House Republicans showed off their latest outreach initiative, America Speaking Out, on Tuesday but denied that its launch was timed to strengthen the party for the 2010 elections.
“This has to do with listening to the American people and addressing their concerns today,” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said at a Washington press conference along with six other Republican leaders.
Boehner said the project is a way to give the American people a “megaphone” to speak out with their ideas for government’s agenda using the latest technology. On the website, Americans will have a chance to offer and debate ideas. There’s also a feature where they can vote on whether they like an idea proposed in the forum.
“The best ideas don’t come from Washington – they come from the people,” said Chief Deputy Minority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who’s chairing the project.
Boehner said some of these ideas may find their way into legislation well before the November elections. The purpose of the project is for Americans to help the House GOP craft a governing agenda, Boehner said, but was not meant to be an updated version of the famed 1994 Contract With America.
McCarthy said this initiative wasn’t about elections. And Rep. Mike Pence (R.-Ind.) stressed that this was not the GOP searching for principles on which to build their party.
“This is not a political party in search of a keel or in search of principles,” Pence said. “House Republicans know what we believe. And in AmericaSpeakingOut.com, we state those openly on the first page.”
The site does not ask for party affiliation. The GOP will allow people to post ideas that they may disagree with, but Boehner stressed that the GOP is looking for input on how best to implement the principles that the party espouses.
Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R.-Wash.) said it’s time for new media to have the same impact on government that it’s had on improving personal and professional communication. She said that the House GOP is dominating new media, increasing their presence by 42% on Facebook, 36% on Twitter, and 33% on YouTube since January 2009.
Rodgers drew a laugh from the crowd when she compared Boehner’s popularity on social networking websites to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s.
“Leader Boehner has almost five times as many Facebook fans [and Twitter followers] as Speaker Pelosi,” Rodgers said.