Political Science


Legislative Process (POLS 307/495)                                                                    

Fall 2006

Th 6:30-9:15 (TBD)

David M. Dolence                                                                                 

Phone: (708) 524-5969

Office: CL 487 (Dominican University)                                                   


Hours: MWF 8-9, 10:30-11:30, 3:30-5; TTh 8-2

            Always available by appointment



(POLS 495 students for graduate credit also see addendum)


POSC 307/495 Description: With midterm elections coming up in November, both political parties are waging war to control the legislative department of government, the United States Congress. As important as the presidency is in American politics, most occupants of the White House soon find out that their single biggest task is to persuade the Congress to use its legislative powers to enact presidential programs that otherwise may die on the drawing table. Topics in this course will include legislative districts, committees, party leadership, and the legislative process. This course will also study the electoral theory of congressional politics. Utilizing current elections, the role of elections, incumbency, challenger strategy, money, campaigning, and voter behavior in congressional elections will be examined. 

Some Course Objectives:


1)      Explain the differences between House and Senate constituencies and districts and how this effects elections.

2)      Discuss the differences between an election with an incumbent and one that is an open seat, including elements such as name recognition, money, and interest group involvement.

3)      Define a gerrymander and explain how this may effect congressional elections.

4)      Define a “Hill Committee” and explain its influence on congressional elections.

5)      Discuss the various electoral roles that local, state, and national political parties play in congressional elections.

6)      State and explain various provisions of the FECA and the BCRA as it relates to contributions and expenditures.

7)      Compare and contrast the membership of a congressional staff and campaign organization.

8)      Discuss the role of interest groups in congressional elections, including 501 and 527 groups.

9)      Explain the difference between independent, coordinated, and parallel campaign strategies.

10)  Discuss the role of various forms of campaign communications.

11)  Explain the role of committees in the congress and legislative process.

12)  Discuss possible reforms in congressional elections.

13)  Prepare a written assignment using word processing and graphics



All students are expected to have full access to a copy of the following material.  It is available in the University bookstore.


Congressional Elections: Campaigning at Home and in Washington 4th edition, Paul S. Herrnson, CQ Press, 2004


The Contemporary Congress 5th edition, Burdett A. Loomis and Wendy J. Schiller, Thomson/Wadsworth,



Students may also be asked to do additional readings and work that may be found on the internet or provided by the instructor. The Instructor is working under the assumption that everyone has access to the internet from some source. If this is a false assumption, it is the student’s responsibility to let him know early so that other arrangements may be made.




Class Date and Topics                                                               Reading


Week One: 14 September

Introduction to Congress                                                 Congress 1, 2


Week Two: 21 September

Districts and Constituencies                                                         Elections 1

                                                                                                Congress 4 (pp. 61-69)                         


Week Three: 28 September

Districts and Constituencies


Week Four: 5 October

One Word - Incumbency                                                 Elections 2, 9

                                                                                                Congress 4 (pp. 70-71)


Week Five: 12 October

Three words – Money, Money, Money                                          Elections 6

                                                                                                Congress 4 (pp. 71-end)


Week Six: 19 October

Staff and Organization                                                                Congress 8

                                                                                                Elections 3


Week Seven: 26 October

Communications and Targeting                                                    Elections 7, 8



Week Eight: 2 November

Interest Groups                                                                          Elections 5


Week Nine: 9 November



Week Ten: 16 November            

Political Parties and Hill Committees                                            Elections 4


Week Eleven: 23 November (Thanksgiving – NO CLASS)


Week Twelve: 30 November       

Party Leadership                                                                        Congress 6


Week Thirteen: 7 December

Committees and Legislation                                                         Congress 5 (Scan 10)

                                                                                                Elections 10


Week Fourteen: 14 December

Committees and Legislation

Reforms?                                                                                   Elections 11





1. Classroom Behavior and Attendance: Courtesy and regard for one another should guide classroom behavior.  Differences in opinion will inevitably arise in good discussions. Absolute agreement is NEVER required, but respect is ALWAYS required. Being in attendance is defined as being present at the beginning of class and remaining in class until the instructor dismisses the class for the day.  If there are any scheduling problems that cannot be avoided, please consult with the instructor immediately.

Students are expected to be attentive to the lectures and class discussions.  Students who sleep, read the paper, persistently talk with other students or are otherwise inattentive will be asked to leave the class and will be subject to administrative dismissal from the course.  All cell phones must be turned off when class begins.  If a cell phone rings during class, five (5) points will be deducted from the owner’s next exam score.  The next and each subsequent occurrence, during the whole semester, will result in a ten (10) point deduction. If special circumstances exist that require a cell phone to remain on, the instructor must be informed PRIOR to the beginning of class. Students who have extended absences due to illness should notify the instructor as promptly as possible during the absence and produce a doctor’s note indicating the nature and duration of the illness.   


