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Caucus Chairman Wants to ‘Kick Butt’ With New Website
Posted at 11:58 p.m. on Dec. 5, 2013
Even before Rep. Xavier Becerra ascended the congressional leadership ranks, the California Democrat wanted to have the best website on Capitol Hill.
“I found out there was an award for that,” he recalled in an interview this week with CQ Roll Call, referring to the prizes for the best congressional websites given out biannually by the Congressional Management Foundation. “I said, ‘I want to get the Golden Mouse.’”
Becerra won those Gold Mice in 2006 and 2007, and followed up with lesser Bronze and Silver Mice in the 111th and 112th Congresses, respectively.
Earlier this year, when he became chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, he said he knew it was time to challenge his team to produce something even bigger and better, maybe rise again to claim that elusive Golden Mouse.
“I told my team, ‘We’re gonna have the best. And we’re gonna kick butt. We’re just gonna do it better than everyone else,’” Becerra said. “I said, ‘Come up with every idea you can. Come up with great ideas.’”
And they delivered, according to Becerra: On Wednesday, the House Democratic Caucus unveiled its new home on the World Wide Web, www.Dems.gov.
The caucus’s official online portal and one-stop shop has synthesized more than 700 social-media platforms being used by House Democrats, scrolling members’ latest tweets and Facebook posts across the home page.
Visitors to the site can live-stream events and search the party’s latest policy positions. They can learn about the various caucuses and task forces within the larger Democratic Caucus, and they can click on customized profiles for each member — and, from there, find links to lawmakers’ various homes on the Internet, like their YouTube pages.
“On the Hill, it’s totally unique,” Becerra gushed. “It’s organic. It’s a living, breathing site. … It embodies the DNA of House Democrats.”
Becerra is passionate about showing off his party’s Internet savvy, especially as Republicans have sought to dominate millennial outreach and the social-media arena with their hashtags, Vines and Google Hangouts.
“Before, our Republican counterparts had more folks logging onto their sites. They had more Facebook numbers and Twitter numbers,” Becerra explained. Now, he said, Democrats surpass Republicans.
“[Republicans] talked about it more than we did,” he continued. “They talked about their brand a little louder than we did, and at the end of that we saw that their product wasn’t better than ours; they were just touting it a little more.”
But Becerra said it’s not just about being the best or beating Republicans.
“Money has been an issue,” he explained, referring to the austere cuts to Members’ Representational Allowances in the era of sequestration. “It’s been tough to do as much with less, so I had to figure out a way to communicate as much as I can with the American people, and I had to help my colleagues communicate, too.
“It’s become very obvious that technology really is a friend,” Becerra continued. “We should exploit it, if there’s ever a constructive use of that word. We should latch onto it.”