WASHINGTON — Cory Gardner of Yuma was ranked as the 57th most pro-growth member of the House of Representatives by the influential conservative interest group Club for Growth. Scott Tipton of Cortez was ranked the 112th.
In a chamber with 435 members, being rated in the top quarter might be cause for a toast. Yet each Republican bristled when asked his reaction to the ranking.
“Nobody knows the district like my own constituents,” Gardner said in an interview, a suggestion that the voters in his eastern Plains district are better judges of pro-growth policies than those of a Washington, D.C.-based pressure group. Gardner coasted to re-election in the 4th Congressional District last November with the support of 58.4 percent of voters. He noted that National Journal magazine ranked him recently as the 10th most conservative member of the House.
“As a state legislator, I recognized my duty was to the voters in my district. And I won by 13 points (last year), so I have not paid attention to this scorecard,” Tipton said in an interview, referring to his 53.4 to 41.1 victory over Democratic contender Sal Pace in the 3rd Congressional District. He added that his ranking from another conservative group, Americans for Prosperity, was higher than that from the Club for Growth.
Gardner was dinged for voting to extend the student loan subsidy for one year and and not to cap the amount of a transportation spending bill for one year. Titpon failed to receive points for voting to allow the Commerce Department to impose new import taxes.
In a session of Congress in which the legislative branch voted on big-ticket items such as the repeal of Obamacare and the fiscal cliff deal, each of those three votes was relatively minor. Yet they added up to reduce each member’s score. Gardner’s was 86 percent, Tipton 74 percent.
The annual Club for Growth scorecard is respected by many conservatives. Its yardstick measures the degree to which they are faithful to libertarian economic policy.
Some conservative intellectuals accuse the group of showing more fidelity to big business than the free market, noting that Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and hedge fund manager, is a major contributor.
Yet the organization scores members of Congress on their opposition to new spending and tax increases rather than to their leadership on particular votes. For example, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet was a major co-sponsor of legislation to ease SEC financial requirements to invest in Internet start-up companies, but received as many points on his scorecard as members who simply voted for the bill.
Many findings of the scorecard were not a surprise.
Rep. Doug Lamborn was ranked as the 6th most pro-growth member, earning a rating of 97 percent. “I have a lot of friends at the Club for Growth, so the fact that I’m at the near top of the rankings means a lot to me. It’s an honor,” the Colorado Springs Republican said in an interview.
Rep. Diana DeGette came in in 331st place, a ranking that did not shock the Denver Democrat. “Did I get zero percent?” she asked with tongue in cheek. In fact, she got 17 percent.
Colorado’s two Democratic senators, Mark Udall and Bennet, also received low marks from the group: 13 percent and 16 percent, respectively. Udall was the 66th least pro-growth lawmaker in the 100-member Senate, while Bennet came in in 58th place. Spokesmen for Udall and Bennet did not respond to email requests for comment.
Rounding out the rest of the Colorado delegation were representatives Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) at 74 percent, Jared Polis (D-Boulder) at 27 percent, and Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) at 21 percent.
The Club for Growth did not intervene in any of the seven congressional races in Colorado last year. And its record of supporting and opposing candidates was mixed. It helped Ted Cruz win a Republican Senate primary in Texas last year and defeat his Democratic opponent in the general; it also supported Richard Mourdock of Indiana defeat Senate incumbent Richard Lugar in the primary, but Mourdock lost the general election.
Yet the Club for Growth is one of the larger super PACs in national politics. It poured $16,584,305.80 into federal races last year, according to the Sunlight Foundation.