"Once We, the People, can actually see and hear what our elected officials are doing in real time, we won’t put up with it.” says U.S. Congressman John Culberson, of the 7th District of Texas in this discussion with Tim O'Reilly from the 2009 Gov 2.0 Summit. Culberson sees his mission as shedding light on the processes of his congressional peers through on-line technology. One of his hopes is to crowdsource the rapid reading of bills to expose government “pickpocketing,” in the form of bill riders and other activities. Culberson hints at the secrets lawmakers are hiding from constituents, quoting Jefferson, "The place to try all abuses is at the bar of public opinion."
His high-tech mission started in 1987, in the Texas State House, hosting a BBS each week, bringing the issues and the text of bills to his constituents in a district that is home to several major energy concerns. In May of 2009, he was shown the power of social media. Committed to bringing decisions relevant to his constituents directly before them, he dropped his subscription to the local newspaper, and arranged to get the information he needs on RSS feeds. Eighty percent of the “Best Congressional Tweeter’s” tweets are “@reply,” suggesting he’s responding to constituents’ queries.
Congressional franking restrictions that prohibit and monitor the use of official resources for campaign or personal use limit how quickly and what kind of information he is allowed to disseminate in an official capacity, so the internet accounts he uses are personal. In this discussion, Culberson says his mission has caused problems in both the Texas State house and now the U.S. House of Representatives but it's important to embrace technology. “This is in a gray zone; this is brand-new, so we’re sort of feeling our way, trying to use common courtesy and good sense.”
John Culberson was elected in 2000 to represent the 7th District, a seat formerly held by President George H. W. Bush and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, Bill Archer. In Congress, John’s priorities include strengthening the economy by cutting taxes, creating jobs, and balancing the budget; securing the border, advancing medical and scientific research; and improving Houston transportation.
John is a member of the House Appropriations Committee. His position on the committee allows him to promote his vision for effective government – lower taxes, less regulation, and more local control. John serves on the Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee, where he’s an advocate for law enforcement and NASA, the Financial Services Subcommittee, and the Homeland Security Subcommittee - committed to securing our borders and winning the War on Terror.
John earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Southern Methodist University in Dallas in 1981. After college, he worked for his father’s political consulting and advertising agency before earning a Juris Doctorate degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. Before his election to Congress, he practiced law as a civil defense attorney with the Houston firm Lorance and Thompson. In 1986, John was elected to the Texas House of Representatives while he was a law student. He spent 14 years in the Texas House and in his last term in 1999, served as Minority Whip.
This free podcast is from our Government 2.0 Summit series.