Tutorial on Congressional Scoreboards for the technologically challenged

Tutorial on Congressional Scoreboards for the technologically challenged

Benjamin Netanyahu receiving a standing ovation from Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner during a speech to Congress on May 24, 2011. (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

If IAK’s new Congressional Scoreboards piqued your interest, but you shied away due to less-than-remarkable computer skills, this is just for you. In a few minutes, you’ll be ready to take on Capitol Hill.

by Kathryn Shihadah

I just spent 2 full months working on an exciting project for If Americans Knew: the “Congressional Scoreboards.” It started out with “Why don’t we check on the Senators who are up for re-election? Let’s see their voting record on some Palestine/Israel bills.” That’s 32 Senators, not a huge job.

Then we decided to add their comments, and then their voting records on ambassadorships for Nikki Haley and David Friedman, and a bunch of other Palestine/Israel shenanigans that took place on Capitol Hill. Then we added the names of their challengers and comments where we could find them, and contributions from pro-Israel PACs. The project kept expanding as we thought of more useful information to include.

THEN “we need to do this for the House of Representatives too.” Why not? – there are only 441 candidates and 441 challengers, give or take!

This addition was really important, daunting as it was, because the House is close to home. The House is where we can (sometimes) go eyeball-to-eyeball with our legislator. We need to know what they’re doing and whether they represent us.

Everyone should check out these Congressional Scoreboards. See what your paid representatives are up to.

If you’re not familiar with the politics of Palestine/Israel, use this resource as a crash course in Israel’s influence on Congress. It’s full of background info on each issue and further reading if you want to learn more.

Let me walk you through some of the features, so you won’t be intimidated when you get there, because it’s rather large, and you need to know your way around so you can get the full benefit.

Take a deep breath

First you’ll choose what to look at – Senate or House. Since the House is such a big group, we’ve divided it into 7 chunks. (You can also get the whole thing at once, but it might take a few minutes to load.) Links to all of the Scoreboards are below. After the chart is loaded, you’ll see a Welcome Screen:

Once you click past the Welcome Screen, you’ll see candidates with their party affiliation, state, etc.:

We have included Green Party candidates who will be on the ballot, along with a few statements from their platforms. Several Greens (and others) have also contacted us with their own personal remarks about Palestine/Israel.Never underestimate 3rd party candidates!

You can scroll down to see more candidates, and right to see more info:

You’ll see each candidate’s pro-Israel and pro-Palestine scores, based on a point system we created. The point system is described in detail in this article, and also on the chart.

You’ll also see the donations and/or endorsements each candidate has collected from pro-Israel PACs (there are no pro-Palestine PACs). And the column with lots of cute little flags indicates how many pro-Israel PACs recommended him. (Click on the cell to see which PACs contributed to his campaign.)

Keep scrolling to the right. Now we get to the meaty part. This tells you each candidate’s voting record. There’s a lot of great info in those cells, in addition to a key that explains the scoring. First are the bills:

“Cosponsor” means the member of Congress wants to get on board with a bill and take credit as an advocate of the legislation. “Yay” means that he/she was perhaps not enthusiastic enough to cosponsor, but wanted the bill to pass.

Occasionally, a legislator has the guts to vote against a pro-Israel bill (there may be hell to pay, as Beto O’Rourke once discovered). Another gutsy move is to vote “Present” or “Not Voting.”

If you want to find out more about a bill, click on the heading:

You’ll find many goodies in the box that pops up:

Keep scrolling right, and soon the you’ll come to the Resolution section. Click on the heading to find out more about those.

Then there are open letters to powerful people about important subjects. Find out about the letters by clicking on the heading, and see whether your Congress person signed the letter or not.

The last feature, which appears only in the Senate Scoreboard, is Comments. It’s no small deal for a Congress person to go on record with a comment, so do have a look at them. Click on the box to see the full comment.

These can be very telling! Here are a few favorites of mine:

And there you have it.

I hope you take advantage of this resource! Learn about your government and your paid representatives – and then VOTE to change them, and write to educate them if they don’t go away!

And check back after the elections – we’ll be doing some new things to keep the Scoreboards relevant and useful.

Oh! Here are the links, followed by some articles about the Congressional Scoreboards:

Click HERE to visit the Senate Scoreboard and check on the folks that you are paying to represent you in Washington.

The House Scoreboard can be viewed in sections or as a whole(sections load quickly; whole chart may take a few minutes to load):