Group rates area's lawmakers on waste

June 01, 1997


Staff Writer

A national organization has scrutinized dozens of 1996 congressional votes and rated lawmakers by a criterion that strikes a raw nerve with many voters: government waste.

The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, which issues the annual report, gave a record number of senators its Taxpayer's Hero award. The honor, given to senators who vote 80 percent or higher on the group's criteria, went to 23 senators.

The group, which was founded in 1984, bills itself as the foremost waste-fighting organization in the country. It examined 25 votes in the Senate and 35 in the House of Representatives on bills ranging from sending monkeys into space to farm subsidies.


"We didn't look at the easy votes," said spokesman Jim Campi. "We tend to look at the hard votes, votes that were split."

Tri-State area legislators who scored low, however, criticized the group as a special-interest organization pushing its own agenda.

Rep. Bob Wise, D-W.Va., was rated at 6 percent and earned the title "hostile." The group gave him credit for supporting legislation to create a deficit reduction account and an amendment limiting the number of executive branch appointments.

"Clearly, this is another inside-the-Beltway, Washington organization," said Wise aide Tom Gavin. He said the group doesn't share the values of the people of West Virginia or those of the voters in the congressman's district.

Gavin pointed to Wise's opposition to an amendment that would have eliminated the Economic Development Administration. While the group lambasted it as pork-barrel spending, Gavin said it has created hundreds of jobs in the Eastern Panhandle.

Gavin also criticized the group's selectivity. He said Wise was marked down for voting against two welfare bills but not credited with his vote for the final package.

Mindy Rossi, a spokeswoman for Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., also took a dim view of the ratings. Rockefeller's score was 17 percent.

"Any organization can take 25 specific votes out of the hundreds taken," she said. "The only rating that the senator cares about is how voters of West Virginia rate him."

Lawmakers who attained higher ratings were more positive. Laura Narducci, a spokeswoman for Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said the senator was not swayed by any special-interest group.

But she said Santorum, who got an 87 percent rating, was happy to be recognized as a Taxpayer's Hero.

"Sen. Santorum is a fiscal conservative who believes in less government and a balanced budget," Narducci said.

Even some legislators who scored high expressed some skepticism.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., said he has been scored much higher by a number of other conservative organizations. Bartlett, who got a 77 percent, defended the spending programs for which he was criticized.

Bartlett said the space station, for example, is important to draw students to the sciences, and military barracks construction is needed to ensure an adequate quality of life for overseas soldiers.

"They say I was wrong eight times out of 35," he said. "I think they were wrong eight times out of 35."

Campi, the group's spokesman, said the scores are an important indication of who is fighting for and against taxpayers. Freshman members from both parties score much higher than veteran members.

"The longer they serve, the more likely they are to waste taxpayers' money," Campi said. "We think that's an excellent argument for term limits."

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