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(Tribune File Photo) Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah.
Utah’s Congress members all over the map on Twitter

First Published May 01 2013 01:01 am • Last Updated Dec 07 2013 11:30 pm

Washington » Rep. Jason Chaffetz snapped a photo of La Dolce Vita and proclaimed to about 30,000 Twitter followers that it’s the "Best Italian food in Provo," prompting one person to ask for a recommendation.

Chaffetz’s immediate reply: "Meat calzone and lots of bread."

At a glance

Utah’s tweeting congressional delegation

Sen. Orrin Hatch » @orrinhatch

Date joined: Dec. 16, 2008

Other handles: @SenOrrinHatch, @orrinpac, @GOPSenFinance

Sample tweet: “Please join me in saluting @SenJohnMcCain on the 40th anniv. of his release from a North Vietnam prison camp. Proud to call John my friend.”

Number of followers: 37,755

Klout score*: 82

Sen. Mike Lee » @SenMikeLee

Date joined: Nov. 9, 2009

Sample tweet: “The President likes to talk about ‘fairness.’ How fair is it that Utah must ask for federal permission to use its land”

Number of followers: 26,721

Klout score: 84

Rep. Jim Matheson » @RepJimMatheson

Date joined: June 10, 2009

Sample tweet: “Congress is working to pass a budget to set spending & saving priorities for the upcoming year. What do you think the priorities should be?”

Number of followers: 6,570

Klout score: 59

Rep. Rob Bishop » @RepRobBishop

Date joined: May 25, 2010

Sample tweet: none

Number of followers: 612

Klout score: 0

Rep. Jason Chaffetz » @jasointhehouse

Date joined: Dec. 2, 2008

Sample tweet: “Washington DC – what a bunch of wimps. Threat of snow tomorrow and everyone is in high panic. #Snowquester”

Number of followers: 37,199

Klout score: 81

Rep. Chris Stewart » @RepChrisStewart

Date joined: Jan. 8, 2013

Sample tweet: “My first opportunity to sit in the speakers chair and preside over the House. My mom and dad must be sitting in heaven, amazed.”

Number of followers: 608

Klout score: 53

*Klout score: A Klout score measures popularity on social media based on factors such as number of followers and frequency of use. A top score is 100.

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Just a few hours earlier, Rep. Chris Stewart tweeted a graphic boasting how he spent his congressional break — logging 2,500 miles and seven town hall meetings.

Moments later, Sen. Mike Lee continued his fight to block a gun-control bill from reaching the Senate floor, tweeting, "We have been voting on and debating guns for weeks."

With members of Congress, there’s no consensus on how to use Twitter — but for politicians, having a social-media presence is almost as essential as having a phone number. More than 90 percent of the lawmakers have joined Twitter to stay connected to loyal supporters, build a global audience and bypass pesky news reporters.

Among the holdouts is Rep. Rob Bishop. His staff has set up an account @RepRobBishop — but he’s never used it.

"I’m unaccustomed to it," he said. A former history teacher, Bishop prefers to respond to Utahns over the phone. "It’s much more satisfying in getting answers and being able to talk to people," he said.

About 30 other members of Congress have yet to send a tweet, according to Tweet Congress, which tracks how lawmakers use Twitter.

Hatch on Twitter » Sen. Orrin Hatch is Utah’s most recognizable politician and boasts the state’s largest following on Twitter, though he doesn’t tweet himself. His office uses multiple Twitter accounts each with a different purpose: an official account for press bits, one for his work on the Senate Finance Committee, one for his political action committee and his @OrrinHatch personal account, which has the biggest audience. And then there’s his staff, taking to Twitter on their own accounts where they often defend their boss against critics.

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At the other end of the spectrum, Chaffetz regularly churns out real-time updates written by the congressman himself — and they’re not just restaurant reviews.

He was Utah’s first member of Congress with a Twitter account, registering @jasoninthehouse in December 2008, shortly after winning his first election.

Chaffetz uses Twitter to tout his legislation, spread links to news articles he likes and he even took followers on a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border, sending out photos snapped on his iPhone of smuggled drugs and broken fences.

"I like to do it myself. It’s not something I delegate; staff doesn’t get to touch it," he said.

"The people of Utah didn’t hire me to go hire some spokesperson. I think it should be me, directly."

Chaffetz uses Twitter to make politics personal — mixing in policy matters with personal quips about, among other things, his favorite TV show, "Duck Dynasty."

Having such an outgoing social-media persona isn’t easy for image-conscious members of Congress — and even more so for a freshman.

Stewart, Utah’s newest member of Congress, is still building his official @RepChrisStewart presence after House rules required him to ditch 2,000 campaign followers.

He says he prefers to play it safe on Twitter, limiting his tweets to strictly business.

"I’m really careful because you hear all these stories about saying stupid stuff on Twitter," Stewart said. "We’re not as sexy as some people are, but I think we’re appropriate for an official Twitter or Facebook page."

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