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Modernizing Congressional Communications

A New Report on How Members of Congress Correspond with Constituents

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About the Study

Conducted by Echelon Insights on behalf of the Congressional Institute, this study of the Congressional communications landscape blends on-the-ground perspective from Capitol Hill practitioners, analysis of publicly disclosed spending by House offices, and a historical review of communications rules and practices in the House of Representatives. We collected the following new data to enhance the body of knowledge of how Members of Congress communicate with constituents:

  • In-depth interviews with 25 practitioners, including 20 House staff and Members, and 5 communications vendors and technology providers. These interviews took place over the course of the fall of 2019, and explored existing communications practices, the effect of House rules, and the role of CRM (constituent relationship management) and other technology platforms. To gain the perspective of those who work inside the House, interviews were completed with those at the Chief of Staff, Communications Director, and Member level. For an outside expert’s view, we also spoke with five providers of CRM, franking, and technology services — all of whom work across several Congressional offices.

  • A survey of 51 Capitol Hill staff recruited through personal outreach and a current list of relevant staff, including Chiefs of Staff, communications and press, and legislative, conducted from November 2 to December 30, 2019. The survey built upon the in-depth interviews to provide a more structured look at the priorities and challenges of Member offices.

  • An analysis of the House’s Statement of Disbursements, publicly disclosed spending by House member, committee, and leadership offices since 2009, as compiled by ProPublica. In keeping with the scope of our study, we focused our analysis on spending by House member offices.

The research team at Echelon Insights was led by Patrick Ruffini who serves as the principal author of this report, and includes writing and analysis by Ryan Doogan and interviews by Kelsey Patten. To develop policy recommendations and provide the historical perspective found in the Appendix to this report, we worked closely with George Hadijski, who in early 2019 concluded 27 years of service on the Committee on House Administration and who was responsible for developing many of the current regulations governing the use of official resources in the House of Representatives.

Modernizing Congressional Communications