Jeff Bingaman, Superstar

Let's take a 15-minute break from the current nastiness and give New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman a rousing cheer for being more effective than 96 other U.S. senators. Although acting like unmitigated jerks may gain legislators lots of face time with the media, nice guys seem to get more done according to a study just presented by James Fowler, an assistant professor of political science at the University of California at Davis.

Fowler determined which legislators were the "most connected" by tabulating how many times each one had co-sponsored legislation with colleagues. Then he compared this measure of connectedness and cooperation with how successful each politician was at getting his or her own amendments through Congress. The five most successful senators are: John McCain (R-AZ), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Charles Grassley (R-IA), and Russell Feingold (D-WI).

There's hardly been a hint of the low-key Bingaman's effectiveness in New Mexico's local media, which spends most of its time trotting along after Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson. Domenici, by the way, ranked 10th.

Fowler's 40-page study, "Who is the Best Connected Congressperson? A Study of Legislative Cosponsorship Networks," is available online with all its caveats and "yes, but" at [link].