US Voter Guides Proliferated by Interest-Group Politics, Including Marc Emery’s!

WASHINGTON – It’s generally easy to learn where political candidates stand on Iraq or the budget deficit. But what if you want their views or voting records on organic farming, mountain biking or marijuana laws? Enter the specialized voter guide, produced by interest groups large and small.
Scroll down for the bold section regarding Marc Emery’s Voter Guide.

Inspired by the Christian Coalition’s influential guides focusing on issues of interest to social conservatives, these publications aim to pin down answers to questions that don’t always get asked along the campaign trail. Unlike the candidate background materials put out by the League of Women Voters and many daily newspapers, such Web-based guides seldom strive for balance.

“They’re attempting to provide information that will make it very clear what the organization supports,” said Steven Clift, founder and board chairman of, a nonpartisan project based in Minneapolis and devoted to the interaction between the Internet and democracy. As a result, Clift joked, “Voters need a guide to voter guides.”

The lobbying arm of the Organic Consumers Association (, which focuses on organic and sustainable food and farming, recently put out its first voter guide. It asked candidates in federal and state races across the country whether organics deserve a “fair share” — at least 2.5 percent — of all government spending on agriculture, as well as whether elected officials should more aggressively assess harm from pesticides.

Ronnie Cummins, director of the Finland, Minn., association, said the guide arose because many lawmakers “are woefully ignorant” of organic consumers. He said he hopes it eventually can offer a comprehensive look at politicians’ views. “We knew this first time around, we were mainly going to get a response from third-party candidates and incumbents with safe seats, because they’re taking a risk to expose themselves, taking a stand on such a broad range of issues,” Cummins said.

Members of Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (, a group of more than 500 mountain bikers in the Washington, D.C., area, decided to poll Maryland state and county lawmakers after doing a similar survey in Virginia last year. Candidates were asked whether the state provides enough mountain bike access, whether more money should be spent to expand and maintain trails and even whether they’d be interested in coming for a ride with the group.

“Our members need to be politically active because mountain biking often involves public lands issues,” said association spokesman Mark Wigfield of Washington. “This is a way to build a relationship with lawmakers.”

The association received 39 responses from candidates in 22 races. Among them was Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich, who touted his success in getting money for more trails and said he’d gladly take a ride with the group “after my re-election.”

The Olympia, Wash.-based Washington Restaurant Association ( also is using its guide to foster warmer relations with state lawmakers. Although the guide doesn’t endorse candidates, it bestows a “Hero” or “Special Thanks” designation on several in addition to providing their votes on 13 bills seen as important to the food and beverage industry. “We singled them out because a voting record alone isn’t enough to know how hard they work for us,” said Trent House, the association’s director of government affairs.

Marc EmeryMarc EmeryVancouver, British Columbia, marijuana activist Marc Emery was not so generous in his voter guide assessing all 435 U.S. House members ( He assigned failing grades to 265, with only 94 receiving a B-plus or better on issues such as medical marijuana, the Iraq war and renewing the USA Patriot Act anti-terrorism law.

Emery has a personal interest in the U.S. political climate. He was indicted in July 2005 in Seattle on charges of conspiring to manufacture marijuana, launder money and traffic millions of marijuana seeds into the United States. He has been fighting extradition to the U.S.

Emery said he hopes his guide inspires U.S. readers to become more politically active. “The more you invest in the process, the more you’ll pay attention,” he said. “All the people who are copying and who received this guide, they’re going to watch to see what the (election) results are.”

Not every guide compiler takes the job so seriously. In 2004, New York City oenophile and blogger Tyler Colman ( put out a humorous guide to the presidential election for wine lovers. Colman ranked President Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry in 13 categories, from wine preference (Bush was “teetotaler,” while Kerry was “presumably French”) to wine for the candidate’s public image (Bush was a “big, bold Aussie shiraz” while Kerry was a “subtle white Burgundy”). “I actually got a huge amount of interest. … Many political blogs linked to it and it received a lot of page views,” Colman recalled.

– Story from Newhouse News Service

– To see Marc Emery’s Voter’s Guide and watch his short campaign video, please go here: