Congressman Socializes with Students
By John Tomlin
April 27, 2006
Congressman John Sweeney, a Republican from the 20th district of New York State, appeared at a registered party at Alpha Delta Phi on Friday, April 22. The Congressman came from Geppetto's Bar and was described by witnesses as being inquisitive and engaging, while also acting openly intoxicated. Longtime friend and owner of Geppetto's Paulie Lichorat accompanied Rep. Sweeney. Lichorat was unavailable for comment regarding this issue.
The New York politician was barraged with a multitude of political questions and lighthearted comments from Union students when he arrived at the party. His attitude was described as cordial, and Sweeney was observed joking around with the students, sometimes even using profanity. It was reported that one student approached the Congressman with drug paraphernalia and asked to take a picture. The Congressman refused.
Melissa Carlson, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Rep. Sweeney, wrote the Concordiensis a statement that the Congressman was in Schenectady attending the wake of a close friend earlier that day. The name of the friend was not released.
"As a committed representative of the people throughout the area where he lives and works, he enjoyed the discussion he shared with the students from Union College," wrote Carlson. "[The congressman] was impressed with the energy and enthusiasm the students displayed - particularly on a Friday evening. Where better to receive feedback than on their own tuff at the college itself?"
Yet witnesses affirm that Mr. Sweeney appeared to have been under the influence of alcohol at the party. One student saw the representative drinking a Keystone Light beer. "He was clearly not in the normal state of mind. He had definitely been drinking, there is no question about it," commented sophomore Kenneth Falcon, who attended the party. Falcon also managed to capture photographs and video footage of the congressman of his digital camera and cellular telephone.
Junior Rebecca Winnick, who spoke to Sweeney at the fraternity house said, "I told him I had worked for Congressman McNulty (D- Green Island), and [Sweeney] was very rude. He said, 'Oh, that's too bad for you, I'm a Republican'."
When asked about her feelings towards Congressman Sweeney's appearance at the party, Winnick commented, "I think it was really inappropriate and probably a poor political decision."
President James Underwood disagrees, arguing the Congressman could have been sober, even though he appeared drank to many students.
"Showing up at a fraternity party is not inappropriate," explained Underwood. "It sounds like he was just socializing. It's not horrible as long as he didn't behave in an inappropriate way."
Sweeney's reputation for running politically parallel to President George W. Bush has made him a future Republican candidate for higher office positions. According to a Post Star article on April 20, 2006, the congressman's record indicates he votes on 80% of all the President's issues. As a result the Democratic National Committee labeled him as the "Rubber Stamp of the Week."
However, the Congressman famously broke away from the Republican Party in December by voting against the renewal, of the USA Patriot Act. He claimed that the government was wasting money and neglecting to provide sufficient funds to high-risk areas like New York City.
He also received public praise for spearheading a DWI task force in Rensselaer County
Still, Union students are left pondering the Congressman's behavior on campus Friday night.
"I think that it can be a very harmful career decision seeing how there was underage drinking going on at the party," said sophomore Doug Richardson who did not attend the party. "Furthermore I think that congressmen, in general, should have a certain amount of respect for their position in our country's government and drinking with students at a college fraternity party is not the best way to display that respect."