Marquette Wire

Voters surf to non-partisan politics

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Wisconsin’s primary for the 2004 presidential election, which is scheduled for February, has a crowded field of candidates. President Bush is the only nationally-known Republican seeking the party’s nomination, but on the Democratic side, nine prominent candidates are pursuing the nomination.

To clear up some of the confusion and in hopes of creating a more informed electorate, several Web sites offer information about candidates, from Bush to the Prohibition Party’s nominee.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re George W. Bush or some average Joe running for president, we treat all candidates the same,” said Brian Tagliaferro, national director of Project Vote Smart, which runs It was founded in 1992.

The Web site offers information on a candidate’s background, interest group rating, voting record, campaign finance and issue positions, he said. Project Vote Smart is a non-profit and non-partisan information source.

“We don’t accept money from lobbyist groups or any group that supports an issue or candidate,” he said. also does not allow candidates to advertise on its site nor does the group endorse candidates, Tagliaferro said.

Project Vote Smart gets its information on candidates’ stances on issues from the National Political Awareness Test. The test asks candidates multiple-choice questions on issues and leaves room for free-response answers if the candidate feels the options do not reflect his or her views, Tagliaferro said. People can take the tests on the site and compare themselves with candidates who have taken the test.

Offering a different approach to providing information is Ron Gunzburger, publisher of The non-partisan site started in late 1997 for the 1998 campaign season and offers information about candidates compiled from news reports, candidate interviews and statements and the candidate’s Web sites, Gunzburger said. also offers Gunzburger’s analysis of how a candidate’s campaign looks and lists endorsements the candidate has received. Gunzburger’s site is run on individual donations and advertising revenues.

He said the site is just finishing its pledge drive, receiving donations from $3 to $100.

“We don’t have the same policy (about who can or cannot donate), but no one contribution was enough to sway my opinion,” he said. The site does display ads for candidates but does not endorse them.’s “information is more detailed, mine is more current,” Gunzburger said. For example, he said, sometimes lists candidates in an election only after the filing date for that election, whereas Gunzburger updates candidate lists as soon as he hears a new candidate is running, he said.

His site also offers links related to the candidate, including the “positive and official” campaign links in addition to negative links.

Republican Party of Wisconsin spokesman Chris Lato said the party offers similar information about its own candidates on three Web sites: the Republican National Committee,; the National Republican Congressional Caucus,; and the National Republican Senatorial Caucus,

“In general, and I’m not talking about (, some organizations bill themselves as non-partisan but they aren’t,” Lato said. “My advice to students is to take it with a grain of salt. A lot of these groups have an agenda.”

Assistant professor of political science Andrew Barrett said voters should not rely on only one source when researching a candidate.

“There isn’t any one-stop shopping out there,” Barrett said. “There is no one source. You need to put the effort in.”

“For the most part, candidates’ Web sites are pretty straight forward and there’s not much bashing” of their opponents, said Seth Boffeli, spokesman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

“In the next coming weeks and months more and more of these candidates will be here in our state, in Milwaukee especially,” Boffeli said. (Voters should) “go listen to them, hear them and make up their minds that way.”

Wisconsin’s presidential primary is Feb. 17, and the general presidential election is Nov. 2.

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