Political Party Time

Some lawmakers play hooky and party - A shout-out for a little help from our friends

Two current members of the House, Anna Eshoo and Sanford Bishop, and one former member, Rick Berg, missed the most roll call votes for fundraisers, according to a Washington Times story that used Party Time data.

Although it may sometimes seem like the primary job of Congress is to annoy the heck out of the American people, their official task is to fairly craft the rules of society. Voting on legislation is an essential step in this process, but it's a step that many lawmakers skip quite often. In fact, only five representatives and five senators were present for every vote last year. What's even better is that some lawmakers spend their time missing work to party -- in hundreds of instances, a lawmaker missed a vote at the same time as he or she was scheduled to be attending a funder!

A couple of Party Time camp followers have come up with the proof.

At the recent Bicoastal Datafest in New York that Sunlight helped to host, our Kathy Kiely covered a plethora of brilliant ideas, but spotted one project that may be one of the most inventive ways to utilize Party Time data -- ever. In just a weekend, Jeremy Merrill of ProPublica wrote a programming script that compared voting records of he 112th Congress with all 17,000+ PT invites. The results were money. Merrill discovered over 330 calendar clashes where lawmakers planned a party while they were AWOL for roll call votes. Unless these members have unknown identical twins or can manipulate the laws of quantum physics, it seems they have been playing hooky -- and partying while doing it.

This week, Washington Times reporter Luke Rosiak delved deeper into this partying paradox. In his recent article, "AWOL on Hill: Fundraising trumps voting," Rosiak -- also using the PT database -- discovered nearly 800 cases where lawmakers missed votes and were simultaneously scheduled to attend fundraisers. He also found many House members missed votes into the double digits for partying. The top three: Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif, Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., and former Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate last year.

Sunlight's John Wonderlich, quoted in the article, noted the influence of money in Washington: "If you have to choose between voting to represent your constituents or fundraising for re-election, you’d think you’d choose voting. It’s the most fundamental thing they have to do in Congress. It shows the priority of money in politics above all things, even the most basic duties.”

PT agrees wholeheartedly.

A big bravo to both Merrill and Rosiak for turning Party Time data into such useful, innovative content. For more interesting stories and reporting, give them a follow on Twitter: @jeremybmerrill and @lukerosiak.