17 lawmakers honored for social media use

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and fourteen other lawmakers were given awards of their use of social media on Monday.

It was the first time the Congressional Management Foundation had given the Gold Mouse Awards for engagement on social media. Typically, the award goes to members of Congress with the best websites.

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According to the nonprofit organization, the legislators use their accounts to further transparency, help out their constituents and keep them informed of their daily work.

 “These legislators not only improve their own standing with their constituents, they benefit the entire Congress,” foundation President Bradford Fitch said in a statement.

Other recipients were Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), as well as Reps. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) and Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.). Silicon Valley-area lawmakers Reps. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) were also awarded for their work.

The foundation criticized other lawmakers for social media practices that are  “dominated by one-way messages promoting a politician or cause,” instead of truly engaging with their constituents.

“While some legislators are creatively using social media to shine a light on their representational and legislative activities, most are not,” it said in an accompanying report on best ways to use the Web.

“Using online communications tools to demonstrate transparency and accountability isn’t just good policy, it’s good politics,” the foundation added. “Rightly or wrongly, citizens want their elected officials to be accessible in all media: answering their questions; responding to their needs; and reflecting the values of representative democracy.”

Offices nominated themselves for recognition last year, and the accounts were sent to an expert panel for review.

They were judged on interactivity, following expected online conventions, authenticity, avoiding overly partisan remarks and integration with other platforms.

In addition to the social media awards, 70 lawmakers and congressional committees won awards for best congressional websites.