Adelaide Kimball is senior advisor and founding board member of Vote Smart, a non-partisan research group whose mission it is to provide free, factual, unbiased information on about 40,000 individuals in office. This means they track at the presidential level, gubernatorial candidates and incumbents, members of Congress, as well as state legislatures. They also go down to the county and local level with basic information concerning who represents you and how you can contact them.
Vote Smart began in the late 1980's. Some involved were voters, some were former candidates and elected officials, while others were teachers, lawyers, journalists and even housewives. The idea was to liberate voters from having to listen to and depend upon the candidates, parties and special interests for factual information about the issues that people care about.
Next they gathered what Adelaide referred to as a resume for candidates. They looked at campaigns as job applications. In other words, as candidates applied for these 'jobs' they felt that they should be willing to show up with a 'resume', show up for the 'interview', and explain how they would do the job for the voter.
Vote Smart then felt that this information should be free and easy to obtain regardless of whether they're liberal or conservative, and that anyone would be able to trust that the information they were obtaining on the candidates is factual and had no hidden agenda.
This was all put together in 1990. While being staffed by college interns and volunteers, by 1992 they had a toll—free phone number and anyone could call to ask a question about any race in the country.
Adelaide stressed that in order to make sure that the reality and the perception of independence and non-partisanship was being followed, they put in 3 protections:
--Funding—They decided from the start they wouldn't accept the kind of support candidates receive. Funding would only come from individuals or foundations that don't have corporate ties. In other words, no special interests, no labor or corporate money or funding from any organization that lobbies the government on any issue at any level.
--A balanced group of members on the board—The list has included President's Carter and Ford, Barry Goldwater, George McGovern, John McCain and Michael Dukakis who is still on the board. When someone leaves the board, that person is replaced with someone from the same ideological realm to maintain balance.
--What little money that is raised goes straight into their programs with minimal salaries. Adelaide described the situation as a sort of 'Peace Corp' effort where you commit to a couple of years and then consider yourself as having done your part for the common good.
You can contact Vote Smart at their website or by calling their toll-free phone number listed below. Either way you can obtain their Voter Self-Defense Manual, a free pamphlet that is full of important data that they've obtained on members of Congress.
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