Cruise Control for the Political Infobahn
Leiter, Lisa, Insight on the News
The World Wide Web will be snaring political junkies of all stripes with these virtual ramps onto the Washington information highway.
Navigating the information superhighway can be a drag, so Insight found 10 top-notch political World Wide Web sites to serve as entrance ramps to the virtual Washington Beltway and the 1996 cyber-campaigns.
This user-friendly site is a good-looking, nonpartisan starting point for Web users in search of Capitol Hill and other political information. Created by Senate Web-gurus Chris Casey (who recently published a book called The Hill on the Net: Congress Enters the Information Age) and Jeff Hecker, "It's kind of the Yahoo for legislative-branch information," Casey says. What he means, for those not fluent in Netspeak, is that Capweb serves as a search engine or index of World Wide Web home-page sites for members of Congress, presidential and congressional candidates, voting records, bills, historical documents, biographies and political parties. You'll feel like you live in the nation's capital after clicking onto the home pages for Washington fixtures such as Roll Call, Capitol Hill's semiweekly newspaper. This site also lets users E-mail their representatives and links them to the Library of Congress.
Another excellent one-stop shopping site for political addicts or beginners who want well-researched, nonpartisan, reliable information on candidates' backgrounds, issues and campaign war chests. The site is not as graphically attractive as Capweb but it features useful links to interest groups, think tanks and research institutes, accompanied by short summaries identifying the organizations and their missions. Vote Smart also offers tidbits about state governments for those tired of the Washington scene. Interested parties are encouraged to reuse facts from Project Vote Smart as long as they credit the nonprofit group, based in Oregon.
This is the C-Span cable network's Web site. Enough said, right? Those who watch Washington Journal and the daily gavel-to-gavel coverage of Congress know that C-Span prides itself on evenhandedness. Its plain and simple Web site offers a programming schedule and links to the three branches of government and media organizations. There is an eclectic listing of links to other Web sites suggested by viewers, including the unofficial Richard Nixon Web page and the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws site. Visitors also can check up on the C-Span bus.
This site merged PoliticsUSA and Election Line into one joint venture by the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times,ABC News, Newsweek and the National Journal, which recently acquired the daily summary of political news called Hotline. The attractive PoliticsNow Web site is chock-full of wonderful Washington resources, including two political bibles: The Almanac of American Politics, which details the demographics of states, their congressional districts and their representatives, and Capital Source, a sort-of yellow pages for the nation's capital. Visitors to PoliticsNow can read The Buzz, an up-to-date political gossip column, view the latest polls, find historical documents and become a delegate to a virtual convention. If you can stand the advertisements (which many commercial sites have), this interactive site should be one of your most-used on-line political resources.
If you're on-line and you want the answer to the question, "What has my congressman done for me lately?" then step into Congressional Quarterly's American Voter '96 Web site, complete with primary-election previews and articles published in Congressional Quarterly, a weekly magazine. …