Topeka — It is the political equivalent of invoking the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.
Two-thirds of Kansas candidates running for legislative and congressional offices refused to answer a questionnaire to provide voters with an idea how they stand on the issues, a nonpartisan voter research group said Monday.
"This is not only illogical, it is dangerous to our democratic process," said Richard Kimball, president of Project Vote Smart.
Kimball said political consultants and leaders of both major political parties were telling their candidates to not answer Vote Smart's National Political Awareness Test for fear opponents will use or distort their answers while campaigning against them.
"They would rather force voters to go to the polls without the crucial information needed for self-governance than to expose themselves to their opponents," Kimball said.
Neither President Bush nor Democratic challenger John Kerry answered the questionnaire.
Kansas candidates' no-comment rate to Project Vote Smart, which is led by Republicans and Democrats, was about the same as the rest of the nation.
Of the 296 candidates in Kansas for Congress and Legislature, 65 percent refused to answer questions on major issues, the report showed.
Forty-four percent of Kansas candidates for U.S. Senate and U.S. House failed to provide voters with answers to the project, while 66 percent of state legislative candidates didn't. Federal candidates were asked six times for the information; state candidates, three times.
And Kimball noted that any response to the questionnaire was considered an answer, including if candidates said they didn't want to answer a particular question.
|Here is a sample question from the 2004 Congressional National Political Awareness Test operated by Project Vote Smart.Indicate which principles you support (if any) regarding abortion.a) Abortions should always be illegal.b) Abortions should always be legal.c) Abortions should be legal only within the first trimester of pregnancy.d) Abortions should be legal when the pregnancy resulted from incest or rape.e) Abortions should be legal when the life of the woman is endangered.f) Prohibit the dilation and extraction procedure, also known as "partial-birth" abortion.g) Prohibit public funding of abortions and of organizations that advocate or perform abortions.h) Other or expanded principles|
Despite the refusals, Project Vote Smart has amassed information on each candidate, including campaign finances, interest group voting records, and speeches and public statements.
Kimball also released a list of examples of what some candidates said when they refused to answer their questionnaires.
State Rep. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin, "was very rude," according to a written transcript of a phone call from Project Vote Smart. "He said that the questions/responses are too skewed. I told him there was space at the bottom of every section where he could write in things, he interrupted and said 'I'm NOT going to fill it out' and then hung up."
Holland said he didn't mean to be rude, but had already decided not to fill out the questionnaire because the questions seemed too restrictive.
"I'm an elected official and I have a record, so I figured that's the best indicator of where I'm at," he said.
In another written transcript provided by Project Vote Smart, staffers in U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore's office said they wouldn't answer the questionnaire because they had done so before and the answers were used against them by an opponent.
Kimball conceded that often answers from the questionnaires were taken out of context or presented in a negative light by an opponent.
"We are used now in attack ads all over the country," he said.
He said Republicans and Democrats on the group's board often contacted campaigns and told them to stop misusing the information in televised attack ads.
But, he said, voters should try to tune out the 30-second ads and research the candidates through the Project Vote Smart database.
|CongressSenateU.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-TopekaHouse District 1U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran, R-HaysDistrict 2Nancy Boyda, D-TopekaDistrict 3U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, D-LenexaRichard Wells, Reform-OlatheDistrict 4Michael Kinard, D-WichitaU.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-GoddardKansas LegislatureHouse District 10Rep. Tom Holland, D-BaldwinDistrict 45Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-LawrenceDistrict 46Rep. Paul Davis, D-LawrenceDistrict 47Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-OzawkieSenate District 2Sen. Mark Buhler, R-LawrenceJim Mullins, Reform-LawrenceSource: Project Vote SmartHere are statewide and local candidates who answered the Project Vote Smart questionnaire:CongressU.S. SenateLee Jones, D-LenexaGeorge Cook, Reform-MissionSteven Rosile, Libertarian-WichitaU.S. HouseDistrict 1Jack Warner, Libertarian-WrightDistrict 2Dennis Hawver, Libertarian-OzawkieU.S. Rep. Jim Ryun, R-LawrenceDistrict 3Joseph Bellis, Libertarian-Overland ParkKris Kobach, R-Overland ParkDistrict 4David Loomis, Libertarian-WichitaKansas LegislatureHouseDistrict 10Rich Lorenzo, R-LawrenceRobert Garrard, Libertarian-EdgertonDistrict 45Rep. Tom Sloan, R-LawrencePatrick Wilbur, Libertarian-LawrenceSenateDistrict 2Marci Francisco, D-LawrenceDistrict 3Jan Justice, D-Bonner SpringsRoger Pine, R-LawrenceProject Vote Smart's edition of "The Voter's Self-Defense Manual" is available at www.vote-smart.orgA toll free number for the voter's research hot line is (888) VOTE-SMART|