By Lucy McFadden
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
The delicate balance between economic growth and environmental preservation is at the root of much public debate, and Colorado’s congressional delegation is middle of the fray. One of the easiest ways to assess where politicians stand on the spectrum is to look at the scores they get from various special interest groups.
For example, the nation’s oldest grassroots environmental organization, the Sierra Club, really likes U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar — or at least they did when he served as one of Colorado’s senators in 2008. The group gave Salazar a grade of 100 percent for agreeing with their positions on environmental legislation.
On the other side of the spectrum, 5th Congressional District Rep. Doug Lamborn, who represents Colorado Springs, is a hero to the Club for Growth, a free-market advocacy organization that recently awarded him the 2008 Defender of Economic Freedom award. Lamborn is one of 45 members of Congress (all Republican) to win the award and one of 13 who agreed with the Club’s position on 100 percent of his votes. The Club for Growth’s goal is “to promote public policies that promote economic growth primarily through legislative involvement, issue advocacy, research, training and educational activity.”
The rest of Colorado’s 2008 Republican congressional delegation did almost as well. Former Republican Sen. Wayne Allard scored 91 percent, and former representatives Tom Tancredo, of the 6th Congressional District, and Marilyn Musgrave, of the 4th, both earned 90 percent scores from the Club.
The Democrats in the 2008 Colorado delegation held down the other end of the grading curve. Former Sen. Ken Salazar, now U.S. Secretary of the Interior, scored 7 percent, while, during his last year representing the 2nd Congressional District, Sen. Mark Udall earned a 10 percent — the highest score given to any of Colorado’s Democrats by the Club. Rep. John Salazar, of the 3rd Congressional District, scored an 8 percent, and Reps. Diana DeGette, of the 1st Congressional District, and Ed Perlmutter, of the 7th, each got goose eggs.
The scores from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce were similar but more moderate. On the Republican side of the aisle, Allard scored 75 percent; Lamborn, 83 percent; Musgrave, 89 percent; and Tancredo, 72 percent. Among the Democrats, Ken Salazar — who earned a mere 7 percent from the Club for Growth — was top Democrat for the Chamber, with 63 percent, followed by Udall and John Salazar with 61 percent each. DeGette and Perlmutter each pulled in 59 percent. The Chamber of Commerce is the world’s biggest business federation. It defines its aim as protecting free enterprise on behalf of small and large businesses.
Ken Salazar’s 100 percent rating from the Sierra Club, combined with his high mark from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will be grist for analysts. The Sierra Club also seems quite fond of Salazar’s successor in the Senate, Mark Udall.
The Sierra Club publicly thanked Udall for his commitment to protecting the environment and conserving public lands. The Sierra Club depends on the League of Conservation Voters to grade members of Congress, and the League gave Udall a grade of 92 percent for 2008.
The remaining Democrats also did well. Perlmutter and John Salazar each earned 85 percent; and DeGette, 77 percent.
The Republicans brought in the losing scores: Allard, 18 percent; Musgrave, 15 percent; Lamborn and Tancredo, zilch. Lamborn co-sponsored several bills urging Congress to open federal lands for energy exploration and production, including the American Energy Act (HR 6566) which would encourage energy development in the deep sea, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and oil shale reserves. The bill also would provide tax incentives to homeowners for improving energy efficiency.
The Democrats also were winners with organized labor. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) gave Ken Salazar and DeGette perfect marks: 100 percent each, while Perlmutter, John Salazar and Udall each scored 93 percent. Meanwhile, the GOP scores were predictably low. Allard, Lamborn, and Tancredo each scored zeroes, but Musgrave earned 14 percent, the high score among the Republicans. The AFL-CIO represents 56 international and national unions and aims to bring equality to the workplace economically and socially.