Blog Noir: "CBC, NAACP and the Effectiveness of the Report Card"

How effective are report cards for Congress anyway?

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CPL of Jack and Jill Politics weighs in on the report card she helped develop for the CBC

Lately, it seems that a whole lot of organizations and think tanks have the same idea regarding Congress.  Evaluate and grade the performance of legislators who maintain they are representing the best interests of the districts that elected them.

Sounds good in theory.  In actual practice, you have to ask two pertinent questions:

  1. What effect do you hope to have in issuing grades for legislative performance?
  2. Can a candidate utilize the information in the report card to effectively challenge an incumbent solely on the issue of legislative performance and effective representation?

These were the questions my colleagues and I weighed when we developed and published the CBCMonitor Report Cards in September 2005. We were not interested in pats on the back or “feel-good” publicity for the members of the Congressional Black Caucus.  We were more concerned that a contingent of them were voting more corporate interests that would be anathema to the districts they purported to represent, and we needed to sound the alarm to their districts.

We haven’t been as successful as we would have liked, but our report card effectively got the attention of the Black Caucus, especially when we pointed out their own mission statement and demonstrated how far off track they were through the first report card. The effect of our work resulted in four members, including former Rep. Al Wynn, being challenged for their Congressional seats.  Representative Donna Edwards sits in Wynn’s former seat today, as a result of her utilizing the CBCMonitor’s Report Card and effectively challenging his votes during campaign debates.

This is definitely an interesting read. Check it out here.