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tv   Hearing on Congressional Mailing Standards  CSPAN  November 12, 2019 5:39pm-6:44pm EST

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>> the first open impeachment inquiry for president trump. they'll hear from william taylor and deputy assistant secretary of state george kent. watch live wednesday morning starting at 10:00 eastern on c-span3, online at or listen live with the free c-span radio app. >> follow the house impeachment inquiry and the response on c-span. our radio app, watch prime time re-airs on c-span or stream any, impeachment.
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>> the house modernization committee held a hearing on rules about males sent by members of congress, two academics and a software testified at the hearing about how technology affected with members of congress communicate with their constituents. >> the share is authorized to convene a meeting and it is entitled bringing the standards to the 21st century and i recognize myself. happy halloween. i am dressed as america's most maligned superhero, congressman able to fly across the country in six hours on alaska airlines
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we were wants to call it franken stein and how they've haunted, and we some go with the unspooky title and like most that have fallen under the mandate with the work of the house commission on congressional mailing standards is very inside baseball. to most people frank is a name or a hot dog and the members of congress, the congressional frank is how we respond to constituents and every time we respond to requests and we use the frank and it is no surprise that with the rise of social media congress has seen an overall decline of the use of the frank and ten years ago members spent an average of $58,000 and today's members spend about 26,000.
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obviously, there is a lot of member, and social media has had a tremendous impact on how congress has constituents and the digital media staff and today almost every committee has one including ours and given these changes in the way that congress and the american people communicate, today's hearing is actually really important and communications, will continue to rapidly evolve and congress needs to adapt so they can communicate as possible, and susan davis and the franklin commission have put a lot of thought into the issues and have ideas on how to modernize the frank and members need to know the difference about platforms so they can make and it comes with constraints that social media doesn't and some platforms come with -- communicating is more complicated and i'm looking forward to what our witnesses
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have to say about the issues and it's important to understand the history of the frank as well as modern trends and how members communicate with constituents. this committee is focussed making congress work better to better serve the american people and this meeting is wholly in support of that. i invite tom graves to share opening remarks and any halloween jokes he has, as well. >> i thank you, mr. chairman. i think you stole them all. all i have is the last name and that's all i can do on halloween. thanks for holding this hearing today. as you said, mr. chairman, there are more ways than ever to talk with our constituents back home and with the click of a mouse we can connect with the district to help solve our problems and hear ideas and opinions from those we represent. communication with those we represent is one of the most important parts of our jobs as we are representatives for them, but the current process as we describe that we don't know about or understand feels light years behind the speed of
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communications and the opportunities that we have today. we all want to quickly and effectively commu effectively communicate and get back to our constituents and we have heard from many of our colleagues who have many ideas for reforming congress including this process of communication. so on this topic, many of the freshmen members have stepped up to voice their opinions and question the way we do things and i'm very grateful for that because they've experienced the rules and the regulations and the procedures for the first time and thankfully they're very quick to highlight ways to improve or suggestions they may have to allow to communicate better and quicker. it will be great and it will be a wonderful halloween day and what a better way than be here. >> our first panel which we're calling the davis panel, we have representative susan davis the
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chair of the house commission on mailing stand ars and representative rodney davis that served on congressional mailing standards of the 115th congress and both are here to framing the knowledge of the process and each will provide five minutes of testimony and we'll move on to the next panel. susan davis, you are now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you very much, chairman, and vice chairman graves. you do understand that we get confused now and then and i appreciate you pointing that out and members of this select committee and i am pleased to join you on the first-ever franklin-stein meeting and the house administration committee, ranking member rodney davis and the new ranking member brian steel all of whom play a key role in the future of mass communications. the house's current franking
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rules have spooked members and staff over the years, but the good news is that we can make the whole franking process both, less scary and more effective. contrary to what many staff believe, the house manual was not created to frighten people, but rather with the good intention of preventing members from misusing taxpayer funds for personal, political or commercial use. however, after nearly two decades of working with those rules, we know the rules have the unintended side effect of slowing things down and preventing members from writing the way they speak when they conduct official business. our commission took a fresh look with a new approach and has two main components that go hand in hand. greater transparency and a simpler set of rules. greater public transparency
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ensures greater member accountability. we can achieve transparency easily by making the advisory online. it can link to ours as it currently does for financial disclosure reports for travel reports and gift and travel filings and legal expense fund disclosures and statements of disbursements. i would just state again because you all know this. the whole idea is to have members franking communications be available to their constituents and the public like other reports which i noticed which really does, i believe, discourage undue advantage of the franking privilege. combined with transparency a shorter set of clear rules will prevent the misuse of taxpayer funds. i look forward to sharing the new list of rules we are developing with you and all of our colleagues soon and staffs are pulling those together and
