Democrats generally do it more often, particularly East Coasters. But Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida does it more often than anyone.
House members issued more than 6,000 press releases during the first two months of this congressional session””over 100 a day””with Democrats putting out 31 percent more press statements than their GOP counterparts. Perhaps this reflects the fact that the party not in power has to hustle more to get its message out. But other reasons could be at play, too.
Democrats “may believe they have more friends in the media,” suggests Eric Ostermeier, a research associate at the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, located at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
Ostermeier published findings in his blog, Smart Politics, showing how many releases were issued on lawmakers’ official House websites from Jan. 3 (the first day of the 113th Congress) through March 3; he also ranked the lawmakers who issued the most.
The rankings do not include releases posted by party leaders separately from their leadership websites””but he has those numbers, too.
According to Ostermeier’s counts, Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., posted the most press releases in her capacity as minority leader, 82, with Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., issuing 54. They were followed by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., with 43, and Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, with 30.
Pelosi placed second only to Ros-Lehtinen in terms of the number of press releases posted on non-leadership office websites. Cuban-born Ros-Lehtinen, who is in her 13th term and represents a Miami-Dade-based district, issued 94 press releases, compared with Pelosi’s 69.
Ros-Lehtinen is one of the few House members who simultaneously released statements in a language other than English. But even discounting what are essentially duplicate statements, Ostermeier found that Ros-Lehtinen would rank third among all House members””behind Pelosi and Edward Markey, D-Mass., who is a U.S. Senate special-election candidate””with 55.
“Through our press releases, my office highlights my pride in representing a district that is a microcosm of Latin America,” Ros-Lehtinen explained in a statement released Thursday through her office. “This melting pot of nationalities has many needs, and thus my press office works very hard churning out releases to inform the public of all that my congressional staff accomplishes on behalf of our community.”
She added, “We also send out many releases on my local activities because I am a hometown gal, and I want folks to know that I am active in my district and very reachable for local press.”
Among the current 433 House members, 11 of the 15 most prolific issuers of press releases are Democrats.
As a group, Democrats have already issued nearly 400 more releases during the 113th Congress than Republicans, which is especially impressive considering they have 32 fewer members than the GOP in the chamber.. The 200 Democrats in office have issued an average of 16.7 press releases per member (3,342 total), compared with 12.7 for their 232 GOP counterparts (2,952 total).
There are certainly other mediums for lawmakers to use, including national television and social media. But Ostermeier theorizes that Democrats, out of power and unable to control the agenda in the lower legislative chamber, are utilizing the press release as a primary tool.
The messages cover a variety of topics. For example, two lawmakers in the top 10 are Connecticut Democrats John Larson and Elizabeth Esty. Their state has been the focus of attention because of superstorm Sandy and the gun violence in Newtown, and many of their press releases reflect that.
But other releases often dwell on what lawmakers want constituents to see as accomplishments. For instance, Ostermeier mentions in his blog that Republican Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee boasted about her ranking as the most conservative woman in the House in National Journal‘s 2012 vote ratings.
Some have long complained that the media supposedly give greater attention to the activities of politicians, athletes, and others on the East Coast. But if the press-release rankings are any indication, East Coast lawmakers may be working harder to get attention. Of the top 14, only Pelosi, Rep Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., and freshman Democratic Reps. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico are from states not on the Atlantic coast.