Washington (CNN) - When House Republican leaders unveiled their new interactive website, geared towards collecting ideas to shape the GOP Congressional agenda, reporters quickly raised questions about why the site was paid for with tax payer funds when it seemed to be more geared towards upcoming elections.
AmericaSpeakingOut.com is an innovative website sponsored by the House Republican Leadership. People can submit ideas, comment on other people's ideas and vote ideas up and down. It is also highly integrated into the social networks Facebook and Twitter and will soon be available on mobile devices and apps. A point system also adds a sense of competition, awarding badges and encouraging participation.
House GOP Leader John Boehner opened the press conference on Tuesday seemingly with the tone of a campaign. "All across America, Americans are speaking out, but unfortunately they don't see Washington Democrats listening," Boehner said. "The purpose of this project is to give the American people a megaphone to speak out by using the best technology available."
While all ideas are allowed to be posted, the GOP said the conversation is occurring in the context of Republican principles. "What we are asking the American people to do is to participate with us as to how do we apply those principles to tomorrow and the day after," Boehner explained.
Early press about the site noted that it seemed to be the first step in the GOP building a new "Contract With America," which was used to successfully take back Congress in 1994. But AmericaSpeakingOut.com is paid for by tax payer money. Still, Boehner denied the website is being used for the upcoming midterm elections . "I would expect that ideas that come out of this website and the involvement of the members will lead to ideas that we can attempt to implement today," he said.
When asked for a response to the site, Katie Grant, a spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, was hesitant to comment directly about the new Republican initiative. "Republican opposition to every job creation measure and Wall Street reform shows that their agenda is to stand up for big banks, insurance and oil companies and against helping the middle-class and small businesses" wrote Grant in an e-mail to CNN. "That's not what Americans want, and if Republicans had been listening to the American people before now, they would know that."
Jake Brewer, the engagement director for the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation, told CNN he believes that while the website is a great first step in transparency, it has yet to be seen how it will actually work and influence policy.
"It is a positive thing anytime you create a new listening tool in government," Brewer said, whose organization is dedicated towards transparency and accountability in government. "What remains to be seen is how much listening is actually done."
AmericaSpeakingOut.com is also a ".com" and not ".gov," the usual ending to a government website. Republicans say the technology was just not there in the House for a .gov. The site's platform was designed by Microsoft and is similar to a website they built for NASA. House leaders claim the site does not cost more than other congressional websites and the funds came from the congressional Republican budget.
If there is a concern about AmericaSpeakingOut.com, it would be taken up with the Committee on House Administration. Committee spokesman Kyle Anderson told CNN, "Any complaints regarding content, ethical concerns or other violations will be reviewed through the appropriate process."
Despite the questions, internet enthusiasts believe the site is a step in the right direction. "It's a promising first step to bringing participatory technology to Congress," said Greg Ferenstein, a Fellow at the University of California Center for the Study of Democracy and a contributor for the leading social media blog Mashable. "This is the first time I've seen the GOP trailblaze on the internet."
Republicans thinking outside of the box and creating "ideas"? Last time I checked pigs still don't fly.
I haven't looked at the website, but I think this is above board. Political parties should be able to use public funds to make them more responsive to the voters. Though Boehner's approach to it looks very childish based on his comments.
The site is so slow, and only some comments and votes up/down are accepted...if Mr. Republican leaders want to listen (since most of them are male), they must come into this technological age and create a site that actually IS integrating with users. Too many got frustrated on day 1, and won't try again...me included. So much for listening to America (at least the younger ones they need).
Good-Bye Senator Reid. Your days are numbered in teh US Senate.
And Obama, your WILL be a one term president. There is no way americans will be fooled by you again. You'll be lucky to get 30% of the vote.
I am a taxpayer and I do not want to pay for this. Have Michael Steele to pay for it because it is all about the November elections.
At least someone is listening, unlike Barak Husain Obama.
Boehner and ALL republicans – YOUR REPUBLICAN LEADERS were elected by you and sent to Washington to represent you. So you sent these people to Washington to say "NO", bottlenecK and log jam our government, waste our money on worthless wars, fearmonger, lie, cheat and steal. If you didn't send them there to do this then why do you allow them to do it? If thats you want / thats what you got – so why do they need another worthless contract to get something done- Either these REpublican people are smart enough to know what to do and how to represent "we the people" or they are not and should just be sent home permanently!
"Ah, for cripes sake – IT MIRRORS FEDERAL LAW"
Hello, my friendly neighbrohood conservative geniuses, do you realize that by admitting that the federal government has laws and regulations on point basically proves that the AZ law is pre-empted? Despite all your blather about being concerned for the sanctity of the Constitution, you apparently have no idea how it works.
now if the senators and congressmen only knew how to use the tools that Americans are counting on to get elected officials to listen!
Maybe the GOP should try taking some real action and offering real legislation rather than simply stonewwwalling hoping it will cause Obama's agenda to fail. Since the majority of America voted for Obama, and he is doing what he said he'd do despite the G-NO-P, the time for talking is long past. DO something.
"All across America, Americans are speaking out, but unfortunately they don't see Washington Democrats listening,"
And we were considered unpatriotic if we spoke out while GW was in office!
More of the same ol, same ol... GOP ripping off the country for their own personal gain. The voting public should really ask themselves if the GOP even cares to help keep this place the best it can be. I doubt it.
My question is what will be posted? If I put something up that favors something like increased funding for mass transit stating that it will help small businesses get their employees work, will that be posted? What about stating something that is calling for violence against a member of Congress (or any other person or place for that matter)? Will the GOP pass that along if it is against a Democrat?
The Repbulicans have a deaf ear......it's not that the Democrats aren't listening, the GOP isn't listening either.......we are tired of your opposion your negativity your inability to work with this administration with is President....your constant NO NO NO doesn't get it any more.....you need to work with Democrats to get this country back on track......do you think we are going to let the GOP take the control of Congress again or even get in the WH when the only solutions you have is NO NO NO.......
So this is the GOPs idea of fiscal responsability – have taxpayer money go into telling them how to win the next election? What hipocracy!
I thought the Republicans was for less spending, but now the are spending our tax dollars on their website. Republicans are nothing but HYPROCITES.
First the continue to have afairs, but run on Family Value
Second the say the are Fiscal Responsible, but continue to get caught in
credit card scandles.
Third they say they want smaller government, but screaming President Obama not helping with the oil spill.
Fourth THE REPUBLICANS are scream government have NO MONEY, BUT WANTS PRESIDENT OBAMA TO SEND OVER 3,000 TROOPS TO BLOCK the illegal immigations – even though we don't have any money for it.
My word to you Republicans you can not have it both WAYS!
How dare those loathesome republicans use taxpayer dollars to promote their elitist agenda?
John Boehner: "I would expect that ideas that come out of this website and the involvement of the members will lead to ideas that we can attempt to implement today," – You are in Congress and you do not have any idea's to implement? Sounds like Republican "leadership".
Anyone have an opinion poll on what the American people want so we can lead them to it? Anyone? We'll take anything...