2. Grading:  Final grades will be based on a student’s performance in the following areas:


TWO EXAMS (25%x2): The main grading portion of the course (50% total) is determined by two examinations.  These exams may consist of multiple choice, identification, short answer, or essay questions over the material discussed.  The second exam is not comprehensive, but material learned in the first portion of the course will be helpful and overlap is to be expected in a non-survey course.  More details regarding the exams will be provided as the course progresses.


ELECTIONS BRIEFS (10%): Students will be assigned a senate election (or more) that they will follow. A few classes before election day the races will be briefed by the students and then after election day the results will be briefed.  Particular items to look for and discuss will be provided in a separate handout.  This is an exposure assignment and not a detailed research paper. Some research will be necessary, but extensive research will not be required.


TWO WRITTEN ESSAY ASSIGNMENTS (10%x2): Two short essays (<8 pages) will be required over the semester.  One will be developed using one of the homework assignments and the other will be related to a topic in the course discussed at a later date. Separate prompts and explanations will be provided for these assignments as the course progresses.


TWO HOMEWORK EXERCISES (6%x2):  There will be two effort assignments over the course of the semester. By design, these assignments will not have a single “correct” answer, but will ask you to think about topics in the course and apply that knowledge in some way. They are referred to as effort assignments because they may be completed in a relatively short amount of time (in the context of a university level assignment) for a passing grade; however, the more conscientious students will spend a greater amount of time on them and that effort will be reflected in a more thoughtful finished product.


PARTICIPATION (8%): This course, by design and necessity, will be presented in a Socratic form. This means that student participation and interaction are essential for its success.  The assigned reading must be done before class and is open for instructor questions at all times. While your physical presence is a great joy to me, engagement is what puts these points in the books.  Attendance is not a formal part of the course (meaning I am not counting absences), but will be monitored by the instructor.  Frequent absences, noticeable by the instructor, will result in a lowering of this portion of the grade. For general guidance, four or five absences usually go unnoticed, but six or more is noticed.


Grading Percentage Summary      25%      x2         Exams

                                                6%       x2         Homework Exercises

                                                10%      x2         Written Assignments

                                                10%                  Election Brief(s)

                                                8%                   Participation



Final Grade Scale           90% A; 80% B; 70% C; 60% D; <60% F


3. Withdrawals and Incompletes: Specific withdrawal dates are available by term in the University’s Academic Calendar or published in the schedule booklet.  It is the student’s responsibility to make sure that an official withdrawal takes place.  All withdrawals from a course shall be done in writing and on forms provided by the University.  A student’s failure to attend classes shall not constitute an official withdrawal.

            A notation of “I” indicates that a student has not completed all course requirements as a result of circumstances judged by the instructor to be beyond the student’s control.  A student must complete all course requirements no later than the end of the sixth week of the academic term in which the “I” was noted.  Failure to complete such requirements will result in an “F” (failing) grade.  No incomplete will be given unless half of the work has already been completed at date of request. 


4. Syllabus: The syllabus is a tentative schedule for the course.  Each course progresses at a unique pace and it is inevitable that changes will be necessary.  The instructor will announce any changes in class.  In other words, one more reason for regular attendance is to stay up to date on important assignment and test dates.


5. Make-up Exam and Late Assignments: Make-up exams will be given only with adequate documentation that the absence was unavoidable.  The make-up exams are sufficiently more difficult than the original that prudent people will avoid them where possible. 

            Late assignments will be deducted a half letter grade for each day late. Should an exam be take-home, late exams will be assessed a full letter grade penalty for each day late.  Late penalties begin at 12 noon on the day after the class in which the assignment, or exam in case of take-home, was due. Papers or exams may not be turned in via email unless arrangements have been made with the professor on an individual basis.


6. Statement Concerning Students with Disabilities: Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework and for which they may require accommodations should notify the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building. CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.


7. Academic Honesty and Plagiarism: Cheating on exams or assignments will result in a zero for that assignment or exam. This violation will also be reported to the Chair of the department or the Dean of the College for third party documentation, but no action from the third party will be requested. Any repeat violation WILL result in a failure for the course and will be reported to the Chair of the department and the Dean of the college for administrative action.

            Plagiarism is considered cheating and will be handled as stated above.  Plagiarism is defined as “representing another person’s work as your own, whether intentionally through outright cheating or unintentionally through inaccurate or incomplete documentation.  In this sense, plagiarism is more than the theft of mere words: plagiarism involves ideas, theories, insights, work products, projects and images – all collectively termed intellectual property” (“Waubonsee Community College Plagiarism Statement,” November 2002). See how I gave credit?  “Cutting and pasting” from the Internet IS plagiarism, changing a single word of someone else’s work IS plagiarism, changing the words around in someone else’s sentence IS plagiarism.  When in doubt, provide a citation.


8. Appointments: The instructor will make every reasonable effort to be available to students.  If you cannot come during scheduled office hours, please call or e-mail to schedule a mutually convenient appointment.   I will check my email every weekday when I arrive at my office in the morning and before I depart for the day.