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How area congressmen shape up

March 30, 1997

By LAURA ERNDE

Staff Writer

U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., is the most conservative congressman in the Tri-State delegation and U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Pa., is not far behind, according to scorecards kept by 10 prominent lobbying groups.

The only Democrat in the bunch, U.S. Rep. Bob Wise, D-W.Va., not surprisingly scored better with liberal groups.

The ratings reflect how the congressmen voted on the key issues of five conservative and five liberal organizations in 1996. A score of 100 means they cast the "correct" vote, according to the organization.

"I think they are useful as a shorthand. You get a thumbnail sketch of how your member of Congress voted," said Michael Towle, assistant professor of political science at Mount Saint Mary's College near Emmitsburg, Md.

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For the asking, most interest groups will mail you their most recent scorecard on individual voting on Congress, according to Roll Call Report Syndicate.

Many local voters won't be surprised that Bartlett and Shuster got near-perfect ratings from the five conservative groups.

"They have tapped into something," Towle said.

Bartlett agreed with his ratings.

"Taken as a whole, these scores accurately reflect that I'm pro-jobs, pro-life and pro-family," he said.

But Towle cautions against putting too much stock in the ratings, which don't give details about the votes that might reveal the congressman's motivation.

Wise, who got one perfect score from the Abortion Rights Action League, doesn't put much stock in the ratings.

Wise got two zeros - from the National Right to Life Committee and the Business-Industry Political Action Committee.

The interest groups are "asking people to vote in a vacuum," Wise said, because they only pick five or 10 votes out of 600 to base their ratings.

"I don't think these are indicative of the job I'm doing," he said. "There are a lot of lobbyists in Washington making a living off scorecards.

"You can find a group for every issue. These are Washington, D.C., think tanks and I don't care if I have a hundred or a zero."

Wise said he looks at each issue and how it will affect his constituents before he votes.

"There's only one scorecard that matters and that's the West Virginia voter," he said.

Shuster got the most polarized ratings of the delegation - three 100s from conservative groups and three zeros from liberal groups.

His response to the scorecard: "I support and vote for legislation that will improve the economy of central Pennsylvania and better the lives of the people who live there."

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