League of Women Voters
Advocates of Public Discourse or Public Debt?
by Jared B. Adams (PDF here)
At any given moment on Capitol Hill, odds are that you will be able to find a representative of the League of Women Voters (L WV) lobbying away on behalf of her constituency: America’s voting public. Last month, L WV celebrated the 80th anniversary ofits founding. With 130,000 members nationwide, the League achieved prominence as an advocate for citizen education following passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Today it continues to enjoy prestige as one of nation’s preeminent voters’ rights organizations. In the eyes of many, it has a reputation as a neutral “good government” group, and its activities have largely escaped scrutiny. L WV hosts candidate forums for Congressional candidates and state and local officials, and it is perhaps best known for hosting the televised presidential debates. But in 1988, after much wrangl ing by the two major parties, L WV announced that it would no longer sponsor the debates. In the words of th en-president Nancy Neuman, “The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.” An analysis ofLWY’s political agenda suggests the contrary: this apparently benign educational organization is attempting to hoodwink Americans into paying for an expansive and expensive legislative agenda. The organ ization American taxpayers once viewed as an institutional grandmother nurturing politically curious children is in reality a well-heeled Big Sister. Behind LWV’s facade of impartiality lies an agenda that very often has little to do with the organization’s perceived public mission. The group frequently takes positions on issues outside of voting and elections. Among the League’s favorite Associated Press/ AP causes are wealth distribution tluough progressive taxation, federal funding for abortion, nationalized health care and increased aid to international organizations such as the IMF and the United Nations. On these and many other “voters’ issues,” LWV has demanded more spending or increased government regulation. Last November, the League unsuccessfully urged Senators to pass campaign finance reform legis lation to outlaw soft money spending for political advocacy. Then it went on to advocate ratification of the Comprehens ive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The legislative manifesto – highli ghts an array of initiatives. All told, if the LWV legislative agenda were passed, Ameri-