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Friday, January 9, 2009

Big research projects

I issued myself a challenge to find the most "honest" members of Congress.  While I am not thoroughly done with my research, I wanted to share what I found, how I found it and let you know where my wandering mind is headed.

I have a document in which I have listed the members of the 110th Congress, the state they represent, their political affiliation, then scorecard ratings from six different organizations and notes from research done at two independent (I hope) websites: opensecrets.org (for money information) and sourcewatch.org (for background and biography).

The Congress members listed received a score of 60 out of 100 or better with the Human Rights Campaign and/or a score of 70 out of 100 or better in any/all of the other five scorecards.  Why 60 or better from HRC?  They only listed 5 bills voted in the last Congress which they consider GLBT related where the other score cards listed at least 10 bills.

From the Senate:

Blanche Lincoln.  No 100 scores from any of the six organizations, but high marks from both the conservative and liberal organizations.  I also liked that she is a "primary advocate" for the DRA which has quite the altruistic goal yet receives very little, if any, press about itself.

Daniel Akaka.  He got a 100 score from the League of Conservation Voters and his top contributors seem to be from opposite sides of the political spectrum.  Most remarkable is that in over 32 years in Congress, he does not have any connection to any scandal and received no travel, gifts or honoraria per the 2007 financial information I reviewed.

Evan Bayh.  Even though his father was also a three-term Senator, he seems to have done quite well for his home state of Indiana.  While Governor, he avoided raising taxes, managed a tax cut AND had a big budget surplus while creating 350,000 jobs.  Check out the 21st Century Scholars Act - this was quite a progressive and affirming idea! He also voted to not confirm Condeleeza Rice, Alberto Gonzalez, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito.  Finally, the proceeds of his autobiography all went to charity. 

Dick Lugar.  My only concern was the travel and honoraria he received in 2007.  It included four trips overseas with hotel, flight and meals courtesy of the Aspen Institute , a two night hotel travel for a Beta Theta Pi conference and a $2000.00 honoraria from Youth Federation for World Peace International for a speech given.  I include him on this list for his split in June 2007 with Bush 43 on continuing the Iraq War. He also is involved in treaty ratification to reduce nuclear, chemical and biological weapon stockpiles, supported biofuels and worked to preserve federal school lunch programs.  If nothing else, my research helped me better understand why Obama at one time considered Senator Lugar for a cabinet post.

Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.  These are the Republican Senators from Maine and I imagine the Obama Administration and the Democrats in Congress has already done their homework on these two Senators to see what would be needed to garner their support of legislation.  Both Senators scored well with groups from both sides of politics.  Both split from Bush 43 in 2007 on the Iraq war and are reasonably well supportive of legislation helping the GLBT community. Senator Collins received no travel, gifts or honoraria in 2007 while Senator Snowe gifts received in 2007 were related to awards she received from groups like the University of Southern Maine, Healthcare Information & Management Systems and a refugee alliance.

Carl Levin.  He was one of the few Senators to vote against the 2002 use of force in Iraq resolution and tried proposing a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq as well as amending the resolution to prevent Bush 43 from using force unless the U.N granted authority to do so.  He was involved in a taxpayer's bill of rights to protect them from IRS harassment and in 1995 won passage of strict disclosure requirements for lobbyists.  His brother Sandy is in the House of Representatives and he has other relatives who either ran for Congress or were federal judges or state supreme court judges. No gifts, travel or honoraria accepted in 2007.

Chuck Hagel. In August 2005, he was the first Republican Senator to publicly criticize the Iraq War.  Regarding the war, he is quoted as saying in November 2005 "to question your government is not unpatriotic - to NOT question your government IS unpatriotic" and the next month regarding the Patriot Act, "I took an oath of office to the Constituation, (not to) my party or my President".   While in early 1996 there was an issue with voting machines made by the company he founded, AIS, it was the only issue my research turned up that questioned his overall "honesty"

Jeff Bingaman. Supported the Clean Energy Act of 2007 and has been strongly anti-tobacco over twenty years, supporting smoking cessation coverage for military and government personnel and providing coverage for this under Medi-Care.  Voted not to confirm Michael Mukasey. 

I would also add Senators Arlen Specter, Tim Johnson, Jim Webb and John Barrasso to my list just based on the scores I saw.  As time permits, I'll keep researching and post what I find.

I found anywhere from 9 - 13 Senators from the last Congress and also have a lot of Representatives to research

And Now, for a second research project (which I'm hoping is a little more successful):   On the post below, which is a reply to a comment on a posting Ms. Huffington made earlier today, I am going to try to find out just where the first $350 billion of the $700 billion went.

I might be staring head on at a twenty-foot tsunami wave by doing this.   That said, the Internet is pretty vast and I just might find something if I look long and hard enough.

I would appreciate any hints, suggestions and/or bread crumbs or neon signs to point the way!

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