Republicans trounced Democrats in a scorecard of key technology votes compiled by CNET News.com that illuminates stark differences in the two parties' voting history in the U.S. Congress over nearly a decade.
Senate Republicans scored an average of 61 percent--15 points higher than their Democratic counterparts, who on average scored 46 percent. The gap was mirrored in the ratings garnered by their counterparts in the U.S. House of Representatives, where Republicans boast a 68 percent collective score compared with 52 percent for Democrats.
Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, scored in the bottom half of senators with a lifetime voting rating of 44 percent--thanks in part to his votes on Internet taxes and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. On average, U.S. senators received a score of 53 percent.
Kerry's running mate, John Edwards of North Carolina, was in office long enough to vote on only six of the 10 technology-related bills in the Senate that were ranked in the scorecard. Edwards' rating is 50 percent.
Because the scorecard was limited to congressional votes, neither President Bush nor Vice President Dick Cheney was ranked.
When assembling the scorecard, CNET News.com reviewed important technology bills and selected representative ones ranging from a 1995 vote on the Communications Decency Act to a recent attempt to preserve the current practice of accounting for the cost of stock options. The selection process also solicited input from technology trade associations on key legislative actions over the past decade.
Senators were ranked against 10 key votes over the past 10 years, with scores assigned based on CNET News.com's editorial judgment of the impact of those votes on the technology community at large. A full explanation of the methodology for Senate scores can be found here.
Representatives were similarly ranked against 12 key votes over the past six years. A full explanation of the methodology for House scores can be found here.
One reason why Republicans garnered better scores is that nearly 40 percent of the included votes dealt with taxes and free trade, two topics that tend to break along partisan lines. Trade is especially vital for technology firms; the Information Technology Industry Council says exports represent more than half the revenue of its larger members.
Will Rodger, who tracks Congress for the Computer and Communications Industry Association, said the scorecard's results show that politicians who tout themselves as tech-friendly don't always vote that way. "A lot of our best friends don't really capitalize on their votes," Rodger said. "There are still lots of relationships that tech proponents could cultivate on the Hill."
How the rankings worked
Any political scorecard is necessarily incomplete and somewhat arbitrary. In this case, the majority of technology-related votes aren't suitable for ranking. That's because some decisions, like an October 2001 one on the Internet Tax Nondiscrimination Act, took place by voice vote with no record of how individual members of Congress behaved.