WASHINGTON – Republican Rep. John Sweeney's attendance at a college fraternity party has drawn criticism from Democrats who accused the New York lawmaker of using poor judgment.
"What is a 50-year-old congressman doing at a frat party at 1 in the morning cavorting with students 30 years his junior? Teaching them how a bill becomes a law?" Blake Zeff, a spokesman for New York Democrats, said Friday.
Sweeney stopped by the Alpha Delta Phi party at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., late last Friday, a visit first reported by the college newspaper, the Concordiensis. The paper also printed a photo of the lawmaker posing with students. Local newspapers in the region posted similar photos online of Sweeney and the students.
An aide to the congressman dismissed the criticism, arguing that Democrats were trying to make an issue where there is none.
"The congressman is from the Capital region and has been known on occasion to venture outside of his congressional district," said Melissa Carlson, a spokeswoman for Sweeney. "They need a better strategy to see success in November than this."
The four-term Republican represents a district that stretches from the Albany suburbs to the North Country and includes Saratoga Springs. Union College is in a neighboring district.
Democrats have targeted Sweeney in his bid for re-election. The lawmaker won a fourth term in 2004 with nearly 66 percent of the vote in a district with a mix of union workers from the capital and Republican-leaning dairy farmers. President Bush prevailed with 53 percent of the vote in the 20th Congressional District.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said his organization would provide financial support to Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand who is trying to unseat Sweeney. She is among the first 22 Democratic candidates selected for financial help from the national party.
Zeff said he would send Sweeney a copy of the film "Old School," in which a number of bored grown men, played by actors Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell, form their own fraternity.