17.251, Introduction to Congressional Politics

Fall 2012


Course syllabus, handouts, and assignments
(These all require Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Syllabus

Revised schedule

Exercise I (for class on September 10)

Problem set # 1: The assignment is to do the first five problems at the end of Chapter 1 of Analyzing Congress. Due MONDAY, Sept. 24, 2012

Problem set # 2: The assignment is to do the following problems at the end of Chapter 1 of Analyzing Congress. Questions 7, 8, 10, and 11. Due WEDNESDAY, Nov. 28, 2012Answer key

The Paper assignment is due on December 7.

Example midterm (from 2008)
Midterm answer key

Lecture handouts
-Unidimensional spatial model
-Constitution
-Origins & development of Congress
-Congressional candidates
-Congressional voters
-Redistricting
-Campaign finance
-Multidimensional spatial model
--Fiscal cliff example
-Parties and leadership
-Committees
-Floor procedures and roll call voting


 
Direct to Capitol Hill (more or less) Data and publications about congressional action

The MIT Libraries has a great web site that points to important sources for doing congressional research. The links often go to material that requires access through MIT, but other links are available directly to the public. I encourage MIT students to start here if they are doing research involving Congress.

The University of Michigan library also has a great resource page that points out sources for doing congressional research. There are a few resources here that aren't on the MIT site, especially under the "Evaluating the work of congress" tab. MIT students should start at the previous source, first, and then go to the Michigan page.

The Government Printing Office is the go-to source for all federal government documents. The GPO link allows you to get to relevant GPO publications pretty easily. The one resources that is buried is direct access to committee documents, which is accessible here. (As a general matter, keep in mind that electronic versions of documents only go back to the 104th Congress [1995-96].)

CQ, or Congressional Quarterly, has been providing first-hand accounts of congressional activities since the late 1940s. Access to CQ resources is easily provided via the MIT Libraries link given above.

The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, online version is the best source, by far, of biographical information about everyone who has ever served in Congress. My only complaint is that you can't really browse the directory. For that, you'll have to hunt down a paper version of the document, which is full of information the online version doesn't have.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is Congress's "think tank," producing a huge volume of very useful reports on topics ranging from specific policies to the legislative process. Unfortunately, CRS doesn't make those reports available to the public. This has resulted in a network of libraries and web sites that try to acquire CRS reports and then make them available to the public. This site, at the University of Texas-Denton, is a great sources for these reports.

Digitized and searchable fascimiles of early congressional documents is available at the Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation site. Totally cool! You can also search the House and Senate Journals up to the 42nd Congress (up to 1873), in addition to other documents.

C-SPAN to see live television from the floor of the House and Senate

Roll Call is the "home town newspaper" of Capitol Hill. Information ranging from straight news to hometown gossip. The Hill is an upstart competitor that's a little edgier.

The Dirksen Center has created a site called CongressLink, which contains a mixture of good congressional links and academic exercises.


Campaign finance

The Federal Election Commission. regulates campaign finance for federal elections and is the primary source of election finance data.

The Campaign Finance Institute site is very useful, particularly in providing an on-line version of the campaign finance tables that are published in Vital Statistics on Congress.

The Center for Responsive Politics Open Secrets has a lot of information about individual MCs, particularly information about campaign finance.

CQ's Moneyline is a great news and data source concerning money in federal politics.

The Almanac of American Politics is a tremendous resource that gives detailed information about congressional districts, members of Congress, and local politics. This is perhaps my favorite reference book.

My own congressional data, including recent updates to my standing committee data.

Vital Statistics on Congress, now online, is a great resource that provides tons and tons of data about Congress, ranging from information about its members to committee statistics to workload information.

Keith Poole at the University of Georgia has the most interesting and useful roll call information up and running for recent years at his Voteview site. There is a more direct link to his NOMINATE data download page.

Jeff Lewis at UCLA maintains a site that makes available congressional roll call data in virtual real-time. It's a complement to the Voteview site right above.

The Dirksen Center honors the memory of Sen. Everett M. Dirksen. It has grants and educational programs that are of some interest to the professional and student, alike. Their CongressLink page has a lot of resources that are helpful to teachers and students of Congress.

Proquest: Congressional provides great access to the full text of congressional proceedings, reaching back at least 25 years. This provides direct access to most congressional documents. The link is available to MIT users only.

While it's not data -- it's software -- the PoliSim election simulator provides a pretty neat visualization of how spatial models of electoral competition work. (The page is now about 16 years old and written in Java 1.0. Please take the fellow up on his challenge to update it.)

The Legislative Studies Section of the American Political Science Association has its own home page, including the electronic version of its newsletter and other legislative links.

The Legislative Studies Quarterly is the official journal of the Legislative Studies Section. It's a highly-respected journal, and contains the most current research on legislatures of all types. You can access back issues through JSTOR. You must consult current issue the old fashioned way.



Elections and politics

Pollster.com is a great information aggregator of polling results, and it has a lot of great articles concerning how polling is done. It is usually the first web site I visit each day to see who's up and who's down. (Although, I must say, ever since it aligned with the Huffington Post, many of the things that used to make this site a must-visit have faded into the past.)

Pollingreport.com has the most comprehensive set of reports about recent public opinion polls.


News sources

Here are some links to sources for news about Congress.


 

Direct to boot hill

The Political Graveyard is a fun excursion .