More and more lawmakers and government officials are using Twitter to communicate with constituents, make news and offer random thoughts about subjects ranging from legislation, politics and sports, which is why three enterprising young reporters from The Hill have compiled a list of the 25 must-read Twitter feeds for political junkies, and why I thought it worth sharing with HuffPost readers.
The three — Jordan Fabian, Michal O’Brien, and Elise Viebeck — point out that all these tweets have become a valuable tool for newsmakers, journalists and concerned citizens alike as 232 senators and representatives — more than two-fifths of the 535 members of Congress — regularly tweet, according to TweetCongress, a website that tracks lawmakers’ twitter accounts.
And Twitter has even become a valuable tool for lawmakers to defend themselves from accusations of unethical behavior, as does Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.).
In addition, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), onetime presidential hopefuls Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.), White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and even Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are among the 25 must-read tweets, The Hill’s reporters concluded.
Here’s the list, in alphabetical order, including this Jurassic journalist’s personal favorite, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) (@GOP Whip)
This feed is a reliable source for a sense of the GOP’s daily message and the op-eds its members are reading (and writing).
Example of a recent tweet: House Republicans brought nine spending cuts totaling over $120 billion to the House floor for up-or-down votes over the last three months
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) (@JohnCornyn)
The chairman of the Senate Republicans’ campaign committee, Cornyn often dispatches a series of musings on Twitter, which double as his Facebook status. The often on-message tweets are mixed in with the occasional tweet like last Friday morning’s, wishing followers a happy Friday the 13th.
Example of a recent tweet: Q: If the federal government enforced immigration laws and secured the borders, would we even be talking about 14th Amendment?
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) (@JimDeMint)
DeMint often breaks news using his Twitter account, which has over 46,000 followers. Last year, he revealed he was leading a controversial congressional delegation to Honduras amid a coup there.
This year, he has previewed his many legislative amendments on Twitter.
Example of a recent tweet: I’ll work to force a vote this week to permanently kill the death tax.
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) (@RussFeingold)
Feingold’s feed is notable for its consistent demarcation of which of his tweets are written by staff members. In an age when many lawmakers’ tweets are bland missives written by aides, Feingold’s feed gives followers transparency as to who’s on the other end of the keyboard or Blackberry.
Example of a recent tweet: STAFF Read our blog post on Ron Johnson twisting in the wind…again http://bit.ly/ckpeZC
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (@PressSec)
Anyone looking for the latest news from the White House should look no further than White House Press Secretary (“@PressSec”) Robert Gibbs. Since joining Twitter in February, the account has been used to occasionally dispatch news to the press corps more quickly than press releases.
Example of a recent tweet: Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) says she’ll vote to confirm Elena Kagan as a Supreme Court justice.
(Gibbs made news in a more traditional manner last week when he characterized Obama’s liberal critics as the “professional left” in an interview with The Hill.)
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) (@ChuckGrassley)
Grassley’s account is one of the most widely-followed among lawmakers because of his unique online vernacular and his penchant to go off the cuff. At 76, the five-term senator, who’s running for a sixth term in November, is the senior twitterer on The Hill’s top 25 list.
Example of a recent tweet: Congress&Americans shldnt b in dark abt possbl Obama admst pln 4 backdoor amnesty 2 illegal immgnts Pass video on http://tinyurl.com/2fzf2wm
Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) (@jahimes)
Himes, a freshman lawmaker, is one of several to take up Twitter himself instead of letting his staff maintain his account. (He’s also the only member of Congress born in Lima, Peru.)
This week, the 44-year-old former Goldman Sachs executive made keen observations about Rep. Charles Rangel’s floor speech about his ethics charges.
Example of a recent tweet: Rangel mounting a lengthy defense of himself in the well. No notes. Unclear where this is going.
House Democrats (@HouseDemocrats)
Run out of the office of Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), this feed aggregates and retweets important posts from all Democratic House members.