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actually have come up with quite a bit of consensus. as we work on our new package at franking, we have some request relating to digital communications. my written testimony goes into detail, but i'll highlight some. first, it recommend consolidating and digital communications and putting it under our jurisdiction. right now we are only charged with reviewing postal mail and in practices we review all communications. second, the modernization committee should evaluate the appropriateness and this is for you all to look at of evolving the members to auction from campaign accounts to their official accounts from time to time or perhaps just one time and also consider allowing campaign websites to link to official sites. this would eliminate confusion
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we all hear from our constituents while maintaining appropriate separation. and third, we need to use technology to upgrade district office mail reports which are still self-reported and done by hand. perhaps, we can fix this with a unique bar code. i'll wrap up now because i know votes and pumpkins are fast approaching. thank you again, it has been a pleasure working with all of you and your staff as well. we look forward to your next set of recommendations. >> thank you, chair davis, and now representative rodney davis you are recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman and thank you to the vice chair and also to the chair of the fracing commission. my good friend miss davis. i will tell you it's an honor to speak from this side of the deus, and i know i'll go back around to that side as soon as i'm done, but to be able to talk about something that a lot of folks in and around washington don't want to take the time to
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delve into, but it is very important for the job we do in communicating with our constituents. last congress i was the chair of the franking commission and i have to commend constituents. lt congress, i was the chair of the franking commission. and i have to commend my colleague ms. davis, because we were able to work together to implement some new processes that made the frank easier. older than you. and i do and see, the folks at work on house administration and taking these franking requests, my staffers tim and elizabeth, do a great job in making sure they work with their member offices to implement monday of their archaic stands that we put in place but susan and i, and our teams were able to actually make the process easier. will required higher percent online submission his. were in the 21st century.whose is the thing we should do. we digitized everything. it makes the process for turning that approval or disapproval around faster. and it is something
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that i know is a goal for both of us, when we are in the commission. we've got to do more. there is finally i believe you have been tight on both sides to roll up our sleeves as chair davis said. to get our teams together and come up with some solutions. i believe we are doing that. i am very happy that lena mccarthy, appointed our calling congressman bryan style, a freshman and a former staffer like monday of us whose had the years of frank. he is doing a great job of getting involved in finding out how we can even expand on what susan and i did with our teams last year. they represent bipartisan negotiations and is she said, opportunities for substantial changes to the franking rules. and we have three main buckets. focusing on making improvements on them. the speed of approval, we want to get these approvals turned around faster. transparency. there also developing regulations that
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work for the 21st century. let me frontline a few reasons why these reforms are in such need. first existing regulation is a burdensome and very bureaucratic. were literally injuring the size of pictures and counting the numbers of times goleta i is used. staff president. has not been upstate created and regulations. let me get whose straight. monday of the rules that we follow and approvals that are teams follow, have been set by president between staff for decades. we as members of the codify whose presidents into rules and regulations so that we don't have any changes when we have changes on the committee, and leadership and that is something that i am looking forward to working with whose committee and also with brian and susan on. it is hard to follow rules that are not written down. and when they're not transparent. i also think we should visit when it is
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needed. managers have an automatic approval process in some instances. for the consequences if members and staff don't follow those rules. for example doesn't make sense that facebook had died 500 people the cost of $20 is the subject to the same review the physical mailer going to hundred thousand people at a cost of 50000 taxpayer dollars. a little more than the expectation of privacy has brought the same it was ten years ago. and is a we support increased transparency standards for frankie. massively greater transparency comes a check and balance with constituents and the american taxpayer is the should replace the role of staff here in dc measuring pitcher and counting eyes. and finally is members of whose committee contemplate recommendations, even my three things. members need to keep send communications to their constituents. regional regulations are necessary to prevent abuse and filing of the
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regulations and guidance need to be transparent and accessible and easy to understand. in whose basic process, i.e. in courage the members to think bold and also new ideas are always welcome. i will take whose opportunity to yield 29 seconds back to you mr. chair. soon thank you both. and it was a busy morning for you so thank you for making time to come. one of the if the nextel of witnesses. to take their seats and perhaps is they do, i will start providing introductions just in the interest of time. our first witnesses doctor matthew glassman, a senior fellow with a government of georgetown university. prior to joining jai he worked at the regression all research center for deniers. congressional operations, frank in preparation of powers appropriations and traditional administration, agency design and congressional history. he was detailed to the house committee on appropriations is
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professional staff. legislatures land of symphonies in 2010 and 2011. next witnesses - justin tucker. professor of politics at the new your university. doctor tepper is the coprincipal investigator in the wind like so laboratories, codirector of the nyu center for social and political behavior. doctor tucker specializes in comparative politics with an emphasis on elections and voting and public opinion formation and the use of social media and facility all forms of participation. coeditor also of the monkey cage and award winning and politics log which appears in the washington post. final witnesses josh billy meyer, did i get that right?. who worked for the past 15
