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When Is a 'No' Really a 'No'

Some of the volunteers who've been calling members of Congress for our Super Bowl Blitz worry that our simple inquiry leaves open the possibility that lawmakers might mislead, stall or obfuscate when answering. After all, we’re asking just two basic questions: Did the lawmaker go to the Super Bowl last year and does he or she plan to attend this year?

Al Cannistraro, who called the office of Rep. Scott Murphy, D-N.Y., for us, raised such a question today:

"I think it's possible that, even if the representative had received a free ticket, under the circumstances the politically prudent thing to do would have been to say what I was told: 'He's not going to the Super Bowl.' Our questioning would not reveal if he had already accepted a ticket."

Al is absolutely right. For instance, the NFL might make a ticket available to a member of Congress at face value ($800 or $1,000), and the member of Congress might then turn it over to someone else to use. Certainly, our questions would not pick that up.

We can, however, do a lot with the information we are getting. By striking the noes from our list, we will have a manageable list of yeses and don't knows that our reporters can use to start digging for more information.

The bottom line, though, is that we'll never get all the information we'd like to have about who is rubbing shoulders with whom at the Super Bowl, or at any other big event. To appreciate the vast running room members of Congress have in obfuscating, one need only recall the famous reply of then-President Clinton when he was pressed about an apparent false statement he made during the Monica Lewinski scandal: "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."

Still, we've got to keep trying. If you want to help out, check out our chart and get going.

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