Nonprofit Takes Congressional Scorecard Nationwide through Search

Sometimes a Google search can lead users to information they never knew they wanted. Progressive nonprofit Drum Major Institute (DMI) launched a New York-centric AdWords campaign in March based on that very principle, and now the think tank is taking it nationwide.

Starting today, the group will promote its new scorecard, which grades members of Congress on how well they meet with the DMI’s standards. When users search for a U.S. Senator or Congressperson’s name on Google, they’ll get a sponsored link displaying the lawmaker’s grade and a prompt to view his middle class voting record on the DMI site.

“A lot of the time, the people who most need information don’t necessarily know they’re looking for a certain kind,” suggested DMI Communications Manager Elana Levin, who believes the campaign will help promote transparency in government. “People who aren’t necessarily part of the political sphere…would still find themselves seeing these grades,” she added.

The campaign promotes the group’s new scorecard report, “Congress at the Midterm: Their 2005 Middle-Class Record,” which considers how Members voted on a handful of House and Senate bills in 2005 and grades each according to what DMI determines is positive or negative for the middle class. A search for NY Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel turns up creative that declares he earned a glowing “A” grade, while one for Alaska Republican Senator Ted Stevens displays a disapproving “F.”

A similar effort for DMI’s New York State Legislature scorecard, which launched in March, is still running, even though the organization hadn’t planned to keep it going for so long. “It is so successful and so not expensive,” commented Levin.

However, the Federal legislator campaign will run for just a month since it will, by its nature, be far more costly. It encompasses many more names, thus many more keywords. Plus, Federal officials not only have better name recognition throughout the country, more people are bound to search on their names.

In recognition of the Web’s impact on issue advocacy, the DMI will honor blogger Markos Moulitsas during its annual benefit Thursday for fostering what Levin described as a “very populist force” through his DailyKos site.

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