Coach John Calipari, left, gives Rogers a piece of the floor on which Kentucky won the 2012 NCAA national championship game. March Madness begins March 19.
Not everyone gets to join in the fun. Some offices are actively discouraged from joining the fray.
“We never did a pool or turned the games on. That would be considered ‘fun,’ which was strictly forbidden,” said one former staffer for a New England member.
One Senate office went so far as to have an “unofficial” pool. “It’s done in secret because our office handbook prohibits it,” the Senate staffer said in an email.
And even if your member of Congress is asking for your advice on his bracket picks or cheering the game on next to you, it does not mean that House and Senate ethics rules have given the green light.
“In general, federal law prohibits gambling on government property. However, nothing in the House and Senate ethics manuals specifically addresses sports betting pools,” said C. Simon Davidson, an attorney at McGuire Woods who writes an ethics column for CQ Roll Call.
Last year, Kentucky dominated each round, handily winning the title game and earning praise from its congressional delegation.
“In Kentucky, UK basketball is religion. Congressman Hal Rogers is a proud member of the Big Blue Nation,” said Christine Hardman, Rep. Harold Rogers’ spokeswoman. Rogers, a Republican, submitted a statement to the Congressional Record congratulating the Wildcats for their NCAA 2012 championship run.
Kentucky’s starting five from last year’s team have left for the NBA, so this year’s tournament does not have an agreed-upon front-runner yet. Additional upsets are expected and the bracket pools may be fair game for anyone, college basketball devotee or not.
Best of luck to all who play. We’re eyeing Indiana University as the national champs, with strong Cinderella runs by Creighton, Middle Tennessee and Wichita State.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.