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years has worked with congressional offices and streamlined the cmm operations and leverage new technologies. prior to focusing on software solutions for congressional offices full-time for josh worked for several meters patients testing services and attorney 18 began ceo of congressionally office that he cofounded. five minutes for all of you. that went out objection your written statement will be part of the record. >> keller, vice chairman and members of the select monday. thank you for the opportunity to sit testify today. i'm senior fellow at georgetown university. lamented congressional service. institutional issues in congress including members of communication in the pagan philip privilege credible legislative speech. testimony, i provided to historical and contextual overview of the frank. pacifically discusses the origins of national and long-standing criticisms of it. in writing frameworks congress is used regulate. number consecutive would medications the building block. it's information about legislative
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activity cannot flow for members of constituencies. joint policy judgments and professional action and judgement about members. likewise, the constituents cannot easily communicate preference to members and congressional action is less likely to reflect a public opinion. for most of the 19th century, postage free frank mail could not only be only be semi-members, but to congress by constituents. the frank privilege dates to the 17th century england and has existed tenuously in the united states. so for a brief period in the 1870s when it was temporarily abolished. the modern system basic comprehensive forum passed in 1973. subsequent reforms made in the 80s. they include monday of the familiar restrictions. abandoning use of private her name to produce right now for a rail. on expenditures, public disclosure individual member costs. in pre-election bands on mass mailing. the last 20 years, house regulation of e-mail and other electronic commissioning
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medications but built on top of the frank medications. two long-standing criticisms have been lodged against the frank franklin privilege. first that it is financially wasteful and second that it gives unfair advantage to incumbents and congressional elections. in 2018, house members spent just under 70 million pieces of unsolicited mass mail. $27.6 million. an average cost of 35 cents per piece. expenditures were actually quite small. between 1988 and 2018, official congressional postage cost dropped by uber 80 percent. the contemnor a cost of mass mailing however are being driven by an increasingly small number of offices. 2004, 85 percent losses said at least one mass postal mailing. in 2018, almost 61 percent in. furthermore, uber half of the cost of postal mass mailings or accrued by 65 high standing offices. that averaged $260,000 at mass mailing expenses. several offices for more than a quarter of the members on mass
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mail. is have been the case for the skates, spend much more mass mailing than senior members and members electro states. in order frank will cost continue to be higher in election years than nonelection years. throughout history technological development have altered communications. they have often triggered regulatory changes. for example, the rise of computer generated mailing lists and mail services in the 60sexpanded the ability to members to reach their constituents. the rise of electronic communications in the 21st century is once mel is n again, jane, resume constituents communicate. mel is now the most popular way to reach members. social media accounts, allow for real-time interaction. no costs. these changes: call question relevant and financial efficiency of the traditional frank postal mail system. it's become a smaller
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portion of members constituent communication in recent years. while members spent almost 78 million mail 2018, 1.2 million pieces of mass communication. these costs are costs less than half than one half percent of each. seventy times cheaper than mass mailings. is a public policy the frank equivalents five dimensions. the title frank, what can be frank, how much can be sent, rightly said, and when it can be sick. in addition policy choices exist regarding transparency and how frank costs will be accounted and pay for. congress usually a variety of frameworks to answered these questions in the past. the contemporary system is up front the late 20th century. quite different from procedures and increased out of spending and communication environment of the 21st century. i look forward to your questions. >> kilmer, vice chairman and members of the
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select committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. my name is joshua tucker, professor of politics and co-director for social media and politics. in my testimony today i like to highlight the following four points. first, despite recent controversies around various social media platforms there appears to be no appreciable drop in social media use among adults. therefore it's a viable platform for reaching large portion of the u.s. population. second, there is a great deal of variation in how social media tools can be used to communicate with public. both do to platform for whose set of the platforms themselves as well is to the preferences of different members of congress. third, there are crucial distinction to between communicate with constituents through the u.s. postal service and social media forms. in particular, members have much less control over how the messages are delivered and to build as well is lessen the
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ability to monitor how well these processes are working. for the ongoing efforts to make social media data available for outside research and analysis should therefore be an important concern for members of congress. as access to social media data, will be necessary to assess the functioning and impact of congressional communication efforts. it is to these third and fourth points that i will address my remaining rocks. i begin with some observations about the consequences of the platforms business model. first, social media platforms generate revenue by selling advertisement. which means messages for members of congress that are viewed by the public, may up here alongside ads other ads which members have no control. consider whose equivalent to a freaking policy that allows companies to insert advertisements in the mail by congress. second is chair kemmer mentioned, post on social media are not geographically constrained. positive for my platform it is partly impossible to ensure the messages posted on social media platforms will only be seen by one constituent. it has two
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important implications. one is that congressional communications will no longer be written only with one constituent in mind. whose means that all members on more of an incentive to think about national is opposed to local audiences. the other is that it will be impossible to ensure equality in terms of exposure to messages in the medium and social media. it's always going to be the case members with larger numbers of followers will enjoy greater reach for the messages than those with fewer followers. third most social media platforms deliver content through proprietary algorithm and whose is the secret of social media. whose means that for platforms to display content in any manner other than a simple chronological approach, no one outside of the company knows how the company determines what viewers will actually see. whose in turn means that members of congress are unable to control how or even if their content is being seen. and the be at the mercy of any algorithmic changes that they decide to make in the future. while individual users can