Example of a recent tweet: RT @LeaderHoyer @DavidGregory: “if Rs get back into power what are they going to do?” @PeteSessions: “need to go back to exact same agenda”
House Republican Conference (@GOPConference)
This feed imports tweets from House GOP members, and helps to articulate the conference’s day-to-day message.
Example of a recent tweet: RT @USASpeakingOut Protect the Constitution: @RepJohnShadegg has plan to rein in overreaching Congress. Weigh in here http://ow.ly/2nATz
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) (@JohnKerry)
The 2004 Democratic presidential nominee’s account was once a sleepy outpost in the political Twitter universe. But it has quickly become a must follow with a mix of pop culture observations and political statements.
He welcomed legendary NBA center Shaquille O’Neal to the Boston Celtics, tweeting “@THE_REAL_SHAQ Welcome to Massachusetts, big guy.”
Kerry also took a shot at Connecticut Senate candidate Linda McMahon (R) last week: “And a big night for AG Blumenthal, we need to have his back vs. $50 million in GOP/WWE roid rage attacks thru November.”
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) (@SenatorMenendez)
Twitter is a tool Menendez uses to highlight the wide variety of issues that matter to him and his constituents. Recently, he’s discussed a push to investigate a potential connection between BP and the release of the Lockerbie bomber, and also advocated for the U.S. to host a future World Cup.
Example of a recent tweet: Go NJ! RT @FrankLautenberg: lets bring the #WorldCup to NJ’s Meadowlands. Show support for @goUSAbid by voting http://bit.ly/cyCtn1
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) (@SenJohnMcCain)
From constant heads-ups about local radio interviews to sharp criticism of President Obama to conversations with the Jersey Shore’s “Snooki,” McCain maintains one of the most active Senate Twitter feeds. He has a wide reach, too, with over 1.7 million followers.
Example of a recent tweet: @SenJohnMcCain joining my husband on the road to victory next week. AZ primary Aug 24. (via @CindyhM1)
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) (@clairecmc)
This Missouri centrist has been one of the most consistently active Twitter users since the service took off in popularity with her colleagues. She uses her feed to make news, too: when she had secured enough votes in the Senate to change longstanding rules on anonymous holds, she announced it on Twitter.
Example of a recent tweet: My bill on border security became law today [August 12]. Great hearing today in KC on the disgusting abuses of debt settlement companies. Productive day.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (@TheJointStaff)
Mullen’s Twitter feed always gives interesting insight into what the nation’s top military official has to say on a number of issues. Though his job often involves a number of top secret and off-camera affairs, Mullen’s feed offers humanizing insight on the Joint Chiefs chairman.
Example of a recent tweet: Deborah & I offer deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Sen. Stevens, as well as others suffering loss in AK plane crash.
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R) (@SarahPalinUSA)
If you’ve ever heard the term “refudiate,” you’ve heard about a Palin tweet. The former GOP vice-presidential candidate and rumored 2012 contender makes her feed a must-read with creative coinages and a message that reaches directly to her base.
Example of a recent tweet: What’s the plan,man? Still no Obama/Dem’s formal proposal telling Americans how they’ll increase taxes in 4 mos, nor what they’ll do w our $
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) (@SpeakerPelosi)
Pelosi had been one of the top congressional leaders to lack a formal Twitter feed, but has since taken up the cause and used her feed to break news. When she decided to bring lawmakers back from their August recess to pass a $26 billion state aid bill, she announced it on Twitter.
Example of a recent tweet: Looking forward to tonight’s #topchef (I judge the Quickfire!) – can’t wait to see how the teams do in Restaurant Wars
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) (@JaredPolis)
This 35-year-old freshman congressman is a younger presence on Twitter, maintaining an active feed and frequently using it to communicate with constituents and supporters. He also notes breaking news.
