Project Vote Smart should make us proud

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Mississippi Rep. Andrew Ketchings listened quietly as Charles Yarbrough presented his case.

&uot;We want to know what we can do about tort reform, to put an end to these lawsuits,&uot; Yarbrough said, nodding in respect to the other members of the Natchez-Adams Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors gathered at the meeting.

&uot;What can we do?&uot; he asked the Natchez state representative.

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And Ketchings, R-Natchez, answered, with suggestions on lobbying lawmakers and an explanation of efforts to introduce and pass tort reform legislation. He also mentioned a barometer that business leaders should review – BIPEC’s rating of state lawmakers, a rating which measures lawmakers’ support of business issues. We hear about those ratings during campaigns and heated political debates, but most folks tend to forget about those ratings in non-election years. Project Vote Smart wants to make sure we don’t.

The non-partisan, non-profit national organization has compiled a &uot;report card&uot; for elected officials from across the nation – from state representatives to governors to congressmen and even the president. The scores are based on &uot;grades&uot; the officials received from dozens of national special interest organizations, from the Christian Coalition to the League of Conservation Voters.

As Holli Hoerschelman, director of legislative research for Project Vote Smart, says in a statement, &uot;These results Give people the opportunity to see exactly what their elected officials are doing for them, or to them.

&uot;With more than 100 different ratings from organizations spanning the political spectrum, these report cards are not a snapshot of a single vote, but more like a slide show of the entire job our representatives are doing.&uot;

That slide show tells us, for instance, that U.S. Sens. Trent Lott and Thad Cochran, both R.-Miss., voted favorably with the Consumer Federation of America on its key issues only 10 percent of the time. By contrast, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., voted with the CFA 78 percent of the time in 2000. Thompson also voted with the AFL-CIO and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League 100 percent of the time. Lott and Cochran, 0 percent for the AFL-CIO and only 20 percent for the NARAL.

The report card ratings carry down to the state level, where we can find that BIPEC rating that Ketchings talked about. The Mississippi Business & Industry Political Education Committee says Ketchings voted with the group 91 percent of the time. By contrast, Rep. Phillip &uot;Bucket&uot; West, D-Natchez, voted with BIPEC only 58 percent of the time. He did, however, vote with the Mississippi Human Service Commission 90 percent of the time. And the report card ratings are simply waiting for us to read them, to consider them, to use them as a measure of the performance of the men and women we have elected to positions of responsibility within our democracy. Project Vote Smart and its database of information can be reached on the Web at or by calling 1-888-868-3762.

For political junkies, or even the average voter, the Project provides an overwhelming amount of information and statistics from tracking bills in Congress to measuring candidates’ performance once in office. It’s a powerful resource, and one that I suspect our Founding Fathers would endorse and support.

They might even give it a score of &uot;100&uot; on promoting that democracy they had the vision to create.

Stacy Graning, editor, can be reached at 445-3539 or via e-mail at