Monday, January 29, 2007

Pelosi Reaches Out to Blogging Community

WASHINGTON - Shortly after her swearing-in as the first female House speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi took time to field questions from a few dozen Internet bloggers on a conference call that was off limits to mainstream media.

Last week, Pelosi's aides arranged for bloggers to question two Democratic House leaders on another conference call shortly before President Bush's State of the Union speech.

Pelosi also hired a full-time staff member this month dedicated to blogger outreach, and is making plans to launch a blog of her own. The day she was sworn in, bloggers were given special accommodations at the Capitol to cover the event, and fed lunch.

It's all evidence of the newfound attention bloggers from left-leaning Web sites are commanding on Democratic-run Capitol Hill, especially from the new speaker, a San Franciscan with an appreciation for the power of the Internet and grass-roots activism.

Schooled by evidence of what Internet-driven politics can accomplish - from fueling Howard Dean's presidential campaign in 2004 to propelling Ned Lamont to victory over Joseph Lieberman in Connecticut's Democratic Senate primary last year - Pelosi and other politicians have realized bloggers are too important to ignore.

"They've gone from an initial writing blogs off, then moving to skepticism, then moving to, 'OK, maybe we can find a way of working with these guys,'" said John Aravosis, who runs

"It's a power base and it's influential and it's an opportunity. And you know what? It exists," Aravosis added.

"It should only scare you if you're on their bad side."

Blogs also are a way for Pelosi and others to communicate directly with a politically engaged audience, without filtering by traditional media. She promoted the Democrats' agenda for their first 100 legislative hours in a posting on

Democrats, in turn, credit bloggers with helping marshal successful opposition to President Bush's 2005 plan to overhaul Social Security by adding private accounts, a fight Pelosi led.

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