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Congress sees E-mail flood during trial


February 3, 1999
Web posted at: 10:06 a.m. EST (1506 GMT)

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.

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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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