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Profile of a Member of Congress

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Profile of a Member of CongressGOVT 2305, Professor TannahillText Reference:Gateways to Democracy, Chapter 12Each student has been assigned a different member of the U.S. House. To find the nameof the member assigned to you, click on the student assignment file posted below.We can learn a great deal about the operation of Congress and its role in thepolicymaking process by focusing on individual members of the body. You can learnabout the member of Congress assigned to you from a number of library resources aswell as on the Internet. The best library resources are the most recent editions ofAlmanacof American PoliticsandPolitics in America. They are excellent reference books withinformation about current members of Congress.The Internet will provide you with a great deal of useful material. The information atwww.house.govwill be particularly helpful because it will direct you to the websitefor the member of Congress that you are researching. That site will include biographicaldata and information about committee assignments. It will probably also tell yousomething about the member’s pet issues and viewpoints. Keep in mind that the member’soffice provides the content of his or her website, so don’t expect anything critical ornegative to appear. (If you rely solely on a member’s website for information, you maybe subsequently embarrassed to discover that the member has been involved in a seriousor at least interesting scandal that was not reported on the website.) The House websitewill also have links to the homepages for each House committee, which will describe thepolicy issues each committee addresses.The website for Project Vote Smart will be useful as well. It is locatedathtpps.vote-smart.org/. The search box at the top of the page allows users tosearch for a member of Congress by name. The siteincludes information aboutcampaign finances, issue positions, voting records, public statements,and interest group assessments. The interest group websites includeissue scorecards in which the groups evaluate members of Congressbased on their voting records. Keep in mind that the scorecards revealhow interest groups feel about the member of Congress, not viceversa. Groups concerned with abortion are at the top, but you can usethe drop down menu to find other types of groups. Keep in mind thatinterest groups are not objective in their evaluations. If you aren’tsure about a particular group’s bias, you can go to its website formore information or research it online.ThewebsiteoftheFederalElectionCommission(https://www.fec.gov/) shows how much money candidates forCongress have raised. Candidates are required by law to report
2fundraising data to the FCC. If a candidate doesn’t report any moneyraised, it’s because the candidate has not raised any money.The Center for Responsive Politics has an excellent website providinginformation about members of Congress. It is located atwww.opensecrets.org. You can use it to find detailed information about thecampaign finances and election results for the representative you areresearching. Click on “Congressional Elections” under the “Politiciansand Elections” tab to find information about fundraising in the 2018election campaigns. The website also has biographical information onmembers of Congress.CNN,New York Times, and other news outlets will have the results ofthe 2018 election available online. You can visit theNew York Timessite at the following address:http://elections.nytimes.com/2018/results/houseYou will also want to use an Internet search engine to look for recentstories involving the member of Congress you are researching. Go towww.google.com and type in the name of the member of Congressassigned to you. It will help you learn about recent events involvingthe member, including issues not covered on the member’s ownwebsite.Other sites with useful information include the following:www.govtrack.uswww.congress.orghttp://thomas.loc.gov/http://www.govtrack.us/congress/findyourreps.xpd

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Good Advice:Do not wait until the day the assignment is due to begin work. That is aprescription for a very poor grade.Read the questions closely before answering them. Students frequently losepoints for failing to fully answer. In particular, if the question asks you to write aparagraph, that means you need to write several sentences. A paragraph is not asingle sentence. As you recall from your English class, paragraphs have topic
3sentences, several sentences in the body that develop the topic sentence, and aconcluding sentence that ties the paragraph together.My expectation is that your project submission will be three-to-five pages longdepending on whether you include the questions. If your submission is only oneor two pages, be sure that you have completely answered each question. If yoursubmission is longer than five pages, you will probably lose points for being toowordy or being repetitious.Never, never, never copy and paste from a website. The purpose of thisassignment is for you to learn to do research. That involves finding information,reporting it, and interpreting it. Copying and pasting from a website is theopposite of research. It is the opposite of critical thinking. It is the opposite ofwhat any self-respecting college student should do. When I detect that a studenthas copied and pasted from a source (and it is always obvious), I immediately gointo overdrive looking for opportunities to take off points. Nothing irritates memore because it shows me that the student has no interest in learning how tothink critically and write about his or her ideas.Don’t provide information that has not been requested. Don’t include informationrelevant to question 3 when answering question 2. Don’t stray off topic.Be sure to use correct grammar and punctuation. One of the reasons you are incollege is to learn to write correctly. Here are some common writing errors andwebsites that briefly explain correct usage:oDifferentiating between possessives and plurals:http://www.meredith.edu/grammar/plural.htmoUsing apostrophes correctly: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/apostropheoAvoiding run-on sentences:http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/runons.htmoAvoiding sentence fragments:http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/fragments.htmoUsing semicolons correctly:http://theoatmeal.com/comics/semicolonoMatching pronouns with their antecedents:http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/pronouns.htmoUsing commas correctly:http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/commas.aspGrading criteria:Following directions. Please read the directions for each question carefully andfollow them closely. Be sure to address all parts of each question.Using correct English grammar. Write in complete sentences, avoiding the sort ofshortcut constructions that people use in text messages. Because you have theopportunity to submit your project to an English tutor for assistance, I expectgood writing and I will take off points for grammatical errors. I especially watchfor sentence fragments, run-on sentences, confusing plural with possessive,pronoun-antecedent agreement errors, and misuse of the semi-colon.Providing accurate and timely information. You should have up-do-dateinformation on the member of Congress you are researching.
