Time to hold conservatives accountable

Jim Ryun Chairman, The Madison Project
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During primary elections, conservatives are often scolded by those who view themselves as guardians of the Republican Party for their efforts to ensure our candidates represent certain core values. They contend, “A Jim DeMint-style Republican can’t win everywhere.”

These political wizards might be correct that we cannot elect full-spectrum conservatives everywhere in the country. But we can and must elect unvarnished conservatives from the numerous conservative districts and states that exist. It’s time we start utilizing the electoral map to our advantage.

During every election cycle, there are an infinite number of politicians who promote conservative values on the campaign trail. After all, we are a center-right country where most people identify themselves as fiscal conservatives. Yet, upon assumption of power, these elected officials lead a double life of talking the conservative talk at home and walking the statist walk in D.C. Ultimately, only a small cadre of elected conservatives remains from the army of conservative candidates.

What is most disconcerting is that many of the duplicitous members represent strong conservative states and districts. Many of these “red-state” Republicans support picking winners and losers in the market in the form of ethanol, farm and energy subsidies. They campaigned against Obamacare and profligate spending, yet they voted for massive omnibus bills that funded Obamacare and ensured that the budget will never be balanced. Worst of all, they work in tandem with local parochial interests to ensure that the people of some of our most conservative districts are only represented by supporters of big-government dependency and special-interest politics in the future.

If there is any hope of ever obtaining a conservative majority even within the Republican conference, much less the Congress at large, we must begin by electing consistent conservatives in conservative districts and states. Members of Congress from conservative states like Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma and much of the Great Plains are seriously underperforming. If we continue to let these Republican statists from conservative districts go unchallenged in primaries, we will never elect a conservative majority.

In order to elect bold-red conservatives, we must first throw out the pale-pastel Republicans in red states — ones who seek power for power’s sake instead of for the Republican ideals they espouse back home.

To that end, The Madison Project PAC has established a revolutionary new website, ConservativeVotingRecords.com, which aims to educate voters about House Republicans, especially those in red states, who have turned their back on Republican values after assuming office.

We will review their voting records, committee activity, bill co-sponsorships and statements for consistency and principled leadership. We will specifically hold their record against the ideological makeup of their district or state with our trademark Madison Performance Index (MPI). By exposing the good, the bad and the ugly in our own party, we’ll help voters realize that many of these insipid politicians are not who they say they are.

The MPI factors the average of the 2011 legislative scores from Heritage Action for America and the Club for Growth, the two most respected conservative scorecards. Each member’s average score is pegged against the ideological orientation of his/her district, as defined by the Cook Partisan Voter Index. Members from the most conservative districts are expected to score an A (90 and above), while those from less conservative districts are held to a slightly lower standard in a gradual regression. Their index score represents the number of points they are scoring above or below the expected score for that district. Each member’s score can be viewed on an easy-to-use map.

The results reveal just how few members are committed to limited government principles — even those who represent conservative districts.

Overall, we have found that only four members from the 21 districts rated R+20 (Cook PVI) or above meet expectations (score 90); only 11 of those from the 56 districts rated R+15 or above meet expectations; only 14 of those from the 83 districts rated R+13 meet expectations; and only 19 of the 109 R+10 Republicans do.

Until now, precious little has been known about the voting habits and performance of individual members of Congress. There is also a false sense of security among many conservative activists that the House is run by the tea party, and that the only ideological problems we face stem from Senate Republicans.

The reality is that, as we show at ConservativeVotingRecords.com, there are only a few dozen consistent conservatives in the House, with another few dozen “second tier” conservatives. We are far from a conservative majority even within the House Conference, even after the “year of the tea party” in 2010. We have a lot of work to do in electing more conservatives, and the first step to success is realizing we have a problem. Thankfully, conservative activists are learning to look deeper into an official’s record, rather than blindly eating what they’re being fed.

The more conservative voters and activists are educated on the performance of their Republican officials, the more incentive those politicians will have to fulfill their campaign promises. ConservativeVotingRecords.com is just beginning, and we intend for it to grow into an indispensable tool to sharpen the knowledge of voters and the performance of Republican members of Congress.

Jim Ryun, a former member of Congress, is the chairman of the Madison Project.