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receive information about exposure to the post, the ability of outside observers to assess this pattern at scale is often severely constrained. is making it difficult for congress to retrospectively monitor the impact of the members communication strategies. it is against whose backdrop, that i turn to the importance of data access for assessing the impact of social media and politics. a disturbingly large proportion of the data necessary to investigate the internet fact on policy and democracy are locked inside social media companies. and these firms are generally reluctant to share that data for outside analysis. one reason for this reluctance is the cost and the legal financial and reputational of unauthorized disclosures that are so high. another reason is emerging digital privacy movement which is both necessary and salutary given the real dangers to privacy in the individual environment but unfortunately outside research is becoming lateral damage in the small beacon between government regulators and
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privacy educators in the platform. is i think of whose set of issues, support to realize their prohibition on making social media data available for outside analysis, does not mean that these data will not be in mind for his eyes. rather that only in place of the platforms will be mining the data and learning the answers that most prepping questions at the social media his impact on democracy and other social phenomena. we therefore need to move beyond the pleasing paradigm of should the platforms respect the privacy of their users, with which of course will agree in abstract. one that is fully embraces the trade-off between legitimate privacy concerns of the one hand, and the social good that can come from making data accessible to outside researchers on the hand. the academics trying to study the act social or offices reaching their constituents. in whose debate, then any sort of deep attempt to monitor the existence and impact of congressional communication through social media will undoubtedly fall. thank you for your time and look forward to your questions. >> thank you
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for your testimony. >> thank you chairman kilmer, members and committee. my name is josh and i am the ceo up to fireside one of the leading providers of the crm technologies in congress. our company provides software that it provides a 150 members to manage all the incoming letters to quickly turn around thoughtful and relevant responses. as ceo of this company, i had front row seat to understand how congressional offices operate and manage the mail, and how to decide when and how to commune gate with their constituents. i've had countless conversations with members and chief of staff legislative directors and correspondents and again a thorough understanding of the practical challenges related to franking. there's no doubt that we have seen an explosion of communication sent to members of congress uber the last ten to 15 years. our software, to take messages in and categorize
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and understand it more efficiently respond to constituents but the rules that govern outbound communication with constituents, have not fundamentally changed over the last few decades. based on my experience, i recommend three changes for writing. one streamline the process. mr. chairman imagine that you have just finished watching the state of the union address you want to send e-mail to constituents highlighting some of the policies outlined in space. your staff drops up an e-mail they sick into the framing commission for approval. you step may have to wait for days in a week to get approval for franking sick out the mail during these search times. franking approval process often takes far is it too long. congress should not have an approval process the make something no longer newsworthy by the time they're able to send it out. my recommendations to find an approval process that takes less than 24 hours for content to be take send out e-mail. some changes in the technology
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used to facilitate it, congress can meet this challenge. my second recommendation is to allow offices to send multiple follow-up responses to constituent without franking approval. if 500 people in the congressional district a member of congress urging them to cosponsor legislation, the office can respond to those 500 people that went out needing franking approval. however after those responses are sent, if the member then decides to cosponsor that piece of legislation, their staff will have to get approval from frankie to send an update to whose 500 people and letting them know that they cosponsor the bill and if that is the legislation passed the house of representatives the officers will have to get approval from the commission to send out an e-mail letting whose 500 people know the legislation has passed. my strong recommendation regardless of how many people contact the congressional office on the policy issue, or piece of legislation, the officer should the ability to spin or send
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multiple following up e-mails that went out needing approval. finally my third recommendation is create a task force to study how franking role should be updated in live of emerging technologies. i predict within the next three years, members of congress will have access to two new technology innovations that will dramatically improve their ability to communicate with constituents. my company fireside is working with machine learning to help offices manage the onslaught of inbound communications from constituents. there were also introducing technology that will be available to members of congress next year to allow staff to automate the process of writing responses to constituents. whose automatic letter writing technology can be programmed to develop all of the franking rules. someone member uses these tools, we can enter the content of goleta is that within the boundaries of franking guidelines and therefore we won't won't need any of these letters to get approval. the her name since mikey rolls that were created decades ago need to be updated to account for the way congress operates now. but congress should also be creating
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policies that not only apply today but will work for emerging technologies in the future. thank you again for the opportunity to testify. >> thank you. we will now go in to other committee members to ask questions. i'll start with five minutes. >> i'm not sure if i can should direct whose to doctor tucker or anadarko. here is how the senate does whose vote with regard to social media and my understanding, may be wrong about this but i know and on the house side, be multiple versions of ourselves. at official derek and unofficial derek. my understandings when they do different things different. also they have a hard cap on the amount members can spend on franking. i'm curious if you have a reaction to weather that's a good thing or bad thing. i can certainly speak to
