A Twittering Congresswoman
Chellie Pingree is the newest member of Maine's congressional delegation. Based on her 74 tweets over the last month, she also seems to be the most technologically savvy, or at least the most obsessive-compulsive.
Tweets are short sentences published to an RSS feed by a service called Twitter, which you've probably heard of if you've opened a newspaper or turned on a television in the last six months. In case you've somehow missed all the hooplah, WCSH has a good roundup of Twitter use in Maine. (Full disclosure: I signed up for a twitter account more than a year ago, but have yet to send a single tweet). In most cases, Twitter is no more than a banal timesuck, but in the right hands it can be a useful way of communicating.
For a Congresswoman with a busy schedule who wants to stay connected to her constituents (and to fans of open government) Twitter can be a godsend.
Pingree has used her tweets to update her constituents (or at least the 421 followers on Twitter and the unknown number of Mainers who subscribe to her RSS feed or visit her twitter homepage) about both the important "am managing bill for 'rule' to deal with AIG bonuses on floor of House of Rep this morning- start of legislative debate w/vote today" and mundane "Riding in Congressional elevator, discussing best rubber soled shoes..it's walking in the tunnels that hurts" aspects of her daily life.
Pingree also takes the time to personally respond to tweets sent in her direction from constituents and often posts photos taken on her blackberry to accompany her tweets, such as this somewhat blurry shot from when her daughter, Speaker of the Maine House Hannah Pingree, stopped by to lobby congress on state issues.
Some might dismiss all this twittering as a waste of time, or just so much digital disctraction, but I think it may hint at something broader about the way the congresswoman approaches her job. Her tweets show that she's committed to making government more open (exactly what one would expect from a former president of Common Cause). They also give the appearance of a politician with strong principles - Pingree seems to have no problem twittering about even the most controversial issues, and it's hard to prevaricate in 140 characters.
One recent tweet reads "Great night at Equality Maine, caught up with good friends, a few I hadn't seen since the election. Glad Maine is taking on marriage bill!". Pingree's support for equal marriage may not seem like much of a revelation, as she has always supported gay rights, but it provides a definite contrast to some other Maine politicians. Senators Snowe and Collins, for instance, have repeatedly refused to take a stand on gay rights referenda in Maine, explaining that they don't want to get involved with "state issues". Pingree is not only willing to take a stand, she's willing to do it at 10pm on the tiny keyboard of her mobile phone.
Visit Pingree's Twitter page to follow her tweets. Senator Collins and Representative Michaud also have Twitter accounts, but they (or their staff) don't write as much or in such a personal way.
In other Maine political news this week...
Lawmakers are reviewing the excise tax referendum.
Senator Snowe outlined her health care views in a Roll Call Op-Ed.
The Clean Elections fund may not have enough money for 2010.
The Kennebec Journal called out Rep. Boland for questionable conduct.
The media also focused on other important state issues, like the governor's hair cut.
Portland Mayor Jill Duson can dance.
The governor's plan to move prisoners out of state was shot down.
Al Diamon thinks we need a limit on term limits.
A major Maine political contributor and earmark recipient plead guilty to defrauding the Pentagon.
Senate President Mitchell is proposing $200 million in borrowing over 10 years to build affordable, green housing.
GrowSmart Maine wants $27 million in bonds to renew Maine's downtowns and historic districts.