Get Smart

Posted March 12, 2003 at 4:51pm

Project Vote Smart, the Montana-based nonprofit that collects and makes public an array of information about thousands of candidates and officeholders, is finishing a year-long redesign of its Web site, www.vote-smart.org.

The first new feature is a research database on the 123 — this is not a typo — officially declared or likely candidates for president in 2004. The site looks not only at Democrats and Republicans, but also at the Anti-Hypocrisy Party, the National Barking Spider Resurgence Party and more.

In addition to standard biographies and information on the candidates’ voting records, campaign contributions and personal wealth, the site also asks the candidates questions about their personal heroes (Jesus Christ has a substantial lead over JFK), first jobs (for former Colorado Democratic Sen. Gary Hart, it was car-hopping at a burger joint for 20 cents an hour), and favorite foods (for retired Gen. Wesley Clark, it’s plain popcorn).

Project Vote Smart’s staffers and volunteers also are available to field voters’ questions about candidates and incumbents at a toll-free hotline — (888) VOTE-SMA(rt) or (888) 868-3762.

Meanwhile, the organization is trying to decide whether to continue its practice of sending candidates issue questionnaires in national, state and local elections. Project Vote Smart President Richard Kimball is convening 20 meetings around the country to talk to political activists, party bosses, journalists, good-government groups and association leaders to gauge their opinions on the effectiveness of the candidate surveys.

Kimball told a breakfast at the National Press Club this week that the number of candidates who have agreed to participate in the questionnaires has fallen precipitously in the past few election cycles — as consultants warn their clients that such survey answers could be used against them politically.

The Work of a Lifetime. Ray Strother, the veteran Democratic consultant, filmmaker and commentator, will be feted by the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University and the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University for his lifetime of achievement on Wednesday night.

The evening will be moderated by James Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, and will include a discussion of Strother’s new autobiography, “Falling Up: How a Redneck Helped Invent Political Consulting,” and the current state of the political consulting profession. Strother will receive an award in the name of the nation’s political communication and campaign management programs.

The event will be held from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in the Butler Ballroom, sixth floor of the Butler Pavilion, at American University, and light refreshments will be served. To attend, call (202) 885-3491 or e-mail mcastle@american.edu.

A Loss — But Not at the Polls. Proving once again that it is difficult to make the leap from operative to officeholder, Maryland pollster Carol Arscott lost a bid last week to join the state House of Delegates.

Arscott, principal in the nonpartisan polling firm Gonzales-Arscott Research & Communications Inc., had applied to the Howard County, Md., Republican Central Committee to be appointed to fill a House vacancy. Arscott, one of the most influential pollsters and pundits in the state, is the former chairwoman of the county’s GOP.

But despite being endorsed by most of the county’s Republican officeholders, the central committee opted to recommend that Warren Miller, a 38-year-old management consultant, replace former Del. Robert Flanagan (R), the new Maryland Transportation secretary. Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) is bound by law to appoint Miller, who now gets to serve a full four years.

So Arscott will return to polling with her business partner Patrick Gonzales — a Democrat.

Dean’s List. Fresh from a 15-minute stint as legislative director to 15-minute Sen. Dean Barkley (I-Minn.), Kim Elliott has been named deputy director for external affairs at the Trust for America’s Health.

Elliott’s political and policy savvy goes back a lot further than 15 minutes, however. For almost a decade, she was a top adviser to then-Sen. Lowell Weicker (R-Conn.) and also helped him win the 1990 Connecticut gubernatorial election as an Independent.

Weicker mentored Barkley when he came to Washington last fall to fill the end of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone’s (D-Minn.) term.

Elliott has also been chief operating officer for the Special Olympics, was a managing director of S.R. Wodjak and Associates, and worked for Research America and the Department of Commerce. Last year, she was a top campaign adviser to Mark Shriver’s (D) unsuccessful run for Congress in Maryland’s 8th district.

Also joining the Trust for America’s Health staff is Laura Segal, who will serve as director of communications. Segal recently directed corporate communications for Health Venture Partners, Sigma Networks and Charitableway. She has also worked for the Clinton/Gore campaigns of 1992 and ’96, and for the Clinton administration.

Free Web Seminar. The American Association of Political Consultants’ Mid-Atlantic Chapter is hosting a free seminar tonight on how to make Congressional and campaign Web sites more effective. It runs from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in Room B-340 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Speakers include Phil Nash and Emi Ireland, principals of CampaignAdvantage.com, authors of “Winning Campaigns Online” and Web masters for www.dickgephardt2004.com; Kathy Goldschmidt, director of Technology Services of the Congressional Management Foundation; and Carol Darr, director of the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet at the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University.

Refreshments will be served. To RSVP, e-mail KimberlyScott@ConklinScott.com.