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the hard cap. in the senate it's in the amount of postal mass mail the member his consent. is $50000 postage per year. and is probably the driving reasons senate dramatically decreasing his franking postal costs. since it was instituted in 1994 and a very few centers send mass post mailings. adding 201,811 senators sick one or more mass mailings. is a mark at might reduce cost and how sweet significantly that went out affecting tuning members. could you imagine saving a hundred thousand dollars on mass mailing. that would save eight and a have million dollars of the last year reducing cost by 30 percent and three quarters of the members wouldn't even be affected by it. >> i am not familiar with the accounts. so i can't answered that the russian directly. but i have been sending students and both sides for the last six years. to ask the people in their office who are responsible for drafting the social media posts
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and responsable promising process. what is continually amazed me that the variation we see across offices. in the ways in which there are so monday different approaches taking cross offices. what surprised me is we are i haven't sort of seen that best practices emerging where people are converging around one set of processes. one of the questions that always comes up is the question of finding a different account. other members of congress for there is official count in the campaign account and also be personal account so this actually also causes difficulty on the back and if you try to monitor how members of congress are communicating with constituents you have to try to track down all these different accounts and also causes asthma mentioned by representative dave is the first, went during the earlier panel that he a lot of followers on one of your social media accounts to figure out how to try to get them to the other social media account and
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given that their different monitoring account set up. seems like a fairly inefficient way both from the members perspective and from those of us trying to understand how the members are using these communication tools. >> whether there are things being done technology is being used to communication strategy being used in the private sector the thing congress on take those crack at. >> lane probably like everyone else i am signed up for newsletters. may we've got to ask using select topics you know interested in and i get e-mails based on that. i subscribe to political and technology don't care is much about healthcare or china and those kind of practices can be utilized by members of congress as well. most constituents are not interested in getting information on all of the
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topics that you do so hung them to choose maybe veterans affairs or other topics are interested in continuing content to keep them more engaged is good practice. static is that right now on our rules. >> yes in fact i did a quick audit on all the quick members, only one member asked for those interests. but you are allowed. near which items are interested in. challenges we do tailor content, using about 11 content that is different and that's where franking process becomes kind of a bottleneck. >> is more than just her name to things of the change. which i can rolls in your field continue to have some value and should be capped or updated. >> think speaking with constituents. i would see i like all of the ones about not allowing members to endorse things or have highly political speech things like commenting on the black again i don't know
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what the consequences are better all are valuable things to keep in there. >> terrific. with that, let me invite ms. miss brooks for five minutes. >> thank you. when i first came to congress in 2013, it did baffle me that we cannot migrate our campaign first when i ran for office, the first time it created pain account. most people that were following us, we had educate them in a very difficult ways. if my memory serves me correct, only one time could we even inform them to go to the official account so i like to talk about
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that a little bit more mr. tucker. we do think are the pros and cons of us migrating our campaign followers to the official count and vice a versa. >> i really don't see any cons to it. essentially what you know solving is the friction problem. you got people who sign up you want to follow you and get information about you and i have another vehicle we are going to be providing that information. so this is just a sort of costly problem for the constituents and that they are signed up to get information one way in the information is going to be coming through another channel. so we know that the way people see and talking about a twitter account, you can tweet to your followers. they are switching accounts and they should sign up for the sun account. but one of the things we know about twitter is that people don't see everything single sweet
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shows on their feed. there's a lot of different factors that go into whose. depending on how monday people are following and how often they live online. it's very easy for them to miss whose. the way most people interact with twitter has brought my going to people his pages through the following and see what those people are treated recently by those news feed functions which is exactly what is talking about with not knowing how the algorithm serves of whose information in terms way things are ordered. if you know in process people could migrate followers is the different list, you'd only beneficial to constituents. the larger question which is the larger issue of when we talk about people who are following you if you want to try to have a situation where you have elated can minute with constituents, social media is never going to be misinformation limited to constituents. map of the people choose to follow you who are constituents but of course one of the hallmarks of social media is they can re-share information and their followers can do the same. so he pushed
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me to sort of probe for why you might want to keep these accounts separate, nothing i would see is potentially the members you might have a greater national following in your campaign account because you are trying to raise money outside of your district and then trying to develop whose sort of separate list who are in your district might actually follow your official count but it practices the time-consuming effort opposes cost in the members and imposes costs on the followers as well. >> mr. billigmeier, you recommended sending of the task horse we can continue to explore emerging technologies is you have on your task force. >> there's quite of a variety
