Paul Austin

Paul Austin is the director of Conservation Minnesota, a statewide non-profit. In that role, he gets to hear and share Minnesotan’s stories about our lakes, lands and way of life. Paul’s past lives include election as a small town mayor, serving at the US Agency for International Development, and managing a small marketing firm. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife, two small children and one very large dog.

What’s the Score?

Posted by: Paul Austin under Government, Politics Updated: February 20, 2014 - 3:41 PM

For the past 43 years, the League of Conservation Voters has issued an annual scorecard on how members of Congress voted on issues that are important to the conservation community.  The votes that were tracked ranged from public health protections to clean energy to land and wildlife conservation.   

This year’s scorecard was recently released, and it showed that Minnesota’s Congressional delegation is basically split right down the middle along party lines, with one big exception.  

Our Senators, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, each received perfect scores from LCV on the 13 votes that were tracked in the Senate.  That made Minnesota one of only nine states where the Senators each received perfect scores.  

In the House, more than twice that many (28) votes were counted, and the scores ranked from a high of 96 for Rep. Keith Ellison to a low of 0 for Rep. John Kline.  The rest of the Republicans stayed in the bottom 20 percentile with Rep. Paulsen scoring a 7 and Rep. Bachmann scoring an 11.  All but one of the democrats stayed in the top 20 percent, with Rep. McCollum at 93 and Representatives Walz and Nolan each receiving a score of 86.  Rep. Colin Peterson, a democrat who represents a traditionally republican district along the state’s western border, was the true outlier in the results when he received a score of 14. 

With all the budget wrangling and polarizing social issues being debated in Washington, it is easy for people to lose track of how members are voting when it comes to these critically important votes.  While some will decry that this scorecard is nothing more than a cynical partisan attack on republicans, the scores are based on votes, so each member earned their own score with their own voting record.  And, as is clear with Rep. Peterson, votes against the environment are not in the sole ownership of either caucus.  

Annually, the organization also creates a, “Dirty Dozen” list of members who are the worst of the worst.  While in past years Minnesotans have made this list, this year, none were included.  Nationally, new members who defeated inhabitants of the 2012 Dirty Dozen list have an average 2013 score of 92 percent, while the members that they replaced had an average lifetime score of just 12 percent.

On its website, the League of Conservation Voters has created an interactive tool that allows people to search scorecards going back to the first one in 1971 to see how individual members have voted and been ranked on these key issues.  The website is available at http://scorecard.lcv.org/. 

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