A group that promotes fiscal conservatism has identified Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., among politicians it says are "hostile" to taxpayer interests.
The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste is the lobbying arm for Citizens Against Government Waste, based in Washington, D.C. The group tracks congressional votes on what it considers to be "wasteful" programs. Its latest report said Titus cast fiscally conservative votes on just 4 percent of bills it rated for 2009.
The report's average rating for members of the House of Representatives was 31 percent.
"Lawmakers' recent attempts to spend their way out of the nation's fiscal crisis have only backfired, as the national debt has exploded past $13 trillion and the unemployment rate hovers at 9.5 percent," the report states. "Despite these results, Congress forged ahead with tax-and-spend policies in 2009, ignoring the massive public outcry for fiscal restraint from teapartiers, townhallers and grassroots activists."
The group rated 120 House votes, including votes on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or economic stimulus bill, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a health reform bill referred to derisively as "Obamacare" in the report.
"We thought there was a better way to improve health care which did not include a vast expansion of the government," said Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, which has published congressional ratings since 1990.
Among Nevada's members of the House of Representatives, Titus is the only one facing a tight re-election challenge. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., received ratings of 96 and 2 percent, respectively.
Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., were rated at 96 and 4 percent, respectively, on 74 votes.
Lawmakers rated 0 percent to 19 percent were considered "hostile" to taxpayer interests, according to the group.
Titus' Republican opponent, former state Sen. Joe Heck, has criticized her votes in favor of the health care bill, the stimulus and other spending proposals.
Heck said he would have voted against the stimulus bill, which was originally estimated to cost $787 billion.
He said it hasn't delivered on the promise of reducing unemployment.
"It is this idea of trying to come up with these Band-Aid fixes to gain political points," Heck said of the bill. "Until we can energize the private sector we are not going to get out of this recession."
Andrew Stoddard, a spokesman for Titus, said she was returning from Washington, D.C., to Nevada on Tuesday and was unavailable to comment on the rating.
Stoddard said the Citizens Against Government Waste ratings were incomplete because they didn't include all of Titus' votes.
"This scorecard is far from comprehensive," Stoddard said in an e-mail. "It leaves out critical votes that aim to set our country on a fiscally responsible path for the long term, such as reforming the defense procurement process that wastes nearly $300 billion in cost overruns, reinstituting PAYGO rules that require the government to save a dollar to spend a dollar, and blocking pay raises for members of Congress -- all efforts Congresswoman Titus supported."
He pointed to an extensive Congressional rating earlier this year by National Journal, which grouped Titus with centrist members of the House.
David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report, says most voters in Nevada's Congressional District 3 have made up their minds when it comes to Titus, particularly over hot button issues such as the stimulus and health care.
Her challenge is to define Heck, Wasserman said.
"She has to argue that Joe Heck will take tax policy back to the Bush years and cut taxes to multi-millionaires," Wasserman said. "It may not be enough to save her."
Polls show Titus and Heck are neck and neck, with the Cook Political Report rating the race a tossup and Real Clear Politics scoring it as leaning Republican.
The rating from the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste covers just one year of Titus' first two-year term in Congress. Titus, a former state senator and gubernatorial candidate in Nevada, has received some praise from fiscal conservatives during her time in the state Legislature.
In 2008, conservative political consultant, columnist and commentator Chuck Muth rated Titus ahead of some Republicans in the Legislature.
Muth gave Titus a score of 50, higher than former Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, who is now chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, and Senate minority leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno. Heck rated a 57, based on votes during the 2007 legislative session. The lowest score in the state Senate was 32 and the highest 68.
Although Citizens Against Government Waste has been widely cited as leading the charge against wasteful spending, it also has its share of critics.
In 2006, the St. Petersburg Times in Florida highlighted the group in a series called "Lobbying Under Disguise."
The series pointed out the group took money from avocado and tobacco growers and other special interest groups and then lobbied on behalf of those interests.
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3861.