Campus Notebook: Vendors Beguile Congressional Office Managers

Posted October 26, 2011 at 6:20pm

Congressional offices are pinching pennies under cuts to their operating budgets, but office-supply vendors were still hoping Wednesday to make some sales.

On Wednesday, the Chief Administrative Officer hosted an equipment fair in the Cannon House Office Building for staffers to peruse the latest technology that could improve their office operations.

Hawkers of digital cameras, tablet readers and photocopiers stood by their tables, performing demos and offering fun-sized candy bars to the office managers and systems administrators sent to survey the wares by the Members they work for.

These staffers were coming with an eye toward savings and good investments. Since January, when the House passed a resolution slashing personal office and committee budgets by 5 percent, lawmakers have had to do more with less. The legislative branch spending bill for fiscal 2012 also reflects this cut.

Aware of budget constraints, sales representatives pitched their products as “cost savers” that would promote efficiency.

Marc Aandeweg and Tom Rechtiene of Neopost USA said their $5,195 machine, which can fold, stuff, seal and stamp 2,500 envelopes an hour, would allow offices to cut back on labor expenses.

Joe Brocato and Paul Van Remortel of Dot Gov Communications said their online communication services will help Members cut back on franking fees.

And then there were vendors who appealed to special audiences: Mandy Lippman of IMC Water Coolers said she was getting interest from staffers looking to support an environmentally friendly, American-made, female-owned small business.

“We’re calling this a ‘win-win,’” she said.

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Touts Website Redesign

Citing a base “hungry to be engaged,” the Congressional Hispanic Caucus unveiled a full redesign of its website Wednesday.

The layout is more “aesthetically pleasing,” said Communications Director Lesley Lopez, who oversaw the website’s relaunch. The site also was reorganized to improve access to content and resources for journalists, advocacy groups and constituents.

In a statement, Chairman Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas) spoke about the importance of building a website that better serves the Hispanic-American community.

“Report after report shows that the Hispanic community is online,” Gonzalez said. “One of the ways Latinos are underserved is by the lack of information about resources. This new website is one of the first steps to show our continued commitment to engaging the Hispanic community and our allies and empowering them by providing information.”

Lopez told Roll Call that statistics also show that Hispanic-Americans are “early adopters” of technology, jumping quickly into the Internet, Twitter, cellphones and smartphones. She said 77 percent of Hispanic-American adults engage in online socializing, with 18 percent on Twitter and about 10 million on Facebook. 

It was important for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to host a website that better catered to its community, she said.

“It seemed clear that we needed to change our strategy so that we could fully engage the Hispanic community,” Lopez continued. “We needed to reach out to them in the medium that they prefer.”

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Correction: Oct. 28, 2011

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the cost of the Neopost USA machine, which folds, stuffs, seals and stamps envelopes. The machine costs $5,195.