With only 10 days left to survey 535 members of Congress as part of our Super Bowl Blitz, we've put stars next to the names of lawmakers we think are the most important to reach. These include all the members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and the tax-writing committees in each chamber -- Ways and Means in the House and Finance in the Senate.
Why Appropriations? The disgraced super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff said it best. He famously called the Appropriations Committees "favor factories," in part because they oversee billions of dollars in earmarks stuffed into funding bills each year with little scrutiny. Duke Cunningham, a former House member now serving an eight-year, four-month prison sentence for bribery, was able to get those bribes because he was on Appropriations.
Readers of a certain age might recall Wilbur Mills, considered one of the most powerful men in Congress when he was caught frolicking with exotic dancer Fanne Fox in 1974. Mills was 65 at the time, and the dancer's interest was presumed to stem largely from his stature as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, inspiring a line of doggerel that has become an enduring tribute to the influence of the committee: "She was only a stripper at the Silver Slipper, but she had her Ways and Means." The tax-writing committees give multibillion-dollar favors to industries and companies, dwarfing individual earmarks.
We feel it's important to target those members of Congress with the most direct grip on the nation's purse strings, and that's why we focus on the taxing and spending committees. Of course, we've also put stars next to the names of the top congressional leaders and those members of the House and Senate who lead funding arms for their parties.
If you want to help, here's how.