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of expertise particularly the respective members of congress how would you decide what thoughts do you have about the task force. soon probably echo a previous tech her name of congressional management and nation who suggested having communications directors and pressing terry's people on the ground and using all whose technologies and have a firm grasp on the task and workflows that they are doing i think that is a great group of people to start with. i yield back. >> thank you to the panel limit dispose question of to all of you around social media advertising and other than franking now for some a little bit neophyte about whose, so sounds like if he had an ad in social media, for a review you know what you're saying, and if the quantity is uber, yet the real value of social media tweets is the target. what i do with my business. i do whose on a daily basis. you can get in at a specific is your spouse to see happy birthday. we know that because you get that specific. i can pick suburban women who belong to unions and send a message that i can never
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do that, bml. that's a lot of value to being able to use that yet no one is ever going to look at that. can you address that issue of the difference because that's where my bigger concern is that you can really start to use it in an official capacity is also campaign live. >> his important understanding and sold varies across platforms congress begin a general loophole here is important and addresses in a written testimony. when members have access to social media for communication purposes they are sort of two distinct ways you can do whose. one is you have what's called an organic reach which is your posting things on social media aptly a lot of people find out and they follow you and they will share that information and will see that information for the nurse targeted advertising. it involves paying for ads ending in some platforms you can do whose in subaccount. we are talking about is whose kind of hyper ability that's generating what people are calling excessive micro-targeting here. you have companies especially google and facebook which now
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can give you these incredible sort of precision where you are targeting ads. these are two very different things. whose is one of the advice that i give in the written testimony to the head, anything you do in terms of thinking about social media usage by members of congress, please be clear to specify weather it is intended to apply to advertising which you've altered the regulations around advertising to members of congress. or whether it is for organic reach. the interesting thing is, different members of congress have different members and numbers of followers. there is no way you can ensure that that is equal. advertising you can put limits on how much members of congress can spend on these types of advertising if that's in the realm of what you are doing with advertising. but these are again, very different types of approaches here. and with the organic you can't necessarily target it the
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same way you can target ads. ceric i guess and try to get to the specifics of the abuse we had that advertising part. agree in the post, and he will do some people don't. be very specific and to a point of really do in campaign and no one is ever going to look at it. that's a concern i'm try to put out there. >> that goes back to the latter part of my testimony about the importance of ensuring data access to outside analysts. whose is the only way were going to understand the political impact of social media. is if outside analysts, people not working for the platforms themselves work on nda's and prepublication reviews with their own companies have access to the data to trying to understand was in it. i think there are efforts underway. facebook has
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made an ads archieves available there you are trying to take steps towards but in terms of is you know thinking about reforming anything about congressional to munication the 21st century, i wouldn't on both these dimensions, the organic and the advertising, i think it's very important that you do it you can to make sure whose data is made sure are made for a data by the government and see my correct policy and also like myself, so we can help you make correct policy by providing actual information and thorough information. see i have one comment. which goes back to obsolete rules. the original rules see they are not allowed to collect data on constituencies to identify if they are a republican or democrat. but based on the communication his a gift constituents and maybe surveys that you sick, he very easily and make a one question survey today to you constituents to see something like do you support impeachment and you are probably going to know exactly who's political party is in that. her with a few things, the original intent of franking was i believe and maybe not now i can talk to whose, not allow offices to overuse that information but with all the strains of information now, it
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is very easy to know that information about these constituents. >> the current framework is set up, the idea is that anything you are sitting on the frank side or through official content is official represented content. i wouldn't change how much you can target, use the frank. anyone has relations management platform, knows you can get someone who is whose stage in whose gender who spent two letters on gun control could pretty easily do a 499 to them. >> thank you mr. chair. very interesting panel. thank you for all of your comments. what you are discussing with us, is what i consider delving into the weeds. that's really what the subcommittee you whose here
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to do. my first question mr. billigmeier, we do share the goal of providing better experiences for members and making member communications with constituents even more effective and easier to the house isn't the easiest to operate in. right?. so can you tell us about any roadblocks or difficulties your other members have been into that have preventing you from presenting any of those features you are presenting in your testimony. >> absolutely. one of the unique aspects of congress is i'm sure you are heard, the fact that there is state actors and security in trying to compromise our political process. for a long time, house of information resources has certainly had very restrictive guidelines around where data can be hosted specifically constituent data and up until recently, was very restrictive in terms of keeping that inside the house network which
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restricts vendors from using things like cloud services a lot of time to do analysis on data. from what i understand, they been doing a lot of work on that. the number one priority is enabling vendors like myself to access to those types of resources and pumped it within the year or two will have the things we need to leverage that. try to give you a little example of where that is going to wind up when we did our research on machine learning. consulting group, and we took all of the constituent mail from four offices and process all that using monarch machine learning. service we had in the house, it's probably going to take ten years to process all of that information. so we had to move that to amazon we they are initialize hardware to do that. in my understanding is where the house information resources is the group that oversees all of that. making policies to allow us to do that eventually.
