A closer look at one of Harris' jabs at Nelson
By WES ALLISON
Published March 28, 2006
WASHINGTON - It is a claim that Republican Rep. Katherine Harris makes at nearly every stop: Her Democratic opponent, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, is so liberal and antibusiness that the National Federation of Independent Business rates his voting record a zero.
But what is the National Federation of Independent Business? And is Nelson really a zero?
The answer reveals some of the problems with relying on candidate statements about interest group ratings.
The National Federation of Independent Business, which lobbies for businesses interests in Congress, is aligned with the Republican Party, and its priorities match those of the White House and Republican congressional leadership. Many of its leaders have served in the Bush administration or with conservative interest groups.
Its vice president for politics, for instance, is Lisa Goeas, wife of Republican pollster Ed Goeas - who until last week was one of Harris' top three political advisers.
Most of the issues it pushes in Congress are decided along party lines, including bills aimed at easing the Endangered Species Act and environmental regulations, making it harder to sue corporations and checking organized labor.
As for Nelson's "zero": Last year, of the six Senate votes it tracked, the organization says Nelson voted its way on two of them, or 33 percent. One of the two votes sought to curb bankruptcies, while the other extended tax breaks for small businesses and individuals.
Both bills passed. Only four Senate Democrats voted the group's position more often, records show.
In the 2003-2004 session, Nelson supported none of the six issues the group tracked, along with all but four Democratic senators. That indeed gives him a zero for that year. (The U.S. Chamber of Commerce scored him at 65 percent in 2004 and 50 percent in 2005).
In the House, Harris voted the group's position on nine of the 10 votes it tracked last year, missing the tenth. She backed all of the group's votes in 2003-2004.
[Last modified March 28, 2006, 03:01:29]
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