House Republicans Use Social Media to Draft Agenda

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"This wasn't spurred by the Tea Party movement," said Schaper. "The transparency movement came about at the same time as the Tea Party movement… they fed on each other... The agenda is based on our values and we weren't going to compromise. This is not 'American Idol '- most votes makes it into the agenda."

Still it's clear Republians have been looking for ways to cater to Tea Party agitators who have proven they are not afraid to vote Republicans out of office. Some Tea Party activists have even been drafting their own agenda because they don't have faith in Republicans already in office.

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The House GOP election year legislative blueprint, to be revealed tomorrow, is also reminiscent of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's use of a 10-point "Contract with America" to fuel the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress.

Although polls indicated that the 1994 election result was motivated more by animus towards President Clinton than by familiarity with the contract's provisions, Republican leaders found the document to be a useful governing tool as they led the first GOP House majority in 40 years.

Now with polls showing Republicans poised to take back the majority once again, they are hoping a document rooted in input gathered through social media will rally the base.

GOP members have aggressively utilized Facebook and Twitter to engage constituents in the two years since Democrats and Barack Obama won national attention for their use of social media tools during the 2008 campaign.

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"House Republicans demonstrate an unmatched ability to connect with the American people in the Internet's most popular communities," House Minority Leader John Boehner boasted in a press release in January.

Congressional Republicans do have more members registered on Twitter and have more Twitter followers than their Democratic counterparts, according to the site TweetCongress.org which tracks the data. Republicans are also the more active Tweeters, with Senate Republicans' Twitter handle "Senate_GOPs" averaging 8 tweets per day.

But Jonathan Askin, a professor at Brooklyn Law School and former member of President Obama's 2008 campaign technology task force, said Republicans' social media strategy is not as innovative as it may seem.

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"Republicans are just starting to realize the value of a social media network, but Obama was first to the table," Askin said.

Obama used online communities during the 2008 campaign to famously amass a network of more than 5 million e-mails, Askin said, and the White House has continued to use various social media forums to directly take the pulse of followers.

Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse has called the "America Speaking Out" initiative a "taxpayer funded partisan political gimmick."

Still, LaMarre said, whether voters' input through social media will meaningfully impact any agenda could be besides the point.

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