Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Katherine Harris Smashes Speed-Lying Record

In a startling display of political athleticism, Republican Katherine Harris shattered the record for campaign "speed lying" by telling a lie about her opponent just minutes into her announcement for U.S. Senate.

Harris, known primarily for disenfranchising voters as Florida's Secretary of State, is challenging Democratic Senator Bill Nelson for his Senate seat in 2006. Just moments into her announcement yesterday, she said she would run a "conservative but progressive" race, while calling Nelson's voting record "one of the most liberal" and seriously intoning "that's not where Florida is."

Funny, I never thought of Nelson as anything other than a mainstream Democrat and certainly not of the true liberal convictions one normally associates with Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and John Kerry (D-MA).

So the Yellow Dog Blog did a little legwork and looked into what Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) and the National Journal think. The ADA is a liberal group that critically views what they deem to be the top 20 bellwether votes each year, ranks each Senator on how they vote and assigns them a Liberal Quotient (LQ).

The National Journal has been doing annual congressional vote ratings since 1981 and, much to every Democratic presidential hopeful's regret, assigning a composite "liberal score" to show where they rank relative to their fellow Senators.

From what we discovered, it looks like Ms. Harris told a fib today.

We took a look at the ADA's 2004 ratings, which show the percentage of votes cast in support of liberal policies, measured against the number of votes considered relevant by the ADA. Based on voting records, roughly one-third of U.S. Senators had an LQ of 100 percent – or perfectly liberal -- including Russ Feingold (D-WI), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and, of course, Ted Kennedy.

But no Bill Nelson.

In fact, Nelson's Liberal Quotient of 80 is one of the lowest among Senate Democrats, with over 85 percent of his Democratic colleagues considered more liberal than Nelson in the ADA's rankings. Even Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Mark Pryor (D-AR), who spend much of their time voting with Republicans, are considered more liberal than Nelson according to the ADA.

Moving on to the National Journal – whose rankings were the primary ammunition used against the Kerry-Edwards ticket last year – we decided to look at their famed "lifetime rankings." In this exercise, Senate Democrats are ranked based on their lifetime composite liberal score in National Journal's annual congressional vote ratings.

The top of the list yields few surprises: Kennedy, Boxer, Corzine, Dayton, Harkin, Durbin and Kerry – but once again, no Bill Nelson. Ms. Harris's assessment of Nelson as a flaming liberal doesn't seem to hold up here either.

Of the 48 Democratic Senators ranked on a lifetime of votes through 2004, Nelson had a "liberal score" that placed him 34th on that list. In other words, similar to the ADA's rankings, almost 70 percent of Senate Democrats are considered more liberal than Bill Nelson.


Now I know how nervous you must have been making such a big announcement, Ms. Harris, and I'm going to assume you meant to say that Nelson is one of the least liberal Democratic Senators. A simple slip of the tongue. I understand.

But if that's not the case, you intentionally said something that wasn't true to convince conservative Floridians that Bill Nelson would be better off serving Massachusetts residents than voters in your state.

Aside from the fact that a large percentage of Americans identify themselves as liberal -- and proud of it -- it means that, with amazing quickness, you quite literally started your campaign with a lie.

And you wouldn't do that – would you?