Special interest groups that rate how conservative or liberal congressmen are recently released their latest score cards. Not surprisingly, most Utah congressmen are seen as conservative.
Make that very conservative.Better yet, ultraconservative.
The exception is Rep. Wayne Owens, the only Democratic congressman from Utah. The ratings show he is considered to be as far left as his other Utah colleagues are to the right.
But maybe Owens' timing is good, as far as national politics are concerned. Ratings from the groups show that Congress is more liberal now than at any time since the Lyndon B. Johnson administration.
For example, the scorecard from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action gives congressmen a rating from 0 to 100, according to how they voted on key liberal issues. The higher the score, the more liberal the congressman.
The average score in the House was 51 the highest in two decades. Owens had a relatively high score of 76. Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, had an ultralow rating of 4 and Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, had an 8.
Utah's senators also had low liberal ratings. Both Republican Sens. Jake Garn and Orrin Hatch had ratings of 5. The average score for senators was 53.
Verifying that Utah congressmen indeed are conservative are the ratings from the American Conservative Union. Its scores also range from 0 to 100, but the higher the score the more conservative the congressman.
The average score for House members last year was a low 35. Owens received a 0 the lowest possible, placing him as far left on the political spectrum as possible. In contrast, Nielson had a high rating of 87 and Hansen had an even higher score of 95.
In the Senate, Hatch received a 92 and Garn a 96. Their combined score meant Utah's representation in the Senate was the most conservative of any state, according to the ACU. The ACU's average score was 40.
Local congressmen have varying opinions about how accurate the ratings are, and what they could mean to voters.
For example, Kathleene Gallegos, Hansen's press secretary, said, "Jim is delighted with his ratings. He is not liberal, he is very conservative. That reflects mainstream Utah and people in the 1st District."
But does being ultraconservative make it difficult to get work done in a liberal Congress? "It makes it harder, but the minority can still be effective. For example, it has modified a lot of legislation."
Art Kingdom, press secretary to Owens, said he is disappointed that the ratings paint Owens as such an extreme liberal. "It will undoubtedly be used as ammunition during the upcoming campaign, but Wayne can credibly make the case that his votes reflect a responsible conservative position on numerous issues."
He said the Americans for Democratic Action or the American Conservative Union use different votes to determine their ratings, and 2nd District voters may consider other votes to be even more important and find that Owens represented them well on those issues.
Two other groups have also released ratings designed to show how pro-labor or pro-business certain congressmen are. That could help or hurt their fund raising with such political action groups.
Again, not surprisingly, all Utah congressmen except Owens are seen as anti-labor and pro-business.
For example, the AFL-CIO labor union's rating give Owens a 93 out of 100 showing a strong pro-union voting record. But it gave Nielson a 13 and Hansen a lowest-possible 0. The average in the House was 59. Garn had a 10 and Hatch had an 11. The average in the Senate was a 48.
And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gave Owens a 31 showing a fairly low pro-business voting rec-ord. Nielson had an 87 and Hansen a 95. The average in the House was 52.
In the Senate, Hatch had a 92 and Garn a 96. Their combined score again showed that Utah's representation is the most pro-business of any state. The average score per senator was only 52.