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June Common Ground E-Newsletter

12 June 2014

The Daily Show

Vote Smart is often used by the media and we now have proof that the “#1 National News Show” depends on us.  Twice in May John Stewart’s program focused two of their segments on Vote Smart data and cited our name on screen

 We Have The Goods

You’re pretty sure you’ve got the goods when state governments call to ask if they can refer citizens to us, because our data on their elected officials and candidates is better than theirs.  You know you got the goods when the Federal Government is willing to pay for it. 

 Montana is the most recent state to give us that call and the Defense Department’s Federal Voting Assistance Program just offered Vote Smart $10,000 to use us.


Introducing Your 2014/15 Voter's Self-Defense Team!
It has taken 8,000 Champions of Freedom and two decades to build the nation’s Voter’s Self-Defense System. Here is the team that will take us across the finish line:

MT Office Staff 
Abigail McNeal 
  • North Carolina State University (NC State), in Raleigh, NC
  • I was drawn to Vote Smart because I am passionate about providing the public with unbiased, accurate information about candidates and elected officials. 
  • I work in the Political Courage Test Department, specifically working on and overseeing Quality Control (ie. tracking candidates and elections/election results, pretty much making sure that our website accurately reflects what's going on in each election at any given time)

Adelaide Elm Kimball
  • From Austin, Texas
  • I've worked for Vote Smart for 23 years because we are essential:  we can & do provide the only source of trustworthy factual information on politicians that the general public MUST have to self-govern successfully
  • Position: Senior Advisor, Board Member, Development Officer.
Andrea Acosta
  • Coming from Stanford University in California, but originally from Houston, Texas
  • In today's Super PAC-ed political arena, I love the way Project Vote Smart cuts through the game of politics and gets to what matters.
  • Research Associate

Andrew Schaalman
  • Stonehill College, North Easton, MA
  • I wanted to work at a public interest research org. after I completed my MA, as well as get away from the grind of the east coast. Vote Smart has allowed me to do both, and I think what we do is especially important because everyday I see how much our members are invested in our information and our idea.
  • I am the junior associate in the Development Department, and the assistant to the Office Manager, Stephen Van Gordon.
Angela M. Barraza
  • Originally from Nogales, Sonora Mexico. Attended the University of Arizona (U of A), in Tucson, AZ
  • Joined Project Vote Smart because I truly believe and admire PVS’s dedication and determination to its mission –to provide factual and unbiased information on elected officials and running candidates. Also because of the amazing and truly unique group of people that works for PVS!!
  • I am the National Internship Coordinator and Administrative Assistant.
Bill Elm
  • Tucon, AZ
  • I love to cook for people!
  • Lodge Manager/Chef
 Brian Koontz
  • I graduated from Texas A&M with a Petroleum Engineering degree.  I also have master's degrees from Univ. of Texas at Tyler (Computer Science) and Texas A&M-Commerce (Higher Education Administration).  Prior to coming on board with PVS I was a high school teacher in the Dallas Texas area.
  • have always enjoyed working on projects that give something back to the community, and I found PVS's outreach efforts to be both noble and in line with a long-held belief that 'information should be free (as in libre)'.
  • I am in the IT department and work on all IT-related aspects of PVS. 
Jamie Sarrae Willett
  • Pennsylvania; graduated from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania.
  • PVS is important because it is a way for voters to get candidate/elected official information without having to go through the mud-slinging that candidates/elected officials do. I am working at PVS because I like what the organization stands for and I love to do research.
  • Profiles in the Research Department
Katherine Matthews
  • I grew up in Orange County, California and graduated from UC Santa Barbara.
  • I interned starting in February and fell in love with Montana, my coworkers, and the ideals behind this access to information initiative. 
  • I work in the Research Department and I am working on collecting endorsements and ratings from national and state special interest groups.
 Kristen Vicedomini
  • New York, NYU
Margaux L. Meyer
  • I'm from St. Louis, Missouri. I went to college at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri and recently earned a B.S. in Political Science. 
  • I'm working at Vote Smart for a few reasons, but mainly because I have worked in a severely partisan environment and was disheartened by the lack of good policy, misrepresentation and ignorance of issues.
  • I'm working in the Political Courage Test department and will be working specifically on the VoteEasy program once that's more established. 
 Micah Trent Benson
  • From: Cheyenne, Wyoming                                          
  • College: Doane College                                              -
  • Graduate School:  New Mexico State University
  • Too many American citizens are disillusioned by our government. Project Vote Smart is a way in which citizens are able to generate their own transparency not found within the current system.
 Michael Mowery
  • I'm from the DC part of Maryland and I graduated from St. John's College in Annapolis where I studied Philosophy and the History of Math and Science.
  • I am working at Vote Smart because it provides a useful and important service to voters.
  • I'm the Director of the Research Department.  I supervise all research staff members and interns, manage projects, and coordinate training.
 Mike Shultz
  • Pennsylvania
  • Voters deserve to be informed.
  • IT Department
Nick Gann
  • From Michigan - Graduated from Kalamazoo College.
  • I came to Vote Smart because I wanted to increase transparency in government, and go hunting and fishing in the Rockies.
  • I work in the Political Courage Test Department, and am currently finalizing the Political Courage Test and prepping for Vote Easy research.
Patrick Bailey
  • Did not attend college
  • I like to work with my hands and fix things.
  • It is important that people have the opportunity to get honest answers to any questions they may have about a candidate that 
Raleigh Quesenberry
  • Native of Atlanta, Georgia. Earned an M.S. in International Affairs from The Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Raleigh is working at Vote Smart due to her interest in Access to Information Initiatives and previous work in the field of Democracy and           Governance. 
  • Research Associate - Raleigh works on the VoteEasy program, researching public records to infer candidate positions on key issues when not provided through the 2014 Political Courage Test. 

