Interest Groups Keep Tabs on Big Spenders

Who’s loose with your tax dollars?

If you want to keep track of the spending habits of your representatives in Washington, several national special interest groups have already done your homework.

For the price of a postage stamp and a letter to the National Taxpayers Union, you can find out which members of Congress are the loosest with the national checkbook. The group periodically grades senators and representatives on the number of times they voted for spending measures.

The group gives Rep. Jim Collins the highest score among Texans, 72 out of 100, which places him above the average for the House of Representatives. Rep. Bob Krueger, Democratic senatorial candidate, gets a low 28. He’s followed by House Majority Leader Jim Wright, with 31, and Rep. Jim Mattox, who scores 42. The group gives both U.S. Senators John Tower and Lloyd Bentsen a paltry 29.

To make an intelligent assessment of your congressman’s spending habits, it’s wise to consider the ratings published by several groups which represent different viewpoints. For some liberal groups, the congressmen with the lowest grades are often the most tight-fisted.

We’ve assembled the ratings of several groups ranging from the Americans for Democratic Action, which rates each congressman with a “liberal quotient,” to the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, which rates lawmakers according to their conformity to the business community’s positions on key issues.

Bob Krueger has managed to get a mediocre rating from every group. He has a 75 score from the Chamber of Commerce of the U.S. (conservative), a 52 from the AFL-CIO lobby group COPE (liberal), and a 55 from the Americans for Constitutional Action, a conservative group which has given Sen. George McGovern a rating of 0.

Collins, on the other hand, is the Texan who has most thoroughly offended some groups while winning the praise of others. Ralph Nader’s Congress Watch gives Collins a 23, the AFL-CIO gives him a lifetime grade of 4, and the ADA gives him a 5. Last year, however, Americans for Constitutional Action gave Collins a score of 100, and he has a lifetime ACA rating of 95, one of the highest in the Congress.

Last year, Wright received a grade of 95 from the AFL-CIO and a 4 from the Americans for Constitutional Action, two ratings he might want to hide from his conservative constituents were it not for the fact that he effectively has the position of “Congressman for Life” in Fort Worth.

Both of the area’s lame ducks, Olin Teague and Dale Milford, received zeroes from the ADA, and both scored under 20 in Nader’s evaluations.

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