January 14, 2008


Virtual office garners prestigious recognition

Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo's official website, http://crapo.senate.gov, has been named one of the best websites on Capitol Hill. Today the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) awarded the site a 2007 Silver Mouse Award, making it one of ten to receive that award. The Congressional Management Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan management consulting and research organization in Washington, DC, has tracked the use of the Internet by Congress since 1998 and handed out awards for website innovation and excellence since 2003. It released its 2007 report today, The 2007 Gold Mouse Report: Lessons from the Best Web Sites on Capitol Hill; a full copy of the report is available at http://www.cmfweb.org. Four Senate sites achieved a Gold Mouse Award, with another ten receiving a Bronze Mouse. Idaho Senator Larry Craig's site was also awarded a Silver Mouse.

"In a world that is becoming increasingly reliant on technology, my goal has been to make my official website a virtual office," said Crapo, who is also a member of the Republican High Tech Task Force. "In the last year, a lot of resources have gone into improving the site, making it more interactive for Idahoans and other visitors along with providing information that can address questions about the business before the Senate. On the site, you can check on my votes, find out what legislation I have co-sponsored, order a flag, send me an email about an issue, review tourist information for Washington, DC, check to see how I can help you with a problem you may be having with a federal agency and research news releases and editorials on various issues as well as many other items of interest. With more than 70 percent of the U.S. population using the Internet on a regular basis, it is important to provide as much information as possible on my website for Idahoans who are interested in their government. It is an honor to receive this award, and I commit to keeping the website innovative and interesting."

In the report released today by the CMF, Crapo's site was singled out for its efforts to alert visitors on the various ways to contact the Senator. In addition, other features of the site include:

• an Issues Spotlight on the homepage, which connects visitors quickly to items that are currently before the Senate or are garnering attention;
• podcasts of the Senator's weekly news conference with Idaho reporters as well as iTownHall meetings, committee statements, floor statements and other audio content;
• extensive tourist information for those planning a visit to Washington, DC, including a downloadable detailed listing of attractions; and
• an Idaho trivia question (updated weekly) that relates to information found on the website.

The websites were graded on how well they incorporate five basic building blocks which extensive research identified as critical for effectiveness: audience, content, usability, interactivity, and innovation. Using these building blocks, an evaluation framework was developed by CMF and their research partners at Harvard, Ohio State, and the University of California-Riverside which would be fair and objective while still taking into account important qualitative factors that affect a visitor's experience on a website.

"One of the key reasons for the awards is to highlight best practices so offices can improve their sites by learning from those doing a good job," said Beverly Bell, CMF's Executive Director. "Websites like Senator Crapo's provide a template for other congressional offices to follow."

"Senator Crapo's website shows that he understands the value of creating a virtual office to reach specific audiences who have come to expect having their needs met online," said Bell. "The Congressional Management Foundation congratulates Senator Crapo for having a website that is among the best-of-the-best on Capitol Hill, and we are pleased to present that site with the 2007 Silver Mouse Award."

"The 2007 report shows that websites are an increasingly critical channel through which Members and congressional committees can communicate with, and hear from, citizens. The Internet is a vital tool for elected officials and the public to use in the give-and-take of ideas and opinions that has characterized the American form of government since its founding," Bell said.

The CMF evaluated 618 websites related to Congress, its Members and Committees to "identify best practices Congressional offices can employ to cope with the challenges and opportunities new technologies have brought." The 2007 Gold Mouse Report and Awards are part of the "Connecting to Congress" research project, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. For this project CMF partnered with researchers from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, University of California-Riverside and Ohio State University to study how Members of Congress can use the Internet to improve communications with their constituents and to promote greater participation in the legislative process.