Data Snafu Puts Clyburn 77th In Influence Ranking

A data entry error placed Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) 77th in influence in the House in the Knowlegis “Power Rankings”, behind sophomore Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) and lame-duck Rep. Al Wynn (D-Md.), who was defeated in a primary election last month.

“We erred on that one,” acknowledged Knowlegis CEO Brad Fitch. “Clyburn will come out in the recalculation at 30…It was a formula error.” Fitch said that Clyburn was awarded 25 points for his number-three leadership position instead of 40 points.

Fitch was alerted to the error Monday by Clyburn’s press secretary, Kristie Greco. “I don’t know if he even looked at it before he put it out,” Greco said.

She took issue with the methodology of the survey. “It doesn’t take into account that he’s the highest ranking African-American in Congress, the role he plays in they presidential primary or his work on the floor to usher bills through Congress. It doesn’t take into account his leave of absence from the Appropriations Committee,” she said. “I don’t agree with that.” Clyburn is on leave from the Appropriations Committee while he serves as whip.

Knowlegis, which makes software for lobbyists, uses four criteria to establish rankings for each legislator: position (which includes leadership posts and committee assignments), influence (consisting of media coverage, the amount of PAC donations received and the amount contributed to other legislators), legislative activity and the number and size of earmarks secured for their district or state.

The new ranking still puts Clyburn far down the ladder in influence – below soft-spoken Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), third-term Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), fellow Congressional Black Caucus member John Lewis (D-Ga.), Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) who was evicted from her seat on the House Intelligence Committee by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) when Democrats took control of Congress last year.

Clyburn is currently serving his eighth term in Congress. In last year’s Power Rankings, he was 21st, representing a drop this year of nine places even as he ascended to majority whip.

Fitch acknowledged that the rankings had shortcomings and may have undervalued Clyburn’s contributions.

“I think what we’re missing in Congressman Clyburn is what we can’t measure: perception of legislation, past history and reputation. In Congressman Clyburn’s case, it’s not a perfect and accurate representation of his position in congress,” he said.

Fitch said Clyburn fell into one of the “two categories of people who tend to complain about power rankings,” lawmakers who have titles and feel they need more credit for them and senior members who don’t have high committee assignments.

“We’re not just looking at position; we’re looking at what they do with their position,” Fitch said. “A case could be made that we undervalue leadership but in the end people keep telling us to look at things that can be influenced – how far you move legislation, the amendments you get considered and other factors that can be quantified.”