomly selected. A great feature of their Web site is a page with links to each of those random sampling case studies. This is a resource for further research on lobbying:
“Researchers and students interested in lobbying should be able to conduct a wealth of research simply by comparing the cases we have documented here,” states the Lobbying and Policy Advocacy Project.
The site also has a page listing all of the publications related to the study. The principle investigators on the project are Frank Baumgartner from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Jeffrey Berry from Tufts, Marie Hojnacki from Penn State, David Kimball from Missouri – St. Louis, and Beth Leach from Rutgers.
As Burns’ article points out, there are those who disagree with the findings of the study. One of the enduring questions after reading Lobbying and Policy Change would have to be – if the millions spent on lobbying were not paying off in the long term, why does it go on?
Are lobbyists wasting their time? Check out this this site and see how a new conversation has started!
A special thanks to Jim Sedor for pointing me in the direction of this study.
August 12, 2010 •
Virtual tours, audio tapes, and shooting hoops at the Supreme Court.
I found another Web site where you can easily get lost reading for hours. Get a coffee and some cookies and head to the Oyez Project.
The Oyez Project describes itself as a multimedia archive devoted to the Supreme Court of the United States and its work.
Oyez.org has taken on the ongoing task of digitally hosting the audio recordings from the court. Recordings began in 1955. Many of the recordings previously were tucked away as reel-to-reel tapes in the National Archive. The Oyez Project is working to allow visitors the chance to listen to the recordings online.
You can find a thorough archive of Supreme Court cases ranging from Chisholm v. Georgia in 1793, all the way to Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and more recent cases, too. They have a tag cloud so you can browse cases by topic, or you can find cases by the year.
I think the most fun feature of the Oyez Project is the virtual tour of the Supreme Court. From your computer, you can walk up the steps to the bronze doors at the entrance, and then go into the Great Hall, the courtroom, and even the Justice’s chambers! (Justice Ginsburg has a teddy bear on her side table and Justice Breyer has quite a book collection.)
If you have a fast internet connection, each room only takes a moment to load. The images are high resolution and beautiful. Just don’t move your mouse too fast, or you will get dizzy making the room spin around. Yes, I tried it.
What is not on the virtual tour, however, is a different “Highest Court in the Land.” Did you know there is a gym on the top floor of the Supreme Court building that houses a basketball court where justices, clerks, and assorted other players can shoot hoops? Our Research Associate David Dobo alerted me to this great secret.
Be sure not to play while court is in session, though, because that is prohibited!
Here is a fun read from the Los Angeles Times about the basketball court:
“Legal Eagles Tip Off in ‘Highest Court in the Land,” by Gina Holland, Associated Press.
Photo of the sign courtesy of Sharada Jambulapati.
August 5, 2010 •
The Madeleine Albright Collection is on exhibit until October 17.
The Smithsonian Institution Web site has a captivating page called “Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection.” On exhibit at the Smithsonian is the splendid pin collection of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Apparently, Albright chose the pins she would wear for official events according to the message she wished to convey!
According to the Web site:
“During her service as ambassador to the United Nations, and then as U.S. Secretary of State, Albright came to understand how powerful a symbol an item of jewelry could be, and chose pins to reflect her diplomatic mission, reinforce her negotiating position or express her pride of country and office.”
On the site you can see over one hundred years of art in a beautiful slide show of Albright’s pins. Some of the pins were of humble beginnings, some very expensive, but all of them are beautiful.
You will find many more temporary and permanent exhibitions at the Smithsonian as well.
Enjoy a video of the former secretary of state:
Better yet, you may wish to go and visit the Smithsonian and see the collections for yourself! But you better hurry, the Albright exhibit closes on October 17.
Many thanks to Nancy Messmore for pointing me in the direction of this exhibit!
Video from Smithsonian Videos on Youtube.
July 30, 2010 •
The Architect of the Capitol – Serve. Preserve. Sustain.
Have you ever wondered how the U.S. Capitol building always looks so good? The Architect of the Capitol is the agency that serves as the steward for the U.S. Capitol, the Capitol Visitor Center, Senate Office Buildings, House Office Buildings, Supreme Court, Library of Congress, U.S. Botanic Garden, and Capitol Campus grounds. Stephen T. Ayers is the current Architect of the Capitol, and there are 2,600 employees serving the agency. There have been only eleven Architects of the Capitol since 1793!
The Architect of the Capitol Web site has a treasure of information about many architectural features of the Capitol and the works of art in the Capitol Complex. The site says: “Since the laying of the Capitol cornerstone by George Washington in 1793, the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) has served the United States as builder and steward of many of the nation’s most iconic and indelible landmark buildings.”
Whether you are a visitor, someone who has lived in Washington D.C. for years, or just an interested reader, there are great videos, photo galleries, and rich histories about the buildings of our nation’s capital for your enjoyment.
The AOC says its job is to: “…Support the needs of nearly 30,000 occupants and millions of tourists who visit the campus annually; ensure the buildings and grounds meet modern standards for sustainability and accessibility; and preserve the historical legacy of the landmarks entrusted to the AOC’s care.”
Enjoy wandering through this great site, but be careful – you may find that when it is over, hours have just disappeared!
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com.