Congress, Meet Big Data. Big Data Meet Congress
In case you missed it, the Washingtonian ran a piece on Quorum, a wonky, big data group that analyzes Congress.
So Quorum is a lot different from its competitors headquartered closer to K Street and Capitol Hill, and not just in appearance. Yes, like CQ Roll Call, National Journal, Bloomberg Government, and Politico Pro, it pushes out high-priced political intel for lobbyists and companies that monitor minute changes in policy. As with the incumbents, Quorum’s platform features bill tracking, social-media alerts, a searchable Congressional Record, and tools to connect and set up meetings with staffers.
“I remember when we were approached about Quorum, I said, ‘I really don’t need any more information,’ ” says Chris Cushing, managing director at Nelson Mullins who’s been a lobbyist for three decades. “There was enough information coming in from these multiple subscription sources that we already had. But no one was doing what Quorum did.”
What it does is essentially vacuum up every possibly telling piece of publicly available data about every member of Congress: voting decisions (373,000 a year), cosponsorships (77,000), press releases (70,000), floor statements (24,000), Facebook posts (185,000), tweets (414,000)—some 14.6 billion data points in all annually. Then it uses a proprietary variation of Google’s PageRank algorithm to crunch the data and spit out analyses of which members are the best influencers and who their strongest allies are.
What you end up with, if you’re a lobbyist, activist, or lawmaker, is a blueprint for turning an idea into a law. Which member of Congress is most effective in your issue? Quorum will tell you. Whom does that member work with most frequently, in case you need somewhere else to turn? Quorum will tell you. The platform offers more than 100 statistics per legislator across 1,000 issue areas since the 101st Congress, including how many bills he or she gets out of committee and how often that bill is signed into law….
Term limits on committee chairs and the end of earmarks—which party leaders doled out to keep their members in line—have dissipated power toward less established lawmakers, so turning its levers is more work. In cases where bipartisanship is a necessity—say, getting the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster—it’s a lot easier if you have a quick way to ferret out the quiet bipartisan relationships that do exist.
Quorum, says Cushing, “can demonstrate connections that you may not have thought about. One or two or three additional lawmakers working on an issue can make all the difference for your client’s success.”