Special interest vote charts can be helpful learning tools

Jim Baumgart  Sheboygan County Supervisor

The United States of America is a Republic; we elect our leaders to represent us on different levels of government for selective periods of time and then require new elections.

On the national level, U.S. Congressional elections are for two years, U.S. Senate is for six years, and President of the United States is four years - with a twoterm limit.

While many people say and think there is little difference between candidates and the two major political parties, others would strongly disagree.

One thing most people will agree upon, it does not pay to discuss or argue politics (or religion) because seldom will people change their minds.

Right, wrong or in-between, you might say most people have a position they intend to keep. It is, for whatever reason, their comfort zone.

So how does a someone find out about candidates or their political parties or how they may or may not be serving their best interests?

Tough question! Because the people running for office or the political parties supporting them will want to promote a positive position.

You’ll likely never hear a candidate say “I’ve done some dumb things, voted for some questionable special interests, but please vote for me.”

You’ve likely heard, “Sure I’ve taken Political Action monies from special interest but those donations do not influence my vote. I vote for the best interest of my constituents.”

Well, maybe that is true but maybe it’s not.

In Wisconsin, once the twoyear legislative session is over, different groups collect the votes taken on issues that have come up before the legislature that they feel are important.

They publish those “Voting Records” and use them to point out the good, bad and the (you know) as a way to promote or oppose candidates, influence their organization or group, and provide a method for the general public to be informed and educated as they see it.

After all, how many average citizens will have the time and knowledge to organize issues they feel may be important and do the research. Most people would never be able to do it.

Who are these groups? To mention some: Wisconsin Manufacture and Commerce, Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, Wisconsin Builder’s Association, and Wisconsin League of Conservation of Voters are but a very few. There is likely well over a hundred (maybe over two hundred) or more that publish a “Voting Record” list or at least send to their membership, area voters and/or news media of those who voted “yea” or “nay” on what they think is important.

Many of these groups will also send questionnaires to the candidates expecting answers to the questions “the right way” or they will likely be opposed. It can be tough being a candidate with all the special interests wanting things viewed by those groups.

And, then there is always the money, lots of money, that can and will influence an election.

But there can be a bright side for the average voter. While they should fully understand that not every group is committed doing what is in their best interest, although there are many that do, they may want to look at a few of these “Voting Records” to see if they approve of the issues and the way their representative voted.

With an important congressional primary election taking place in our area to replace Congressman Thomas Petri in August, it might be helpful to look at a couple of these “Voting Records” to see how the candidates running for this office are listed. From these examples, you may wish to contact other groups that have a special interest to ask to see their voting list.

You may find the results interesting.

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