Richard Kimball
  • University of Arizona
  • I work at Vote Smart providing citizens with accesses to abundant, accurate and relevant information is the only chance they have to self-govern successfully.
  • I am a member of the Vote Smart board and work primarily with members, foundations, with staff hiring and oversight                 of special projects and property management.

Sam Doxzon
  • University of Maryland, College Park
  • I am working for PVS because it has a very admirable mission and Montana is a great location.
  • I work in the Political Courage Test Department and will be handling incoming Political Courage Tests
Savannah Nguli
  • From Long Beach, CA. Graduated from Norwich University with a BA in International Studies
  • I came to work at Project Vote Smart because it is very hard to get unbiased, factual information when deciding how to vote and I support providing people with unbiased information so they can vote. 

Stephen Van Gordon
  • I grew up in northern New Jersey, and went to school at Warren Wilson College, a small work college near Asheville, NC.
  • To quote former Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, "The great postulate of our democracy is confidence in the common sense of the people and in their maturity of judgment, even on great issues -- once they know the facts"
  • I work in the development department, helping to communicate with Vote Smart's members. 
 Steve Johnson
  • Born in Whitefish, Montana .
  • College of the Siskiyous ,Weed ,Calif.
  • I believe that everyone should not believe everything, they hear .Therefor you should seek the truth. 
  • To keep the ranch, and building up to working order. 


Darren McDivitt
  • Truman State University, BA Political Science 2009
  • Vote Smart is important because being an informed voter requires nearly year-round effort, and the information we provide allows for daily education about the issues.
  • Legislative Research Department Director, UT Office Director

Dilip Kumar Kanuga
  • The University of Texas at Austin
  • Working at Vote Smart has provided me, what must be, an unprecedented opportunity to track the most recent legislation being produced across the country, and has also provided me the information I need as a citizen and a voter to be more educated when I vote and discuss topics with friends and family, so that, it can be said, even though, yes, I do work for Vote Smart, it also works tirelessly for me.
  • Key Votes Department (Legislative Research Associate)
Matt Abel
  • Indiana and Indiana University
  • Vote Smart is important because we need educated voters to ensure that the individuals we elect have the ability to not only represent their constituents but also make sound policy decisions.  
  • Legislative Research Department