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how do you think some of the new technologies will be able to kind of move our communications into the 21st century and we are here to about franking rules and regulations. with franking rules and rags do you think could still hold up. a new technology coming whose is effective is it could be. >> i believe---it is a great question. and i appreciate number one, i have met with a lot of the staff to kind of talk a lot about the challenges in here and their respective us on it. what i've heard is there is just ambiguity on how these rules apply. here's a couple of instances. a lot of people talked about having winter franking rules, you can't send the same message to more than 500 people. let's see you wanted to deploy a modern cat but to your website. constituents, a lot of times asking questions and love ties
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us into a paper mail. a more efficient way to process that is is to have a little chat pot. like a lot of can be stabbed on your homepage this is what can i help you with. while interested in casework. great here is the forum to fill that out. that is solicited or unsolicited. he said more than 500 of those see responses to people who are on the chat pot does not follow on the franking guidelines. so that's why i recommend a task horse to look at the lot of these things that offices have questions about an art sure where that goes. in another area, and elaborate a little bit more is that in the private sector, almost all of the communications are not big e-mails which you get from vendors. they are small reminders. there notifications. they're looking at your interest in making small
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predictions and then staying, you brought these products, which may interested in buying whose other product rewatch these movies on netflix, they make a prediction. are you interested in seeing his other movies is member of congress, you can do the same thing for constituents. somebody rights and about a military base in your district, it also notified them, hey did you know that i voted on legislation that affected veterans as well making a prediction that they've been interested in subtopics. they might be interested in other topics. but when again, the franking model is people draft content they approve content the negative note in the private sector that doesn't really exist. you have computers analyzing and deciding when to send messages. drafting and messages and sending messages. those are the two, incompatible and needs to be a big reevaluation of process. >> appreciate the panel in responses and it's interesting
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you mention of la. new ideas and communications bear member when i first started my first job. joe fries with that was my first job. i yield back. >> thank you. i'm on a follow-up a little bit on the same team that mr. billy meyer did. the little bits about other technologies and some of the automated response or at least help to create responses. talk a little bit about concerns you might have with the personalization of those responses and we get to a place with automatic responses versus really having a true conversation with her on whose words. on the personal side of it. i worry about how that could be lost. >> excellent question. technology can help you filter out, as a member of congress, kind of at your level, my understanding of members and what they are looking for, is when they look at all of the
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information they are getting from their constituents, they would like to do two things. one they want to do a global picture of how does all of their constituencies feel. what percentage of them support a particular bill and what percentage support or don't support it. and then after that, they're also looking for personal stories for how people are affected. we do make the members of congress make speeches. they usually don't show a graph or something. they see sally in my district was affected by whose policy in whose way. only try and do is make sure they were using machine learning to try to process that overall view and try to give you a good feel what constituents feel in your district but also getting your staff the ability to identify those important stories and is you know probably a lot or half of the medications that go to
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congress are templated and constituents clicks on, yes, i support this measure. we support whose measure somewhere. any kind of a templated message. innovators have to eyeball those. that's where machine can look at that and see we will put that into the overall sentimentality is of any rights and staying i am having trouble with getting casework. i'm a vet and not getting the support they need and it needs to be handed off to casework business where you don't want that to get lost in the mix and you will be able to make whose personal message for your constituents. >> you are talking about taking incoming information and being able to present so it's getting the right response or the right person more quickly. >> i'll give you a quick sample. i recently visited an office and i was looking at
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their practice and i notice that they had turned off everything automation and every single efficiency measure within the system and i said i am very curious about why you did whose they said well we had and everybody's forum you usually have an option that says, yes, i would like a response from you know no i just want you to know my opinion. is a common practice. if they're not expecting a response, than you kind of skin that enclose it out because they're not really expecting a response that a veteran run in with the suicidal notes but click the i don't mean response and that kind of got lost in the process. i think that is a unique aspect of congress in every message has a lot of weight in the process that can find all of the things of the tension is that your staff
