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by Kevin Taylor & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & A & lt;/span & woman called The Inlander last week wondering how a voter gets good intel on judicial candidates. She wanted to know if we'd written anything to illuminate the masses.

Lady, we're just as befuddled as you are. We were hoping to dodge the whole thing. Thanks a lot.

As it turns out, the Spokane County Bar Association offers evaluations of the four district court races; and a progressive statewide group, Citizens To Uphold the Constitution, offers information in state Supreme Court races.

Locally, the bar association ( polls its members -- 910 questionnaires were sent out this year, 255 returned -- looking for a 1-to-4 rating of the candidates in the areas of legal ability, judicial temperament, integrity and experience. In addition, a panel conducts extensive interviews and separate questionnaire of the candidate for an overall evaluation. (See the results below.)

The Citizens To Uphold the Constitution "sounds a little scary," The Inlander's caller said, but appear to be progressives fighting off right-wing attacks on the judicial system. Their Web site,, collects newspaper and blog stories about judicial candidates.

Don't Vex the Vets

Another group with ratings that voters turn to for guidance is the Disabled American Veterans, which tracks votes on congressional measures that benefit vets.

"Our voter scorecard has been used -- this election season in particular -- as a weapon," says Lisa Bogle, a legislative support aide in the DAV's Washington, D.C., legislative office.

Her boss, Joseph Violante, DAV's national legislative director, says Project VoteSmart is the most egregious violator of the ratings -- using outdated 2005 statistics that show many Republicans as having a zero rating from the DAV.

"What they are doing is using just the votes from 2005, not the entire congressional session," Violante says. And VoteSmart has resisted appeals to update its Web site. He adds DAV is raising the stakes: "Our general counsel sent them a letter."

Cathy McMorris has been mentioned in this breath by Democratic activists around Spokane. And it's not exactly fair. McMorris -- along with most Republicans in the Inland West finished the 109th Congress with a 66 percent rating from the DAV, meaning they voted for two of the three bills that helped vets with medical care.

Even this is misleading in the political mudslinging over veterans' benefits, Violante says "Yes [funding] increases. Is it adequate? No.

"The large majority of funding comes out of the pockets of vets in co-pays or by third-party insurance companies. Close to $2 billion annually now comes from vets and third-party insurers -- not the federal government," Violante says. "So when you factor that in, these increases aren't as large as everybody is claiming."
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