Congress sees E-mail flood during trial
February 3, 1999
by Roberta Fusaro
(IDG) -- Five lawmakers last week said they're getting more E-mail as a result of the Clinton impeachment proceedings, but Capitol Hill systems and processes for handling those messages haven't changed much.
In recent weeks, E-mail traffic routed through a central congressional server has risen to as many as 1 million messages per day, compared with an earlier average of about 80,000.
Although the Senate added an extra E-mail server to handle the increased traffic after the release of the Starr report in September, and the house upgraded its computer systems, network delays have since been the norm.
Since the Clinton case shifted to the Senate, "We've been inundated with E-mails — so much so that we've had some server problems and have been getting [E-mail] late," said a spokeswoman for Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.).
Nickles' office received about 13,000 E-mails between Jan. 17 and Jan. 26; the office put its entire staff on the task of responding to the messages, the spokeswoman said.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, has received as many as 1,600 E-mails over a weekend since the release of the Starr report and at key points in the impeachment hearings. But Frank's office still considers postal mail and faxes to be more effective than E-mail for constituent relations, said Peter Kovar, a spokesman for Frank.
The office of Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) also has received thousands of E-mails from citizens around the country, about 950 of them from Alaskans.
But the process for handling E-mail hasn't changed. Responses to E-mail usually are sent back through postal mail because of the perceived insecurity of the Internet, a Murkowski spokesman said.
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