A self-described region activist group claiming liberty as one of its pillars appears to have taken liberties with the facts behind a Northwest Indiana congressman's voting and legislative record.
An email apparently circulated by Liberty Straight Up — a group that reportedly hosts political discussions in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties — recently chastised the voting record of U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville.
The email, which implores others to show up in force at Visclosky's upcoming town hall forums scheduled this week and next throughout the region, cites data from a nonprofit congressional data service that appears to show Visclosky has sponsored no legislation in 28 years and always has voted with his party in the congressman's nearly three decades in office.
"He has NEVER in 28 years sponsored or co-sponsored a single bill — NEVER!" the email states.
The Liberty Straight Up email cites voting record data provided by OpenCongress.org, a nonprofit service that compiles federal records into publicly searchable databases.
However, OpenCongress Executive Director David Moore said it appears Liberty Straight Up only looked at data for the current congressional session, which is only a few days old, when making an account of Visclosky's voting record.
"This is a pretty bad mischaracterization of the data," Moore told The Times on Wednesday.
In fact, congressional records accessed by The Times list several bills Visclosky has sponsored in recent sessions, including the American Steel First Act of 2011, which pushed for using domestic steel in government projects. Another recent Visclosky-sponsored bill was the Fighting for American Jobs Act of 2011, which in part pushed for the prohibition of federal assistance to businesses that lay off a greater percentage of U.S. workers.
And earlier this month, Visclosky voted against his party on the fiscal cliff legislation, debunking claims he votes 100 percent in line with Democratic congressional delegates.
Visclosky's spokesman, Phil LaRue, said the congressman's entire career in government is characterized by sponsoring and co-sponsoring legislation beneficial to Northwest Indiana — and reaching across party aisles to do it.
LaRue said in the previous congressional session — the 112th Congress — Visclosky sponsored three bills and co-sponsored 73 bills. And in the 111th Congress, Visclosky sponsored six bills and co-sponsored 117.
"The congressman is clearly active in his role of representing Northwest Indiana," LaRue said. "First and foremost, Congressman Visclosky has the interests of the people of Northwest Indiana in mind, and he takes that responsibility very seriously."
Liberty Straight Up organizers listed on the group's website did not return calls placed by The Times on Wednesday.
However, Hammond native and 2004 Libertarian presidential candidate Michael Badnarik, said he doesn't believe Liberty Straight Up was trying to "sabotage" Visclosky with the email. Badnarik said he was not behind the email.
"I don't think they are particularly anti-Visclosky," said Badnarik, who has attended some of the group's region functions. "We don't particularly like Democrats or Republicans. I don't like anyone who tells me what to do."
The website of the group, which sponsors "happy hour" political discussions groups over food and drinks at region establishments, claims to be "a group of citizens who endeavor to limit the reach of government into our personal lives, to ensure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
The group claims to be handing out free "tickets" to a series of public forums Visclosky is sponsoring throughout the region that begin Thursday and run through Jan. 18. No tickets are required to attend the public forums.
The email, sent to The Times on Wednesday, encourages like-minded people to show "safety in numbers" by registering through the group for a ticket and attending the forums.