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can't continue to eyeball every single message that's why you are looking at machine learning to try and find whose very relevant messages in the sea of noise and you see that a lot more in social media where if you go on post something you are going to get a lot of very interesting responses comments on that and a lot hopeful in one of them that made reference again 70 seeking caseworker having some trouble in the district. you still want to get that went out having to look at every comment and every single retweet but that is a good case from computers. >> next check i think is a response to. >> i just want to inject one word of caution which is in that you know that the users of any media yet communicating are going to be advice sample of your constituents right. some people have time to write him letters you and the love the means to get on and get on the internet and send e-mails and versus people sign up for social media platforms is i just think it's very important to the members keep that in mind that is they go and monday years, the only way we've got
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communication was from letters, you have a good sense of much of your constituents of the kaiser going to write letters and that which of the ones and that will allow you to sort of interpret that through the letters of how representatives in sentiment they were getting off of inner letters or typewritten letters are being sick to the office. i can have members receiving information from male phones e-mails automated e-mails and are going to have, we saw that the average in one of the crs reports recently that said the average member of congress had six different social media accounts. so the six types of platforms and i have some data about whose report but different people uses platforms integrate so whose is like often now there is lots of different biases. okay worrying about whose that comments on youtube. i think that there is a danger that with these types of tools that will automate across lots of different platforms that you will give sorts of sense of false precision that is at 72 percent in the communications are in
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favor of whose particular issue you don't know what that 72 percent is representing so i just think it is a word of caution to think about that. >> and district like mine where there's a lot of rural areas and not necessarily broadband access are those are folks who can participate in line is much and there's places would be lost. more likely some letters or may not be able to participate day-to-day on the social media site. thank you very much neil. i'll yield back mr. chairman. >> one other thing. before we call it. i think one of the challenges members space is based on how we currently do things. you find yourself having to choose things with more proactive communications or paying your staff. i think about in my first term is a freshman member, when everyone was a new hire, and more
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capacity in my budget so that i was able to do that sort of proactive outreach. even in the most remote rural parts of my district, our somebody, keep folks up to dave on what we were working on. is i tried to retain the terrifically talented people, that slice of our office budget has shrunk stupendously. any thoughts on how this committee deals with these issues, potential solutions to that. she would look at taking bags and franking out of mra. the members resource the office budget or do you have other ideas. >> i have for mixed feelings about moving the franking count of the mra. i'm a big believer that we need to increase the resources particularly for staff and pay more staff and better. originally they weren't in mra. in the old days, the post office ate the cost we never even accounted for and
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then starting in the 50s, congress started reimbursing them. just for the general pool funds. and the reason it was changed was try to reduce costs. costs the members making them choose and putting a market value of franking. if you had to choose between the two, you would think a lot less. assuming, pool with no repercussions. it's been a lot. so consequently moving the franking itself out of the mra, if you just did that. there would be an explosion in frank
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mail. i would suggest using it with a cap. there are other costs to franking. members should represent as they see fit. things that are common as software in the mra freeing up a staffer at that point. >> i would note when you think about social media as the form of communication, these two conflicting goals overlap because the cost of using social media to communicate with constituents is having a member that knows what they are doing and who can deal with the platform so clearly that is a giving you a lot of caviots but
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those are all in terms of understanding the consequences of what's going to happen and it offers tremendous promise for exactly this reason you are talking about because this content that you can put out on social media and these are things that have very low budget implications and in the sense to dealing with the staff or not what you are looking for is stuff that can help people manage that. >> say about ten years ago it's pretty specific. you have those that sorted the mail and drafted all the letters and stuff and now it gradually migrated over time to lc's drafting and there are those now that having interns drafting replies to constituents which would have
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been unthinkable ten years ago, so i think that i agree the problem is the resources being available to this to the member offices and for us we've raised prices $35 a month over the last ten years even though the cost of hiring and maintaining programmers has just kind of gone through the roof so those are challenges we have a lot of these pains here and there because there is just limited resources for the members of office. >> with that i would like to thank all of the witnesses for their testimony. you took the dry subject and made it interesting. i also want to thank the select committee staff for their hard work in putting together the hearing and the budget committee for allowing us to use their room thank you for transcribing all that we are doing and thank you to c-span for covering us. without objection objection all members have five days to submit written questions to the chair which will be forwarded
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to the witness forfurther response and i ask the witnesses to respond as promptly as you are able in all members will have five legislative days to sit its material for inclusion in the record and with that the hearing is adjourned.
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>> good morning. welcome. subcommittee on maritime and security,


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