On The Road To 2008 - Commentary on issues as we countdown to the next opportunity to change the direction of America

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why The Truth Behind A Voting Record Matters

Republicans have produced rankings of their own on "green" issues, based mainly on the voting record of Republicans in the House and the Senate, and have given Dave Reichert top scores in his party.

The problem is that Reichert has a pattern of voting on at least 25 different bills in the 110th Congress that means any such ranking must come with an asterisk.

If you look at the bills they used in their scoring, the very first one, H.R. 6 was one such bill Dave Reichert opposed before flipping to record a safe-preservation vote on. Eliminate that from his tally and he doesn't get the award.

That's why the issues I've been bringing up regarding these votes matter. Any one of these votes has the power to put Reichert's name at the top of some ranking that is based on voting records. Reichert knows that, and the Republican party knows that, and so whenever possible, Reichert is given the "green" light (so to speak) to prop up his environmental credentials or "moderate" standing by taking safe votes, often against his party, after having voted with his party to block or neuter the very same bill.

Reichert's latest ranking was covered yesterday by a number of outlets. The Stranger, The PI's Strange Bedfellows blog, Politicker WA, and David Postman's blog at the Seattle Times.

The Politicker and the PI's Joel Connelly wrote what essentially were press releases on Reichert's behalf, although Connelly does at least inform us that Reichert's still going to have a tough sell with the Sierra Club. I would hope so. Neither make note of how Reichert's voting record on the environment stacks up to Washington Democrats (hint: it doesn't - topping Republicans on the environment is not all that impressive).

As the Burner campaign puts it, "Claiming that Congressman Reichert is the 'greenest Republican' is like claiming Camel Lights are the healthiest cigarette."

Erica C. Barnett at The Stranger and David Postman do at least provide for a response from the Darcy Burner campaign on Reichert's ranking, and both include links back to postings I've written on Reichert's flip-flop votes.

Not one of these writers questions the actual list of votes used to produce these rankings, as they should have, but that would require a level of critical thinking almost non-existent in the mainstream media these days.

For example, one bill that could have been included, but was not, was another one that got the Reichert flip-flop voting treatment: H.R. 5351, the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2008. I wrote about it in February. Let me repeat what I wrote in Postman's comment thread about it:
In this bill the House repealed $13.6 billion in subsidies the Republican Congress had given to ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillip in 2004.

But how do we understand Reichert's votes on this?

After all, he voted for a Republican alternative to the bill that would have maintained the subsidies, effectively neutering the bill, and then turned around and voted for the bill that eliminated them.

So if Reichert was in favor of maintaining the subsidies, why did he vote to eliminate them? And if he is against the subsidies, why did he, on the same day, vote to preserve them?
If you included this bill in the rankings, how would you score Reichert? If you just go by the final vote you miss half the story.

As a constituent, such votes send the signal that my congressman is trying to be on both sides of the same issue. How is one to know what Reichert stands for, and what his principles are when he's first against something, and then suddenly for it? I'm at least paying attention, and I'm not so naive to not understand what's really going on here, but if the press doesn't investigate and report this type of thing, most voters will never know the truth behind Reichert's voting record.

I can understand that reporters would be skeptical of claims any campaign makes about the other, that's to be expected. However, this isn't something the Burner campaign has concocted, as much as I am glad that they've noticed what I've been writing about for many years now. The voting record is public and just needs a little scrutiny to discover the underlying patterns, and reporters can see for themselves something is going on here, and should be asking themselves why and why it should matter. These voting rankings are why it matters. The opportunity for a candidate to paint a false picture of his voting record is why it should matter to organizations that should be looking to report on the truth, and not simply echo party press releases.

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