The League of Conservation Voters has given out its annual environmental scorecard, and New York House members scored fairly well, with an average of 88 percent. The national average, according to the LCV’s website, was 57 percent.
But of all New York House members, Gary Ackerman scored amongst the lowest: 60 percent, just three points higher than the national average.
Along with Bill Owens, Ackerman was the lowest scoring New York Democrat in the House of Representatives. 17 other New York House members scored 100 percent, as did the state’s senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. But unlike Owens, Ackerman never voted for what the LCV would call an “anti-environment action.” Owens voted negatively on four separate occasions.
“I voted for and supported 100 percent of their agenda,” Ackerman said in a statement. “I did not vote against anything they scored. (They scored several votes on the few times I was not on the floor, but supported).”
According to LCV representative Kate Geller, the League doesn’t count good intentions.
“When you miss a vote, it’s counted as not voting for the pro-environment vote,” Geller said. “Every vote is scored over whether you voted pro-environment or not.”
But with that criteria comes the question of how effective a measurement the scorecard actually is. A congressmen could be absent for any number of reasons–illness, personal issues–that would have no effect on how they feel about a particular cause. Conversely, a vote of “no” is just that.
“Obviously there are a lot of gray areas when it comes to scoring absences,” said Geller. “Our organization doesn’t try to figure out which are legitimate and which are not, so it’s just automatically a zero on that particular vote.”
So can this score be considered a reasonable assessment of Ackerman’s friendliness toward the environment? Even by the LCV’s own reckoning Ackerman hasn’t had a history of environmentally irresponsible actions–since 1999 the congressman hasn’t scored below an 80 on their exams–and he’s right when he says all of the votes he was present for were in support of LCV causes. The score probably says less about Ackerman’s position on environmental issues, and more on the poor methodology of the LCV’s scorecard.