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Press Release


“Taxpayers’ Friends” Surged but “Big Spenders” Still Splurged, Citizen Group’s Nonpartisan Scorecard Finds

April 4, 2011
By Douglas Kellogg
By Pete Sepp

(Alexandria, VA) – Even with many stellar performances from “Taxpayers’ Friends” – including the highest individual scores ever recorded – a huge chorus of “Big Spenders” belted out a tune of higher taxes and spending, according to the 362,000 member National Taxpayers Union’s (NTU’s) 32nd annual Rating of Congress. The scorecard, the only one to utilize every roll call vote affecting fiscal policy, was based on 165 House and 142 Senate votes from the second session of the 111th Congress (all of 2010).

To View the 2010 Congressional Ratings Click the image below or head to the Searchable Database here:

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     “2010 saw some of the most polarizing fiscal issues in the history of Congress, and NTU’s Rating depicted the trend in stark detail,” said NTU President Duane Parde. “Although an increasing number of lawmakers voted with taxpayers’ interests, more than three times as many sided with special interests instead. With this lopsided tug-of-war among Members of Congress, it is no wonder the nation’s finances were dragged into a quagmire last year.”

     Between 2009 and 2010, the average “Taxpayer Score” in the House rose from 38 percent to 42 percent. The Senate’s average increased from 39 percent to 45 percent. The Senate had an all-time low of 28 percent in 1988, and the House hit bottom that same year, at 27 percent. The highest marks were reached in 1995, when House and Senate averages were 58 percent and 57 percent, respectively.

     In 2010, 79 lawmakers attained scores sufficient for an “A” grade (at least 90 percent in the House and 95 percent the Senate) and hence were eligible for the “Taxpayers’ Friend Award” – an increase from the 55 who earned top grades in 2009. Meanwhile, 264 Senators and Representatives captured the title of “Big Spender” for posting “F” grades (20 percent or less in the House and 18 percent or less in the Senate).  This is just three shy of the record 267 Big Spenders logged in 2009 and 2008.

     For the eighth consecutive year, Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) had the best finish in the House with a 97 percent rating – adding to his record streak of the most consecutive years as NTU’s top scorer.  “Throughout his tenure in Congress, Jeff Flake has demonstrated consistent and effective leadership on behalf of taxpayers, both with his own votes and in inspiring his colleagues to work harder for fiscal discipline,” Parde observed. “Jeff has definitely lived up to NTU’s name for its number one scorer, ‘Taxpayers’ Best Friend.’”

     Yet, 2010 was a year for other superlatives: the highest score NTU has ever recorded in either chamber. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) earned an incredible 99.5 percent, besting the 99 percent mark that Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) reached in 1983. Right behind McCain by a few hundredths of a percentage point was Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), whose score likewise rounded to 99.5 percent.

     On the other end of the scale, Representative Jim Clyburn (D-SC) had the absolute-lowest House score, rounding to 2 percent. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Gary Ackerman (D-NY) also came in at 2 percent on a rounded basis. In the Senate, Patrick Leahy (D-VT) had the rock-bottom score at 2 percent, followed by Carl Levin (D-MI), whose rounded score was also 2 percent.

     The improvement in overall averages can generally be attributed to the performances of Republican lawmakers, who seemed chastened by losses dealt to them in 2008 from an electorate that was skeptical of their fiscal record. Between 2008 and 2010, House GOP Members boosted their average score by 21 percentage points; GOP Senators gained an even bigger 37-point jump in their average over those two years.

     Although Democrats had much lower averages, some within their party broke away from their leaders on a sufficient number of votes to earn significantly higher marks. A total of 15 House Democrats scored at least 40 percent, enough to earn a “C-” grade (or better). NTU classifies a “C” grade as “Satisfactory.” Two Senators, Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Ben Nelson (D-NE), made the “C-” or better cut.

     Unlike those of other organizations, NTU’s annual Rating does not simplistically focus on a handful of equally weighted “key votes,” but on every roll call vote affecting fiscal policy – appropriations, authorization, and tax bills; budget target resolutions; amendments; and certain regulatory or procedural votes that could affect overburdened taxpayers. For this reason, NTU’s Rating has received praise from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including the late Sen. William Proxmire (D-WI), creator of the “Golden Fleece Award.” A Member of Congress’s “Taxpayer Score” reflects his or her commitment to reducing or controlling federal spending, taxes, debt, and regulation.

     “Given the multi-trillion-dollar surge in the national debt during 2009 and 2010, taxpayers are now hoping for a different kind of surge – one that will take scores for both parties on NTU’s next Rating of Congress to new and fitting heights,” Parde concluded. “Time will tell if lawmakers translate their words on behalf of limited government to deeds that will show up on our scorecard – and in taxpayers’ wallets.”

NTU is a nonpartisan, nonprofit citizen group founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and economic freedom at all levels. Note: The 2010 Rating and a searchable Rating database dating back to 1992 are available at www.ntu.org.