- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008

Sen. John McCain has not answered the issues questionnaire for a voter-information research group that the Arizona senator and Republican presidential front-runner serves as a founding board member.

Other lawmakers who had been serving on the Project Vote Smart (PVS) board but did not answer the group’s queries have been removed and Mr. McCain risks the same result, according to the project’s president.

“It’s a little embarrassing for us,” said Richard Kimball, president of the research organization, which provides nonpartisan information on incumbents and candidates for public office at its site, www.vote-smart.org. “We hope all the candidates will change their mind and provide the information.”

Only three of the 17 major-party candidates answered the questionnaire — former Sens. John Edwards and Mike Gravel, and Sen. Christopher J. Dodd. The questionnaires were sent in September and candidates were asked to answer within six weeks. PVS released the test results in November.

A McCain campaign spokesman said his boss does not intend to snub the group and the questionnaire was likely just overlooked because of the hectic campaign schedule.

“I don’t think it’s intentional,” said Brian Rogers. “We have been focused on the primaries and apparently there was a delay.”

Mike Wessler, media director for PVS, also told The Washington Times that the McCain team told him that the questionnaire likely slipped through the cracks because of major restructuring and personnel turnover in the campaign.

Mr. Kimball said he was not sure of the consequences of what the group’s site called Mr. McCain’s “repeated refusal” to answer the questionnaire, but he said that if Mr. McCain doesn’t take the test, he may be removed from the board in the next board meeting in February. There have been 22 attempted contacts between PVS and the McCain campaign, according to PVS call logs.

Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, and former Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey have been removed from the board in the past because they refused to answer similar questionnaires. Mr. Bradley was removed from the board during his 2000 Democratic presidential-primary campaign.

Since PVS has just completed an updated Voter’s Self-Defense System by putting its final databases online, Mr. Kimball said voters can learn politicians’ stances on issues no matter they are willing to provide it or not.

The latest system enables voters to track every public statement made by political figures in a key-word searchable database. It also keeps voting records in each state legislature and converts them into simple terms for easy searching.

“The whole defense system is to defend citizens from the self-serving, manipulative, nonsense these candidates bombard the voters,” said Mr. Kimball, whose group was established in the 1990s by politicians, students and volunteers who were unsatisfied with the direction American politics was heading.

“Both parties attempt to attack their opponents and twist information,” Mr. Kimball said about the 2008 presidential campaign. “It’s becoming very confusing to citizens.”

Besides the Web database, PVS is visiting 150 American cities with its bus, described as an “enormous mobile classroom” by Mr. Kimball, to spread the organization’s mission. The tour began in Chicago on Jan. 5 and aims to travel 25,000 miles across the nation by November, Mr. Wessler said. The bus is in Northern California this week.

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