Guest Column by Harrie F. Hess
I'm a member of Public Citizen, a nonprofit organization of some 300,000 members and supporters which traces its roots to Ralph Nader, whom you may remember as a candidate for President of the United States on an Independent ticket years ago.
Nader was then, as he remains, a consumer advocate who became well known as a result of his campaign to reduce the dangers of the accident-prone Corvair automobile. The respect and fame he won from that successful fight did not overcome the limitations of running for President on a third party ticket.
Over the years since his candidacy he has faded somewhat in the memory of the public, but has left an admirable legacy in the Public Citizen organization and its periodical, Public Citizen News, which carry on the fight for the rights and general welfare of Americans. On line the Public Citizen organization is described as a national non-profit consumer advocacy organization, but over the years it has developed many other related objectives.
From my own acquaintance it embraces problems including work conditions such as polluted air and exposure to radiation, the safety of medicines, problems associated with citizen compensation for medical malpractice, and research and litigation in all these areas and more.
This communication is a report to my fellow Mesquite citizens and other Nevadans who may come across it in media other than the Mesquite papers. Below I will describe the biennial Public Citizen Scorecard, which evaluates each member of Congress, House and Senate, including, of course, our five Congressional representatives. I offer this abbreviated report on my own initiative as one yardstick by which Mesquite residents and other Nevadans may judge the effectiveness of their representatives.
But first I must describe the instrument of evaluation, or "Scorecard". The Scorecard consisted of ten issues acted upon by the Senate, and ten by the House. The issues were considered key issues to Public Citizen, and thus significant to its membership and to essentially all Americans.
Five of the issues were identical to both House and Senate; five were different because different issues came before the two houses. All members of the House were scored on each of their issues, and likewise with the Senate.
In brief, the five issues common to both bodies concerned:
1. Endorsement of a proposal to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
2. Voting to extend the laws against insider trading to members of congress and their staffs.
3. Voting No to the NAFTA-style free trade agreement with Columbia
4. Ditto for the agreements with Korea and,
5. Panama. (The exportation of jobs seems to be a key issue common to 3, 4, and 5)
The remaining five issues for both houses were different, and had to do with other problems, including Environmental (e.g. Big Oil tax breaks, coal ash), Regulations and their regulators, and Delay of public health protections. The score of each legislator depends on the number (zero to ten) of his/her votes which corresponded with the Public Citizen position on the issues. The raw scores were then converted to percentages (0% to 100%).
Now let's look at some of the results, the Scorecards of our own Congressional Delegation.
Senate Dean Heller Republican 20%
Senate Harry Reid Democrat 80%
House Mark Amodei Republican 20%
House Shelly Berkeley Democrat 90%
House Joe Heck Republican 10%
I think there is something to be learned here, and that's why I wanted to bring this Congressional evaluation to your attention. The low scorers (10% and 20%) in the list above surely are not voting in the interest of the American people. Read the issues in above paragraphs again. How many of them do not concern you? On how many of the ten issues did your legislators really vote in your behalf?
If you need more information regarding the issues, go to Public Citizen News, Sept/Oct 2012. Of course, if you are infatuated with dirty coal emissions, coal ash, exportation of jobs, tax break subsidies for Big Oil, and Congress members who allow themselves to profit from insider trading, etc., you may be content with the status quo of our Congressional Delegation.
I emphasize that Public Citizen doesn't engage in partisan politics, that this statement regarding our delegation is on my own initiative because this evaluation is important to us Nevadans, and it pertains to an imminent election. I have attempted to summarize my source accurately and succinctly, and I accept responsibility for any failure in either respect. As a reporter, this partisan voter has attempted to leave no trace of partisanship except in the paragraph immediately preceding this one.