GOP Joins the Twittering Masses

"If we are conducting the public's business, it is our obligation as representatives to shine sunlight in every nook and cranny of that meeting," he told

For him, Twitter isn't just a way to show Americans how the "sausage is made," it's a way to reveal a process he thinks is shrouded in secrecy.

"The deepest, darkest hole in America is the House floor under Speaker Nancy Pelosi," Culberson told

The bailout and stimulus bills, he said, were written in "total secrecy," with limited opportunity for amendments and debate.

"The power of social media can also expose the hypocrisy of the house leadership's public commitment to openness and transparency," Culberson said.

Last August, to protest House Democrats' decision to recess without discussing a pending energy drill, Culberson and other Republicans stayed on the House floor to make their statements.

When the Democratic leadership cut the microphones and camera, Culberson used Twitter and his phone's video camera to keep the public informed.

But Democrats bristle at the notion that the House leadership has not equally supported transparency.

"We're trying to open the entire process up," Brendan Daly, a spokesman for Pelosi, told, adding that they post bills online well before they're voted on and have changed House rules to enable more communication. "We understand the power of new media."

No Press, No Staff, No Twitter?

Brad Bauman, communications director for another active tweeter, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, told that he credits House leadership with the increasing transparency of the House.

"I don't think there has ever been a more open Congress in the history of the body," he said.

But though an open government is in everyone's best interest, is it possible that too much openness is a bad thing?

Last week, during President Obama's "closed door meeting" about the stimulus bill with members of the House, a few members posted messages to their Twitter pages.

Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., sent his constituents just one message at the start of the meeting: "President Obama is speaking to House Republicans right now on Democratic stimulus bill."

But Rep. Bob Inglis, R-S.C., posted eight messages during the meeting with the president.

"Tough sell here at GOP Conf. for the President on the stimulus package. His sincerity is helping him, though. An impressive fellow," Inglis wrote as the meeting kicked off.

Although none of the posts were especially detailed -- and were mostly positive -- they did clue in readers to the content of a conversation that excluded staff and members of the press.

"Good question about small % of infrastructure spending in his stimulus package. He says they've got infrastructure that's shovel ready," Inglis posted.

Inglis and Flake were not available to speak with, but Culberson, who also attended the meeting, said there was no indication that anything that was said was confidential.

He didn't tweet until the meeting was over but said it was because he came in late and wasn't sure of the ground rules that had been established at the start of the meeting.

"Every meeting is different," he said. "It's just like common sense and common courtesy."

Rep. Jeff Chaffetz, R-Utah, a freshman congressman and avid Twitterer also waited until after the meeting to tweet.

"Fundamentally, I believe that more sunshine is better than less, but it's a question of fairness," he said.

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