Project Vote Smart started in 1988 and by 1992 morphed into just Vote Smart (www.votesmart.org). The original founders ranged from Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford to Senators Barry Goldwater and George McGovern, Governor Michael Dukakis and Congresswomyn Pat Schroeder and Geraldine Ferraro. Arizona native Richard Kleindienst, former Nixon U.S. Attorney General, who pled guilty in Watergate was also a member. He was born in Winslow in 1923 and died in Prescott in 2000 after having helped Goldwater turn the state Red. Not quite sure what he was doing there. John McCain was kicked off the board in 2008 for refusing to fill out the Political Courage Test.
The organization collects information on candidates across the U.S. in key areas including their positions, voting records, funding, endorsements, public speeches etc. Some state and local candidates are included as well.
The organization is currently housed in Des Moines, Iowa. They had a branch at the U of A in Tucson from 2006 to 2010 but it closed due to financial issues. The board apparently gave the president, Richard Kimball, a very large raise and that caused some blowback and hard financial times. It also seems from reading between some lines that their ranch headquarters in Montana devolved into a “Lord of the Flies” atmosphere so they had to close it and move to Des Moines – where people are Midwestern sensible.
I looked at two of their measures: The Political Courage Test and money. The Political Courage Test is an attempt to get politicians to actually answer questions on key issues of interest to voters. That worked for a while. In 1996, 72% of the candidates answered. That changed in 2000 when both parties told their candidates not to respond and put more cannon fodder out there for opposition research. By 2016, only 20% responded. So now, the research staff has to scrutinize public records to get answers to the key questions. The courage part is do they have the courage to actually tell the voters their positions!
The Arizona politicians who failed the Political Courage Test in 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018 are: Kyrsten Sinema, Ann Kirkpatrick, Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs, and David Schweikert. Those who failed the Political Courage Test in 2012-2018 are: Martha McSally. Those who failed from 2014-2018 are: Tom O’Halleron. Those who flunked the Political Courage Test in 2018 was: Greg Stanton.
Those who did not fail every year were: Ruben Gallego failed 2010, and 2014-2018. On 2012 he got a “don’t know.” Debbie Lesko failed from 2010-2016 but then in 2018, she passed. I guess she feels confident enough in her seat now to tell the truth about her positions. Raul Grijalva does not let us down. He passed in 2010 and 2012, failed in 2014, and passed again in 2016 and 2018.
Just for fun, I decided to look at the money information. Stanton’s biggest donors were lawyers and unions. For Grijalva it was unions and tribes. For O’Halleron it was lawyers and teachers. For Gallego it was the usual crew but for Pinnacle West; they had given to no other Democratic candidate. Pinnacle West also donated to Lesko and Biggs. The air line pilots had given to both Lesko and Gallego. As my mother said when she donated $10 to the 700 Club, she was “hedging my bets.”
The only local business donor I noted for Schweikert was Bill Luke Chrysler who also donated to Lesko and Gosar. Gosar’s main funders were American Dental, American Kidney, American Anesthesiologists. The medical groups were his second biggest donor! What’s with that? He also got money from Koch Industries and Freeport-McMoRan. Koch also handed out money to Lesko and Biggs. Biggs got big assists from the Diamond Backs and Boeing.
Kirkpatrick was supported by U of A and the military-industrial complex of Honeywell, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics. Sinema got money from both U of A and ASU as well as Google, law firms, and women. McSally was mainly supported by the party with other donations coming from Goldman Sachs, Charles Schwab and Farnsworth Companies. Grass roots is not her strongpoint.
If you want to know what your politicians really said and how they really voted, you can find it all at Vote Smart. Be sure you are registered with the permanent early voting list and then hold them accountable in November.