How do I know if my elected representatives are doing a good job?
October 18, 2007 6:35 PM   Subscribe

How can I, a US citizen, be more informed about my lawmakers' decisions and whether they're doing a good job? I have an example that I wonder about intensely, today's Senate Intelligence Committee meeting.

I think the telecom companies who helped the government wiretap us without warrants should be held responsible. The Bush administration doesn't. The Senate has a bill in review that gives retroactive immunity to any criminal activity by the telecom companies.

I'm lucky that one of my senators,Bill Nelson (FL), is on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which met today "in a closed session" to review that very bill. I called his office yesterday to express my ideas and explain why it's a bad idea to let telcom off the hook.

Well the committee meeting is over and another senator managed to put a serious road-block in front of the bill, but I want to know what my senator did to stop it, if anything. But, how?

Is there some effort like what the UK has in They Work For You . com, but for US citizens? How can that huge mess at Capital Hill be less opaque to us common men? How can I know whether my representative is worthy of my vote?
posted by cmiller to Law & Government (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A few resources that you may find helpful . . .
posted by cac at 6:48 PM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

How can I know whether my representative is worthy of my vote?

Just keep in mind that the entire system is constructed for the sole and complete purpose of making that determination as difficult as possible.

IMO, looking too hard at the process is pointless unless you're deeply embroiled, because so much of it isn't obvious. The Committee meeting today was almost certainly a bullshit spectacle, with the outcome preordained because of backroom deals and favors various people called in.

The best that an average citizen can do is analyze the entire process as a sort of 'black box.' Look at what goes in (candidates that you elect) and what comes out (legislation), and evaluate the former against the latter. If the output under a group of politicians sucks, then they sucked; get rid of the lot of them and try somebody else. Getting tied up in the process (and believing various claims of "but I tried" come election-time) are what keeps career shysters in business.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:47 PM on October 18, 2007

Try Project Vote Smart.
posted by scottso17 at 7:24 PM on October 20, 2007

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