4Thinking clearly. Many of the questions require you to apply course concepts toreal world situations. I will sometimes also ask you to explain the reasoningprocess you followed in deriving your answer.Doing your own work. Write in your own words. If you copy and paste from awebsite, I will spot it easily and you will lose points.You should treat this assignment as a series of numbered shortanswer questions. DO NOT write a unified essay. The projectyou submit should have the answers numbered one throughten.If you fail to follow the instructions above, you will earn aZERO!A good way to complete the exercise is to copy and paste the questions into an RTF orWord file. (Do not submit a PDF file.) Then, supply answers after the questions, beingcareful to address all parts of the question.Please Note: For best success, carefully read the instructions above before youbegin work on the questions below.1. Write a paragraph describing the personal, professional, and educationalbackground of the representative before he or she entered Congress. Focus onthe non-political aspects of the member’s life. In what ways is therepresentative you are studying typical of other members of the U.S. House?In what ways is he or she atypical? (The wordatypicalmeans not typical.)Base your judgment on the description of the typical member of Congressfound inGateways to Democracy,pp. 402-405 and the online profile of themembership of Congress found at the following Internet site:https://www.everycrsreport.com/reports/R44762.html (10 pts.)2. Write a paragraph describing the representative’s political background.Identify the elected and appointed positions in government the person you arestudying held before being elected to Congress. Identify the year therepresentative first won election to the U.S. House. Is he or she a careerpolitician? What is the basis of your judgment? A career politician is someonewho wishes to earn his or her living in the political arena for an extendedperiod of time. (10 pts.)3. Write a paragraph describing the district the member represents. Where is itlocated in the state? Does it include any towns? Is it part of a major city? Is itinner-city urban, suburban, small town, or rural? What issue or issues wouldyou expect to be particularly important to the residents and interest groupsfound in the member’s district because of the nature of the district? Identify atleast one issue and explain why it is particularly important in thiscongressional district, whereas it might not be as important in other districts.(10 pts.)
54. Write a paragraph discussing the representative’s committee assignments. Onwhich standing congressional committees does the member serve? [Look upthe term “standing committee.”] Is the representative the chair or rankingminority member of a committee? [Look up “ranking minority member.”]What sorts of policy issues does each of the standing committees address? Isthe representative a member of any subcommittees? Does he/she chair anysubcommittees or serve as the ranking member? [Please note: Do NOT giveme information about the member’s participation in congressional caucuses.](10 pts.)5. How much money did the representative raise for the 2018 election? Howmuch did his or her main opponent raise? (If the database indicates that achallenger raised no money, it means just that—the challenger raised nomoney.) The Center for Responsive Politics presents data on this issue at thefollowing Internet address: www.opensecrets.org. Data can also be found atFEC.gov. What were the most important sources of the representative’scampaign funds? Identify two or three important sources of funding. Did thecandidate self-fund to any significant degree? (Click on the representative’sname at the website and it opens up to provide detailed data.) The textbookdiscusses congressional elections on pp. 347-356. (10 pts.)6. What percentage of the vote did the representative receive in the 2018election? Based on the results of the 2018 election and the data on fundraising,does it appear that this representative is firmly entrenched in Congress?[Please note: If you submit your project prior to the election (November6), you can’t answer this question. Instead, you should discuss whetheryou think your representative will win.](Entrenchedmeans unlikely to bedefeated for reelection anytime soon.) Why or why not? Is this typical formembers of Congress in general? (10 pts.)7. The Project Vote Smart website includes links to several interest groups thatrate members of Congress based on their voting records. (If you aren’t surewhat an interest group is, you should go back and reread Chapter 8 of thetextbook.) The group identifies a set of votes that it considers important andgives the member a score depending on whether the member supports thepolicy positions favored by the group. [A high score means that the membervoted the way the interest group likes most of the time.] Select one of thegroups (using the pull-down menu) and research its evaluation of the memberof Congress you are studying. What group did you select? (Choose a specificgroup rather than a category of groups.) With what sorts of issues is the groupconcerned? Be specific. How does the group feel about the member ofCongress you are studying? Would you expect the group to consider him orher an ally, an enemy, or something in between? Discuss. (10 pts.)8. The Project Vote Smart website includes a link to speeches and publicstatements of each representative. Review some of the recent speeches andpublic statements of the representative you are studying. Identify an issue onwhich the representative has recently focused. What is the issue? Why doesthe representative think it is important? What position has the representativetaken? Do not just copy the statement of the representative. (10 pts.)69. To which political party does the member of Congress belong? Based on hisor her voting record, interest group evaluations, fundraising sources, and issuepositions, would you say that he or she is typical or atypical of members of hisor her party? Explain the reasoning behind your answer. Be specific. (10pts.)10. Do you admire the representative? Why or why not? Be specific. (10 pts.)
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