MT Location Interns

Casie Margaret Rafferty
  • Minnesota, going to Winona State University
  • I believe a large population of informed voters is essential to having a well governed country. I want to serve my country and learn while I do it.
  • The Research Department

Cierra M. Baxter
  • Georgia Southern University
  • I came to intern at Project Vote Smart because I thought it would be a little adventure as well as a way to gain some value work experience in an administrative setting. I think Project Vote Smart is important because it provides citizens with factual information about candidates. Citizens can easily make better decisions and form their own opinions without bias and manipulation.
  • I currently work in the PCT department of Project Vote Smart

Jared Barton
  • From the state of Texas and I attend school at the University of Oklahoma
  • Project Vote Smart is one of the only institution which seeks to fairly inform voters on both sides of an issue in a neutral way.  This was very important to me because lately politics is based on half truths and ridiculous "Gotcha" media scandals. 
  • I work within the research department, Specifically within the public statements department.                      department

Emily Madcharo
  • University of Nebraska, born and raised in Lincoln, NE
  • The idea of keeping voters informed in a nonpartisan way so they can make their own decisions about political issues really appeals to me, and I think it is a very important service to offer to the public.
  • Intern in the PCT Department, working in Quality Control
Liesel Shuholm
  • I'm from Grass Valley, CA, and go to school at Pacific Lutheran University (Tacoma, WA).
  • I'm working at Project Vote Smart because I believe that its providing voters with accurate, fact-based information is the most important political work I can be doing right now.
  • I'm an intern with the Public Statements division of the research department.
Lilia Paz
  • Amherst College, MA but originally from Los Angeles, California
  • I believe voters need an unbiased source of information, especially in a climate that's become increasingly toxic from all sides. I'm glad to help further this goal in any way I can. 
  • Working on bios in Research
Lora Elliott
  • Attending Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO
  • Vote Smart is important because it provides full information so that voters can choose who to vote for - not be told how to vote.
  • I am an intern in the profiles department.
James Rider
  • From Massachusetts; Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY
  • I am working at Project Vote Smart because I believe it is impossible for democracy to function properly if citizens don't have access to unbiased, impartial information. They need to know what they are voting for in order to protect their interests. I believe Project Vote smart plays a vital role in filling the lack of information provided by news outlets about government officials and candidates. 
  • I work in the Research Department, specifically focusing on speeches
Jamieson Banker Bates
  • North Brunswick, NJ, Studied Financial Management at Clemson University in South Carolina
  • I joined Vote Smart because I have an interest in politics and policy and was looking for an opportunity to contribute to an organization with a mission I believed in.
  • I am working in the Bios Department
Mai Sia Chang
  • Appleton, Wisconsin; University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • I'm working at PVS because I believe in the mission of the organization. PVS is important because it provides free unbiased information about candidates to the general public.
  • I work in the Communication and Development Department. 
Monique Tran
  • Arizona, Arizona State University
  • I believe PVS is providing the political education American voters need.
  • Research Department- Bios
Morgan Levy
  • I was born and raised just outside of Denver, CO. I am about to be a senior at Colorado State University.
  • I wanted to intern for Project Vote Smart because I am turned off by party politics and because I want to help people learn about their government.
  • During my internship, I will be compiling candidate profiles. 
Nicolas Madan
  • Swarthmore College, PA
  • I'm here to help reclaim our political system!
  • Political Courage Test
Robert Lee Oldham
  • University of Georgia
  • I want to combat the ignorance that had captured political systems through their existence and Project Vote Smart's internet database provides straight facts necessary to do this.
Ruby Almonte
  • New Jersey / The College of New Jersey
  • I am working at Vote Smart because we share a common goal. Vote Smart is very important because its mission is to restore our fading democracy.
  • I am currently working on a relatively new project called Political Galaxy. Which requires me to categorize and tag speeches, bio-data, and Political Courage Test results of elected officials or candidates to facilitate voter's research
Tess Bettler
  • University of Louisville-Louisville, Kentucky
  • I am working for PVS because In this political age, nonpartisanship is almost impossible to come by, but Project Vote Smart is breaking through the fray to reempower voters by providing unbiased, reliable information.
  • I am working in the Public Statements department, collecting press releases, speeches, articles, and statements from various elected and appointed officials.
UT Texas Interns

