by Andrew Walden (Originally published June 2, 2010)
Gubernatorial candidate Neil Abercrombie says: “This election will be a referendum on leadership.”
Fascinating. What do Abercrombie’s nearly 20 years in Congress say?
“Abercrombie is a follower according to our statistical analysis of bills in this legislative session. Abercrombie tends to cosponsor the bills of other Members of Congress who do not cosponsor Abercrombie’s own bills.”
The 2008 (most recent year available) power scores of House members range between zero and Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 97.30. Abercrombie's 16.39 places him in the 17th percentile after 18 years in Congress.
According to Congress.org, Abercrombie’s “power score” made him the most ineffectual Democrat among the members of Congress first elected in 1986. Abercrombie's score was only 43% of the average 1986 Democrat. Even with Republicans in the minority, Abercrombie’s power is only 82% of the average 1986 Republican. Four out of the five 1986 Republicans outranked Abercrombie.
But of course Abercrombie is a member of the class of 1986 solely because he served for a few months after winning the 1986 Special Election against Mufi Hannemann and Patsy Saiki. That year, Abercrombie lost the concurrent Democratic Primary and the Republican Saiki won the one-on-one November faceoff with Hannemann. Abercrombie returned to Congress only in 1990 when he won the seat that Saiki vacated to run unsuccessfully for Senate.
But comparing Abercrombie to the class of 1990 doesn’t help him much. According to Congress.org figures, Abercrombie’s power score would be 17th out of 20 House members first elected in 1990. He beats two Republicans and one Democrat, none of whom survived the 2008 election.
The only one of the three beaten by Abercrombie not tainted by scandal was anti-war Republican Wayne Gilchrest who had only a 8.07 power score. Ostracized by his own party and out of step with his Annapolis, MD district, Gilchrest was defeated 44% – 32% in the 2008 Republican Primary by Maryland GOP State Senator Andy Harris who then proceeded to lose the seat to a Democrat.
Abercrombie outranks only two other House members of the class of 1990:
- California Republican John Doolittle, whose home was raided in 2007 by the FBI as part of an Abramoff-related corruption probe. (Power Score: 3.56)
- Louisiana Democrat William Jefferson, who took $90,000 cash as part of a videotaped FBI sting operation and put it in his freezer. (Power Score 0.04)
Abercrombie also outranks one Senator from the class of 1990: Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig who was caught in 2007 looking for gay sex in a public restroom at the Minneapolis Airport. Craig’s power score is 4.34.
Most of Abercrombie’s power score derives from his position a Chair of a House subcommittee. Challenged on his lack of executive experience by his Democrat primary opponent, Mufi Hannemann, Abercrombie’s campaign website argues:
In January 2007, Neil was named Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Air and Land Forces that oversees the U.S. Army and Air Force operations, budget, and equipment and weapons system procurement. In this role, Neil was responsible for a budget of over $100 billion, and worked with Republicans and Democrats. Neil made it a point to seek consensus and is widely praised by his colleagues on both sides for his fairness, intelligence and commitment to the public good.
Having a position is one thing, using it effectively is another. Abercrombie’s 2008 ranking for “influence” had him in the 79th percentile—after 18 years. By comparison, Mazie Hirono, after only one term in Congress, ranks in the 83rd percentile.
For “legislative activity” Abercrombie and Hirono were tied in the 36th percentile with a rating of 1.0. By this measure, 18 years of Abercrombie experience is equivalent to two years of Mazie Hirono’s experience.
Since rising to Chair in 2007, Abercrombie became effective at “earmarking” -- placing 77th out of 435 in 2008. But that year Mazie Hirono did even more and came in 35th. She earmarked 47 projects costing taxpayers $62,725,290. For 2009 Abercrombie ranked number one inserting 44 projects costing taxpayers $256.8M.
This earned him a nomination as CAGW’s 2009 Porker of the Year. As Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) explained:
Named August’s Porker, Rep. Abercrombie ranked first in earmarks in the House in fiscal year (FY) 2009 with 44 projects worth $256.8 million; he routinely abuses an already-stretched Pentagon budget to reward favored contractors and supports funding a wasteful and unnecessary alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter.
Earmarks also helped Abercrombie’s Gubernatorial campaign. CBS News reported November 25, 2009:
Congressman Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii awarded Pacific Biodiesel a $3.5 million earmark to try to grow fuel for the Army in Hawaii. It turns out the founder of Pacific Biodiesel is a co-chair of the Congressman's gubernatorial campaign.
Seniority helps in Congress, but it means nothing in the Governor’s office.
In 2002 Hawaii voters rejected Mazie Hirono as Governor. If one strips out Abercrombie’s seniority-based position and considers only “influence” and “legislative activity”, one can conclude that year-for-year Mazie Hirono is nearly nine times more effective than Neil Abercrombie.
HOW ABERCROMBIE and HIRONO RANK (Congress.org figures for 2008, most recent available)
- Hirono: 10.50 (341 out of 435) in 2008 (after 2 years)
- Abercrombie 16.39 (213 out of 435) in 2008 (after 18+ years)
(How long in office, committee assignments and leadership)
- Hirono: 18.14 (238 out of 435) in 2008 (after 2 years)
- Abercrombie: 27.93 (154 out of 435) in 2008 (after 18+ years)
- Hirono: 35th of 435 with 47 projects costing taxpayers $62,725,290 (after 2 years)
- Abercrombie: 77th of 435 with 26 projects costing taxpayers $58,987,900 (after 18+ years)
(Influence votes through media, caucuses or giving money to other members)
- Hirono: 0.38 83rd percentile in 2008 (after 2 years)
- Abercrombie: 0.88 79th percentile in 2008 (after 18+ years)
(Power of legislator in being able to amend legislation, excluding ceremonial or technical amendments or nonbinding resolutions)
- Hirono: 1.0 (36th percentile) (after 2 years)
- Abercrombie: 1.0 (36th percentile) (after 18+ years)