Imagine House Speaker Dennis Hastert, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Republican Sen. Sam Brownback and Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton working...
WASHINGTON — Imagine House Speaker Dennis Hastert, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Republican Sen. Sam Brownback and Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton working together toward the same harmonious end.
Sound like fantasy?
Maybe, but that fantasy soon may be realized in a new Web site game that brings the concept of fantasy sports to the political arena.
Created by four Claremont McKenna College students in California, Fantasy Congress allows people to compete against friends with teams of lawmakers who rack up points based on real-life legislative accomplishments. Depending on which lawmakers players draft, Hastert, R-Ill., Pelosi, D-Calif., Brownback, R-Kan., and Clinton, D-N.Y., could all play for the same team.
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In the works for several years, www.fantasycongress.com was launched last week. Word of mouth has led more than 15,000 people to sign up, and the creators say membership, which is free, grows every day.
The online game will go live after the Nov. 7 elections, when Congress returns.
Claremont McKenna senior Andrew Lee, who thought up the game, said he hopes his site can contribute to a greater interest in politics among young people.
“A lot of people care about sports,” Lee said. “If people cared about government as much as they care about sports, we’d probably have a lot more educated public.”
Like fantasy sports, participants draft players to form a team. In Fantasy Congress, players compete with a team of four senators and 12 members of Congress against others in their league.
The players will earn points — and bragging rights but no prizes — based on the lawmakers’ real-life performances, and the player whose team has the most points at the end of the season will win.
But instead of hitting home runs or scoring touchdowns, legislators earn points for offering amendments and passing legislation.
Lawmakers receive five points for introducing a bill and additional points as legislation inches its way toward becoming law. Members receive a whopping 50 points for what Lee called “the big touchdown”: the president’s signature when the bill becomes law.
The Web site, which has been testing its point system during the past few months, lists updated point totals for all members of the House and Senate.
Sen. John Warner, R-Va., leads his Senate colleagues in the rankings with 1,991 points while Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, sits atop the House rankings with 1,905 points. Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., and Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., are at the bottom of the rankings with 6 points.
The increasing popularity of fantasy sports — 16 million people have played this year, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association — has led to a proliferation of fantasy spin-offs, particularly of the nonsports variety.
“In the past two or three years you’re starting to see nonsports fantasy leagues,” said Jeffrey Thomas, president of the association. He cited a league that tracks film box-office receipts and one called Fantasy Husband, in which players receive points based on men’s responses to relationship scenarios.
Lee said he came up with the idea for Fantasy Congress while sitting in his dorm watching CNN while his roommate pored over fantasy-football statistics.
“It was kind of one of those epiphany moments,” he said.
Having dabbled in fantasy sports, Lee, 21, was familiar with the games. With one foot in politics — Lee said he hopes to become the attorney general of Colorado — he thought the logical next step was to adapt elements of fantasy games to legislative politics.
But he lacked the technological know-how to realize his vision. So he enlisted three computer-savvy peers and they began to piece together the site.
Arjun Lall, who was in an accounting class with Lee, began working on the site.
Lall said his computer-science professor was supportive of Fantasy Congress and allowed him to work on the site and submit it as his final project.
The creators said they are using prize money from an earlier school-sponsored award to launch the site and are working on a volunteer basis. The students said they may sell some advertising to keep the site running, but they have no plans to make Fantasy Congress a pay service.
Claremont McKenna professor John Pitney Jr. said he plans to have his students play Fantasy Congress next semester.
“I thought it was a terrific idea,” Pitney said. “It’s a way of harnessing the spirit of competition to the cause of education.”