Casey Floren
  • Allen, Texas (home of the $60 million high school football stadium)  Currently, I am a senior at the University of Texas at Austin seeking a government major and math minor.  
  • I am interning for the Legislative Research Department at Project Vote Smart because I believe that it is imperative for the voters to be provided with nonpartisan facts about officials' voting records and the exact changes made by influential pieces of legislation.  If the work I do entering key votes or writing bill summaries can educate a single voter, I will have done my job in strengthening our republic
Chloe Zagrodzky
  • Hometown: Austin, TX; College: Claremont McKenna College
  • I'm working at Project Vote Smart because, as a government major, I have a deep appreciation for the American political system and keeping voters informed is the only way to keep the political system healthy, which is why I think Project Vote Smart is important.
  • I'm working as an intern in the Legislative Research Department at the UT Austin branch
David Eric Pool
  • Arlington, Texas is my hometown and my graduating high school was Byron Nelson HS.
  • I am working at Project Vote Smart because I support its mission. I think voter education and political involvement are imperative to the quality and health of our society.
  • I am an intern for the Legislative Research Department at UT Austin
Christine Jacoub
  • I am from Dallas, Texas and am currently studying at Texas Christian University.
  • I found Vote Smart particularly interesting due to its non-partisan characteristic and wanted to be apart of an organization that gathered and shared information without a bias twist or in hopes of persuading citizens. This is why Vote Smart is truly important to our society.
  • I am working in the Key Votes department at Vote Smart
Elizabeth Bell
  • Hometown/School: Austin, TX Southwestern University
  • I am serving Project Vote Smart this summer so that I can support the accountability of our representatives by helping provide citizens with a venue in which they can sort through political rhetoric and emerge an enlightened and empowered citizen; ready to vote smart.
  • I am a legislative research intern.
Elizabeth V. Sanchez
  • Hometown: Georgetown, TX   School: University of Pennsylvania 
  • I’m proud to be interning for an organization that provides the public with easily accessible, accurate, and non-partisan information. By helping voters become well-informed, Vote Smart protects and promotes the democratic principles the U.S. was founded upon.
  • Department: University of Texas Office – Key Votes
Imogen Sealy
  • London, England. Studying at UT Austin
  • When I moved to America at 18 I was surprised by how bias the news sources here are and how much that affects the way people think and interact in society, I wanted to help change that. 
  • Intern: writing summaries and inputting votes (I'm not sure if there's a title for this job other than intern
Jacquelyn Andrea Chorush
  • I am from Sugar Land, Texas, southwest of Houston, and I attended Stephen F. Austin High School.
  • I am proud to represent Project Vote Smart, which provides for better-informed voters in a way that previously was almost impossible, because without a well-informed and active electorate, it would be difficult to call ourselves a democracy. 
  • I am a member of the Key Votes Department.
Jeanette Lachman
  • University of Texas Austin, Texas
  • I am helping with Vote Smart because I think it is important to provide clear,nonpartisan information to empower the constituents in holding their officials accountable, allowing for a better democracy for us. 
  • Key Votes
Johannah Roberson
  • I am from Houston, Texas and a master's student at the Texas A&M Bush School of Government and Public Service.
  • I am working at project Vote Smart because I believe it is a great opportunity to build my research and writing skills while learning to better understand legislation.
  • My position is a legislative research intern.
Juan Martinez-Esqueda
  • Hometown: Austin  School: University of Texas at Austin 
  • Why is Vote Smart important? I believe that the only way to achieve transparency in government is by approaching it without bias. I am excited about the non-partisanship objective of Project Vote Smart because it puts the interests of citizens first and attempts to humanize government by making legislation more accessible to the common individual. 
  • Department: Key Votes
Kathryn Thiel
  • I am from Frisco, Texas and attend The University of Texas at Austin.
  • As a legislative research intern, I am excited to have the opportunity to research current bills from across the nation and create summaries, along with key vote data, which will contribute to Project Vote Smart's inspiring initiative to better inform the voting public.
  • Legislation "Key Votes" Department
Lala Stone
  • My hometown is Bell City, MO and I'm currently obtaining my Masters in Journalism from the University of Texas in Austin.
  • This internship is the perfect opportunity to use both my legal background and my writing skills. Project Vote Smart is important because it provides voters with a source of unbiased information.
  • I'm currently working as a legislative research intern at UT-Austin.
Miguel Angel Hernandez
  • I'm a senior at UT-Austin majoring in International Relations and Global Studies with a minor in Latin American Studies and I've been living in Austin for ~12 years. I'm originally from Mexico. 
  • I think Vote Smart is important because accessibility to accurate and clear information is an essential component of a well-functioning democracy and even though we have greater access to information than ever before, sometimes it is difficult to discern accurate information. 
  • Legislative Research Intern
Mamie Aoughsten
  • I'm from Galveston, TX and I just graduated from the University of Texas at Austin.
  • I decided to work with PVS because I believe in its nonpartisan mission, and because I thought the legislative research would be a nice warm up for law school in the fall.
  • Legislative Research Intern
Marisa Uma Lama Durham
  • My hometown is Dallas and I am a senior at the University of Texas at Dallas.
  • I am working at Vote Smart to gain a better understanding of the current legislation being written.
  • Project Vote Smart is important because the organization allows easy accessibility to important information a voter should know to make an informed decision.
  • I currently work in the Legislative Research Department
Matthew Kevin Bogard
  • From Austin, currently attending UT Austin
  • I'm working for Project Vote Smart to deliver objective information to voters to help build a more enlightened electorate!
  • Legislation Key Votes Intern at UT Austin

