House Republicans glean info, e-mails from America Speaking Out site

House Republicans on Friday will release a report based on information from their America Speaking Out project. Republicans say they will use the information gathered to help shape their new Contract With America.

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Unemployment and government spending are two of the major frustrations, based on a comment forum where people could add ideas and vote on their favorites.

Popular proposals "bubble up" to the top, a project organizer said. The data "isn't perfect," and you have to "take it with a grain of salt."

Still, he believes it is "reflective of the American people" and called the data "robust."

It registered, and was aimed at confronting, a significant frustration with the process itself. "People didn't feel like they were being listened to," said Nick Schaper, director of new media for Republican Leader Boehner.

One added benefit of the cyber-listening posts for Republicans is that they gathered thousands of e-mail addresses.

"It's high-tech listening. Just ask the guys who answer our phones; they're hearing the same things. It's a matter of helping people feel heard," Schaper said.

The popularity of the site was "overwhelming," Schaper said. A person in every GOP district tried the site, and House members rallied around it as well.

Republican Leader John Boehner (Ohio) tapped Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to chair America Speaking Out. His co-chairman was Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.).

The project was an experiment in new media that House Republicans plan to make permanent. It came with similar risks to all Internet comment forums that are open to inappropriate material. Microsoft Town Hall software, the backbone of the project, allowed for flagging inappropriate posts and blocking obscenities.

Curse words were blocked, Schaper said, so people "had to be very creative in their wording. I probably won't offer examples." But, he said, "folks always find a way."