First published at WashingtonTimes.com
The White House went live a short while ago with Recovery.gov, which President Obama has been touting for weeks as an online tool to track how the $787 billion stimulus plan will be spent.
Obama is signing the bill today in Denver, and the site went up with a basic framework sometime this morning.
Recovery.gov asks visitors to "share your recovery story" and "tell us how the Recovery Act is affecting you. What's working? What isn't? We want to hear from you."
An administration official told me over the weekend that the White House team is studying USASpending.gov and Grants.gov and also nongovernmental sites such as ShovelWatch.org for inspiration.
"The site is the tip of the iceberg for the effort that will go into taking spending tracking and accountability to the next level," the official said. "It's clear we don't have all the answers but we're trying to think about how we can develop programs that provide accessibility and transparency ... The functionality will be developed as the spending and the program itself develops."
The official said the team tasked with Recovery.gov is "energized and thrilled, but it certainly is a challenge to tackle" such a monumental task given the volume of the data.
Recovery.gov is up with an Obama video, but future videos may star OMB staffers and people outside Washington with differing perspectives, or even ordinary Americans talking about what the stimulus means for them, the official said.
When the stimulus passed Friday, the White House posted links at WhiteHouse.gov to its more than 1,000 pages and allowed for comment within a 500 character limit. But after being questioned for offering such limited space given the size of the bill, the White House increased it to 5,000 characters one day later.
Speaking of technology, I wrote the lead story for our Plugged In Politics section today, focusing on the Republicans' promise the revolution will be Twittered.
Republicans finally get it — and have jumped on Internet technology in hopes of dominating it in the same way they used talk radio in the early 1990s to build a following.
"Every time I send out a tweet, I'm throwing another shovel of dirt to help bury the old media," said Rep. John Culberson of Texas, a 52-year-old Republican who became one of the most quoted speakers at the Republican National Committee tech summit Friday.
Of the 219 congressional Republicans, 49 were using Twitter, while 27 of 317 Democrats were using it as of Monday, according to Tweet Congress (www.tweetcongress.org). The site tracks use of Twitter, a social messaging Web site that allows microblog text entries of 140 characters or less, known as tweets.
Mr. Culberson is the most active congressional "tweeter" and the second-most-followed member of Congress, behind only Republican Sen. John McCain.
Their numbers are dwarfed by President Obama's loyal Internet following, but Mr. McCain's nearly 35,000 Twitter followers are a stark contrast to the lack of tech savvy he demonstrated during the campaign against his 47-year-old BlackBerry-addicted presidential rival.
Mr. McCain, who never even collected phone numbers for campaign text messaging but created a Twitter feed three days after Mr. Obama became president, tells his fans he's about to debate earmark reform on the Senate floor and even took a moment to wish the Cardinals good luck in the Super Bowl.
"We did a lot of new-media stuff, but in the context of the Obama campaign, anything we did was automatically drowned out because they were so good at it," a former McCain campaign aide told The Washington Times.
Ironically, the tech tools at hand since Mr. Obama reached the White House are antiquated compared with what campaign aides were used to using, and the president has stopped text-messaging and using his Twitter feed.
Read the full story here.
Since it came out, lots of Hill Republican staffers have been emailing me to let them know their bosses use Twitter too.
— Christina Bellantoni, White House correspondent,
The Washington Times