We Need You !
If you have a few months or just a few weeks we would like to invite you to join us in this extraordinary place with so many extraordinary people.
 We need volunteers and interns to help with research, data entry, development, media and even to help cook, clean or just stuff envelopes.  If you are interested in spending some time working hard in one of the most beautiful places in the country and helping to defend your fellow citizens’ right to the truth --- we need you to go to our web site ( click on “Help Us” and see what you might do. 
Website, Political Galaxy, I Spy, My Vote Smart

We know that many of you are interested in these wonderful new interactive tools we have been designing and talking about.  They were all supposed to be completed by this summer but we are behind. We are hoping to make most of these new tools available to Vote Smart members and supporters (perhaps exclusively) before the 2014 elections, but we will not make them public until our staff, supporting members, board and selected journalists and academics have reviewed them and we know they are perfect.

 Some components will go public this year but perhaps not all. Here is a best guess when they will be

Available to members and then all voters:

VoteEasy 2014 - August 2014 – This system allows you to take any congressional campaign and compare the competing candidates on 12 crucial issues facing the nation.

I SPY - October 2014 - This system allows you to pick any politician then take a magnifying glass, pass it over any of six fact files (Bios, voting records, issue positions, ratings, contributions, speeches), click on the file of interest and watch as the file opens and exposes every fact known in that category, all displayed in chronological or alphabetical order.

POLITICAL GALAXY – September 2014 – This system will allow you to pick any politician and any issue then zoom you through the galaxy of political facts to the specific star cluster representing every known fact in all six categories related to the politician and issue you named.

My Vote Smart – now and February 2015 – This system is modestly available to you now on our web site but will be much more dramatic by early 2015. With it Vote Smart can report to you on any politician and any issue of unique interest to you. Every time that politician votes on, remarks on, receives funds or ratings related to that issue, Vote Smart instantly notifies you.


Related tags: 2014, blog, e-newsletter, interns, I-spy, Montana, My-Vote-Smart, Political-Galaxy, staff-members, Texas, vote-easy,

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