He also stands out for several other reasons, including the fact that he’s the first openly gay person elected as a freshman – Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass) was still in the closet when first elected; he’s a successful Internet entrepreneur worth an estimated $160 million, and his last name was Schutz until he changed it to honor his mother’s maiden name.
Example of a recent tweet: AZ law overturned!! Immigration is federal responsibility!No more excuses, American ppl demand Congress PASS IMMIGRATION REFORM NOW
Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) (@RepMikeQuigley)
Though Quigley tweets about the business of Congress, the best part of his Twitter account is that he uses it to display his love of hockey (after all, he is a co-founder of the Congressional Hockey Caucus).
He also loves to engage with other lawmakers on Twitter.
Example of a recent tweet: @RepBrianHiggins No need to worry, @RepMikeQuigley, Buffalo will take good care of Stanley Cup today http://twitpic.com/2ec345
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) (@cbrangel)
The 20-term lawmaker only joined Twitter in June, but he has not shied away from his ethics troubles on the account. His office recently posted two audio files of him defending himself against 13 alleged violations of House rules.
Example of a recent tweet: #Rangel Real audio tweet: http://twithear.com/1e6
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) (@PeterRoskam)
As co-chair of AmericaSpeaksOut.com, Roskam tends to use his feed to promote the House GOP’s efforts online. Watch follow him for a sense of the party’s moral and enthusiastic “Follow Fridays.”
Example of a recent tweet: Even John Maynard Keynes says if you spend money you should get something for it http://bit.ly/c8AxHI @CNBC #FAIL #DebtDependenceDay
Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) (@MarcoRubio)
The probable Republican nominee in Florida’s heated Senate race, Rubio has used his Twitter account to make jabs at his opponents while also sharing portions of his personal life.
He recently tweeted at fellow GOP Senate nominee Linda McMahon of Connecticut.
Example of a recent tweet: Enjoyed going on Hannity with @lindaforsenate. Good luck! See you in DC #flsen #ctsen
Senate Democrats (@DemWarRoom)
This feed is mediated by anonymous staff members, but provides regular updates of the upper chamber’s latest happenings. From messaging to scheduling to floor votes, Senate watchers shouldn’t skip this feed.
Example of a recent tweet: Approx. 3:30pm ET vote on Elena Kagan to be Assoc. Justice of the Sup. Ct.
Senate GOP News (@Senate_GOPs)
The Senate Republican Conference has a messaging machine on its hands. It’s Twitter account shares links of pertinent Twitter posts from its members and posts newsworthy items.
It culled many reactions from members regarding the death of former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) last Monday.
Example of a recent tweet: @lisamurkowski Sen. Murkowski’s Statement on Plane Crash That Claimed the Life of Sen. Ted Stevens http://bit.ly/diZBkK
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) (@Schwarzenegger)
The “Governator” always has something new to tweet about. He tracks his active public schedule beat by beat, frequently linking to good TwitPics. Sometimes, he’ll even quip about his pre-political career.
Example of a recent tweet: Northern CA is the upper body, Southern CA is the lower body, and the Central Valley is the abs. You can’t neglect the abs, candidates.
Don Stewart (@StewSays)
If following “PressSec” and “DemWarRoom” are necessary for Democrats, then following Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), is just as important. Stewart is a regular Twitter user, and uses his feed to dispatch the latest news and messaging. Weather afficionados should also take note: Stewart makes a hobby of posting almost any D.C.-area weather alert.
Example of a recent tweet: Well, the Senate’s August 12 special session at which a nearly empty chamber passed a $600 million bill to beef up security along the Mexican border, which President Obama signed into law the next day, was SUPPOSED to be five minutes [but the presiding officer, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), was still going strong a half hour later].
Reaction to The Hill’s top 25 Twitter list was mixed, with one reader commenting, “Sound bites are short enough for use as spin. [Tweets] on the other hand tend to be too short and content-deprived for use as anything but quick-release babble and thumb therapy,” while another simply asked, ungrammatically, “Who to believe?”