Saturday, August 26, 2006

Ranking Congress

The last post about Ohio's second and the candidates and accusations brought an interesting comment. There is a company called Knowlegis that has produced a ranking of members of congress based on criteria which evaluate legislative activity as well as position in the house or senate. Unfortunately, my poster did his work anonymously or I would credit him.

Any ranking system, be it colleges or members of congress, involves some subjective factors and the creators of acknowledge that. They explain how the rankings were created here. Fundamentally the ranking system depends on position, influence and activity. Having worked in the legislative process for almost 40 years that sounds about right. Over a two year session of Congress there are literally millions of transactions so getting the right balance among all of them is tough. But the ranking system seems to have put more weight on legislative committees with gravitas than most of the leadership positions - and that is a right decision. Puffers like John Doolittle who author nothing in the House but trumpet that they are X in the leadership chain, should be lower than people like Ways and Means Chair Bill Thomas who actually move bills through Congress.

A map of the states is available which charts the relative influence of each state. On the natural, the ranking system makes smaller states have more influence than larger states. All of the largest states are in the 16-17 range while places like Nevada are twice that. When you think about a state like California, with the Chair of Appropriations (#2), Ways and Means (#6) and Minority Leader (#7) that seems not to make sense. But when you think about it California's large delegation includes a lot of other members who are there but no that important - so the rankings may actually make some sense. I am not sure about the relative ranking of leadership (Hastert and Frist are granted high nineties while the Appropriations Chair Jerry Lewis gets a 60) - the value and influence of leadership positions is considerably diminished compared to what it once was. But that is an issue for a much larger discussion, perhaps over an Irish Whiskey at the Dubliner (one of my favorite pubs near the Capitol). One other thing which seems intuitively correct - senators get a higher ranking than representatives - the divisor is smaller although the leadership positions of each house are ranked about the same.

There is one problem with the site at this point. Many of the links are non-functional. From looking at the site it looks like it will be a part of Capitol Advantage (a service that many lobbying firms use - including my Association). But the key links to explore the site simply do not work. I will be an interested observer as this develops further.

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