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The People's Business

Amy Gardner

An enterprising student at Virginia Commonwealth University has posted to YouTube an amusing compilation of video footage from this year's General Assembly session showing lawmakers doing anything but the people's business on their state-issued laptops.

The video, compiled by Tracy Kennedy from Capital News Service footage of floor sessions in the House chamber, shows lawmakers Facebooking, instant messaging, even shopping for guns. Del. Dave Albo (R-Fairfax) is seen checking out a $3.5 million house for sale in Mason Neck. Democrat Al Eisenberg of Arlington is shown browsing Civil War relics. Democrat Bob Brink, also of Arlington, is seen shopping for furniture at crateandbarrel.com.

Some lawmakers are shown reading news clips, but no one is looking at the state's Legislative Information System, an online database of bill status, committee calendars and state code that is presumably a big reason why the state spent hundreds of thousands of dollars issuing the laptops and wiring the Capitol for high-speed Internet access. As Kennedy points out: "It might just be time for the Capitol to get a firewall to help keep the legislators focused."

By Amy Gardner  |  April 15, 2009; 3:53 PM ET
Categories:  Amy Gardner  
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Comments

Amy: Did it occur to anyone to inquire what was going on at the time? Had the VCU reporter told the full story, she would have mentioned that at that time no votes were being taken, and I actually recall we were in a recess "break" awaiting Senate action. We get on line all the time to respond mostly to constituent inquiries. I get 100's a day and its tough to keep up. At the time of this report, I was looking at house values in Mason Neck b/c I had a constituent write, all upset about his County Real Estate Tax. But the "reporter" did not give any subject of the report an opportunity to respond. Just a slam piece taken out of context.

Dave

Posted by: davealbo | April 16, 2009 8:26 AM | Report abuse

So true though and very informative. Our legislators twitter and facebook all day when they are in session.

Posted by: UVANick | April 16, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

While the video is quite amusing, I must say I agree with Del. Albo. He's always seemed like a straight shooter, so it's hard to dispute his characterization of what was going on in the House chamber when these shots were taken. And I applaud our legislators for utilizing technology such as Twitter, Facebook, and online chat services to keep in touch with their constituents in real time.

Posted by: ggWashDC | April 16, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Bravo Del. Albo. Any nitwit with a camera phone is now suddenly a TMZ wannabe, paying “gotcha.” I have a real beef with this “investigative journalists” who are peering over people’s shoulders and reporting on websites one is visiting. So what if that person is an elected official or not…what happened to common decency and respect? To these people: get a life of your own.

Posted by: AnnandaleAnnie | April 17, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Dave, I don't think you're right about this. First of all, the journalist doesn't say all the shots were taken on the same day at the same time. Second, legislators are in the public eye and should be aware that they are accountable to the public for their time. Third, we've all surfed the Internet at work. Everyone has been lured to check out a newspaper, an eBay auction, whatever. But not everyone was voted into office; not everyone has a laptop provided by the government; and some people get fired when caught. Finally, too many legislators were filmed doing something else. I'm sure each person mentioned will have a very good constituency-based reason for why he or she was on the site shown. But even a high school teacher would tell you, "Stop. I don't even want to hear it."

Posted by: lolyla | April 17, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

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