Technological expertise has always been a rare, if not seemingly nonexistent, commodity on Capitol Hill.
This legislative branch's limitations were famously underscored for the country last year, when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress (and on national TV) and several members made plain they needed a crash course in Internet 101. Among the most memorable moment was when GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah asked Zuckerberg how Facebook sustains its business since it's free to use. "Senator, we run ads," was the social media titan's understated reply.
The Zuckerberg hearing is just one example of how Congress lacks the tech proficiency it needs — a shortcoming that, in the eyes of many working to improve democracy, is hobbling the legislative branch's functionality and ability to stand up to the president in balance-of-power tussles.
There's a technology policy fellowship, though, that's working to change this.
TechCongress offers stipends for a year to mid-career professionals in the tech industry willing to take a break from their regular work and bring more technological and computer science savvy to Capitol Hill.
Frost is president of the Association of Former Members of Congress. A Democrat, he represented Texas in the House of Representatives from 1979 to 2005.
Last month, I was honored to testify before the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.
I represented the 24th District of Texas for 13 terms in the House, and for 26 years I was a member of the Rules Committee. I also served on the Budget and House Administration committees. I was Democratic Caucus chairman for four years and chaired the Caucus Rules Committee for 10.
Congress has been on my mind for much of my adult life.
Lindsey Graham was pissed.
He shook a fist in the air, his face red and body stiff. Graham had had enough.
The whole thing was "crap," "a charade" and "despicable," the South Carolina Republican said.
By the fifth day of Senate hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Graham was done with Democrats harping on what he considered to be a slanderous sexual assault allegation.
"This is the most unethical sham since I've been in politics," Graham said, pointing a finger across the dais of the Judiciary Committee.
The clip went viral. Fox News ate it up. And for Graham, the soundbites paid off handsomely.
During the next month, his campaign received $319,000 in large donations (more than $200) – or five times what he raised the previous month. More than 80 percent of the money came from people outside Graham's home state.
For the senator, who's seeking a fourth term next year, the takeaway is clear: Full-throated histrionics, when broadcast live for millions and replayed for days on cable news, can turn into easy money.
But for those focused on how Congress is stymied by partisanship and consumed by fundraising, the moment delivered this counterintuitive message: While putting Congress on TV has brought transparency to the legislative process, it has also created a prime venue for the sort of grandstanding that galvanizes a political base, divides a country and raises a whole lot of money.