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Mark Keesling is an Oklahoma FreedomWorks Member.
Oklahomans are presented with two self-proclaimed conservatives running for the Senate seat vacated by Senator Don Nickles this year. However, one of these self-proclamations seems to be at odds with the facts. In my effort to determine just how conservative these candidates really are, I consulted data accumulated by FreedomWorks and the National Taxpayer’s Union (NTU).
FreedomWorks is a non-profit organization that advocates economic freedom. In order to differentiate those candidates that support limited government from those that do not, FreedomWorks conducted the 2004 Candidate Survey and asked a handful of straight-forward questions on the key economic issues facing America. Republican nominee Doctor Tom Coburn filled out the survey and committed to a bold conservative agenda:
* Continued aggressive action towards Social Security reform that includes Personal Retirement Accounts without cutting benefits or raising taxes
* Fundamental reform of the tax code to include making permanent the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts
* Federal tort reform to end lawsuit abuse
* Welfare reform that strengthens the work/training requirements as proposed by President Bush
* School choice scholarships for kids in Washington, D.C.
In contrast, his opponent Brad Carson refused to complete the FreedomWorks Candidate Survey and leaves Oklahomans wondering where he stands.
Moreover, Carson’s congressional record is anything but conservative. FreedomWorks’s Economic Scorecard examines Representative’s votes on key economic issues. Over the past year, Brad Carson received a dismal 18 percent. He rejected the President’s tax cuts, voted against limiting lawsuit abuse, and opposed reauthorizing the 1996 welfare reforms. Worst of all, Carson has had the most liberal economic record in Oklahoma for the past four years.
NTU, a watchdog group dedicated to reducing government spending, agrees with FreedomWorks’s assessment of Carson’s record. NTU ranks congressional members by how much government spending they voted for during that year, and during the 3 full-years ('01-'03) that Brad Carson has served in Congress, he voted for more spending than 60% of the other members of the House of Representatives. Of the 11 Oklahoma congressmen that have served since 1992 (the earliest NTU data available electronically), Brad Carson's average-spending rank is the second worst, surpassed only by Mike Synar, the 2nd district congressman that Tom Coburn defeated in 1994.
In contrast, Doctor Tom Coburn’s record is exemplary. During the six years (’95-’01) he served in the House of Representatives, his average rank with NTU was 39.33, putting him among the lowest spending 40 of the 435 members of the House of Representatives.
If conservatism means anything, it surely means avoiding expanding the size of government and the impact it has on our lives. However, by this measure, universally accepted as a fundamental component of conservatism, it would appear that Brad Carson’s congressional voting history to date provides very little support for a claim to his being conservative. Moreover, Doctor Tom Coburn has signed the FreedomWorks Candidate Survey, pledging to defend limited government. Brad Carson, on the other hand, refuses to even respond to the survey, let alone promise to protect economic freedom.
Hopefully, all Oklahomans concerned about the expansion of government are as aware of the senatorial candidates’ voting records as their rhetoric. With a senate such as the one we have today, so evenly split that it still blocks fiscally conservative legislative attempts emanating from the House of Representatives, Oklahomans should know which candidates actually stand for individual liberty.