When Sen. Jon Tester took office in January he reportedly became the first congressman in history to make his schedule available online. Thanks in part to the glowing press he received from political columnists, bloggers and editorial writers across the country, some of Tester’s colleagues are beginning to follow suit: Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., began the practice right on Tester’s heels, and more recently Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., joined the growing ranks of sunlit senators.
According to one Tester spokesperson, his boss didn’t set out to start a trend or embarrass his elder statesmen; he was just following through on a campaign promise.
But the seemingly innocuous practice now has at least one other Montana congressman scrambling to play catch-up: When Rep. Denny Rehberg’s spokesperson told a reporter that his boss’ schedule would be made available to anyone who asked, partisan bloggers on the left immediately tried to take him up on that offer.
Don Pogreba of IntelligentDiscontent.com says he’s made more than 20 phone calls and visits to Rehberg’s various state offices but has yet to see a copy of Rehberg’s daily schedule.
“I think it’s important that they are honest,” Pogreba says, “and secondarily it seems like as citizens we have a right to know what [our representatives] are doing with their time.”
Rehberg’s chief of staff Erik Iverson couldn’t agree more.
“The public has a right to know…but it shouldn’t be about a political game of gotcha,” Iverson says.
According to Iverson, Rehberg’s staff is currently working on revamping his congressional website, and once that’s completed his detailed schedule will be posted each day.
Sen. Max Baucus has indicated he might begin posting his schedule but has yet to
In the meantime, Rehberg’s the one who continues to take a beating on Pogreba’s blog. That doesn’t really bother Iverson, who says his boss is open with constituents.
“[T]his is being driven by politics, it’s not being driven by an interest in public’s right to know,” says Iverson. “Against that reality, we’ve been very meticulous in putting this thing together.”