Tainted Test

By Benen, Steve | Church & State, June 1998 | Go to article overview

Tainted Test


Benen, Steve, Church & State


Christian Coalition Congressional Scorecard Flunks Democrats, As Pat Robertson Gears Up For Elections In '98 And Beyond

The Christian Coalition's latest "Congressional Scorecard" is just out, and to no one's surprise, this supposedly "non-partisan" organization has once again issued a document that makes most Republicans look like saints and most Democrats look like sinners.

Described as a "voter education" effort on the part of the Christian Coalition, the annual Congressional Scorecard purports to rank all members of Congress on the basis of 12 specific votes. Scores, ranging from 100 to zero, are a percentage based on the frequency with which members voted with the Coalition's position.

Christian Coalition Executive Director Randy Tate describes the scorecard as a mechanism for holding members of Congress "accountable for their votes" and as "the single best weapon we Christians have for making out voices heard in American politics."

In a fundraising letter that accompanied the 1998 scorecard's distribution to the organization's members, Tate said, "We don't care if they [members of Congress] are Democrats or Republicans. We have no automatic loyalty to any party."

But a careful examination of the document by Americans. United reveals the scorecard to belittle more than another vehicle for a partisan attack by the Christian Coalition. AU's analysis shows that the scorecard, in fact, is designed to promote Republicans while making most Democrats look anti-family and anti-Christian.

In the House of Representatives, the average member received a 52.87 score. In other words, the typical representative voted with the Coalition position almost 53 percent of the time. However, despite non-partisan claims, the average score for a Republican House member is 89.85 while the average score for a Democrat in the House 13.12

GOP leaders Newt Gingrich (Ga.), Dick Armey (Texas) and Tom Delay (Texas) all claimed 100 percent rankings, while Democratic Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (Mo.) scored zero.

The results are equally dramatic in the Senate, where the average Republican racked up a 80.31 and the average Democratic member received a 6.16.

Majority Leader Trent Lott (Miss.) rolled up a 92 percent total while his Democratic counterpart Tom Daschle (S.D.) netted only 8 percent. Only one Democratic senator was able to post a score above 25 (John Breaux of Louisiana, who earned a 33), while 22 of the 45 Democrats received zeroes. Only one Republican fell below 25 (John Chafee of Rhode Island, with a 9), while 16 GOP senators were given a perfect 100 ranking.

Of the 172 members of Congress who scored eight or less, 171 were Democrats, and one was an independent (Rep. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, who got a zero). On the other hand, 198 member received a score of 90 or above, and 196 of them were Republicans.

Overall ratings by state also reflect the Coalition's apparent partisan bias. Seven states have delegations of all Republican members: Alaska, Utah, New Hampshire, Idaho, Kansas, Wyoming and Oklahoma. Those same states rank one through seven as having the highest overall Coalition average for per state delegation. (Oklahoma finished first, the only state where every member received a 100 percent.

In contrast, four state have all Democratic members in their delegations: Hawaii, Massachusetts, North Dakota and West Virginia. True to form, all those states fared poorly on the Coalition scorecard, with Massachusetts finishing second to last, averaging a scored of 2 percent per member, and Hawaii finishing dead last with the Coalition giving each and every member of the delegation a zero.

How does the Christian Coalition achieve its skewed results? Although members of Congress cast hundreds of votes each session, Coalition leaders choose only a dozen for each house. These are supposedly "issues critical to the family," but actually they are carefully selected to achieve the properly partisan results. …

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