National group issues voter defense manual

Project Vote Smart, a national nonpartisan political research group based in Montana, has released its “2006 Voter’s Self-Defense Manual” for California.

The free, 100-page report lists congressional voting records, campaign finance contributions, ratings by special interest groups and candidate information.

It also includes results from the organization’s National Political Awareness Test, a lengthy questionnaire that touches on everything from abortion to taxes.

This segment is sketchy for California as only five of its members of Congress completed the questionnaire this year. When the group launched the test a few years ago, lawmakers were under tremendous political and public pressure to participate. That no longer appears to be the case.

The test has found itself at the center of a controversy in the Congressional District 11 race after Democratic challenger Jerry McNerney changed the answers on about a third of the questions in a shift toward the middle on a number of positions in this conservative district.

Incumbent CD 11 Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, has slammed McNerney’s flip-flops but fails to mention that he has never completed the questionnaire himself. For Pombo’s part, though, he does have a 13-year voting record, so his positions are far from a mystery.

Project Vote Smart was founded by former presidents Jimmy Carter and Jerry Ford, as well as presidential candidates Barry Goldwater and George McGovern. It refuses corporate or special interest financial assistance.

To obtain a copy of the manual, visit the website or call 1-888-868-3762.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen