Gold Mouse Awards Reveal the Best Congressional Websites

The Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) announced the Gold Mouse Awards for the 111th Congress. 620 websites were evaluated, including all Members, committees, and leadership sites, to determine the best congressional websites. 131 offices were selected for a Gold, Silver or Bronze Mouse Award.

Four offices received the highest honor, a Platinum Mouse Award. These top sites went to Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), House Republican Conference, Chairman Mike Pence (R-IN) for top leadership, and the House Committee on Science and Technology, Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) for top committee.

The awards were released as part of CMF's Partnership for a More Perfect Union, "a research center dedicated to enriching the relationship between citizens and Congress by addressing the deteriorating relationship and communications challenges faced by both sides."

According to the report, the "digital divide" amongst websites is increasing, considering the most common grades were either an "A" or an "F." Many Members' websites still do not incorporate basic features, such as a functioning search engine and information on how to communicate with an office.

A press release quoted CMF executive director Beverly Bell addressing the project's findings. "Overall, we found the good sites are getting better and the bad are getting worse. It looks like half of the Congress is racing to the top while the other half race to the bottom. The outstanding sites follow best practices, leverage the power of social media, and serve their constituents well."

The sites were assessed based on five standards: knowing the audience, having timely and targeted content, ease of use, promoting interaction, and adding value through innovation.

For the first time, CMF considered the adoption of social networking. At the time of the evaluations, only 21 percent of member websites had links to their Facebook profiles, and only 18 percent linked to a Twitter account.

The study also found that Senate sites scored better overall than House sites and the number of award-winning leadership sites nearly doubled since the last Golden Mouse Awards in 2007. Generally, the websites that did well have a lot of valuable information that is kept up to date, and use different formats to deliver the information. Committee websites showed the most improvement with 93% scoring a "C" or better compared to 65% in 2007.

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