Although the term RINO (“Republican In Name Only”) is well known in American political lingo, I want to bring today another concept to mind….the Legislator in Name Only (LINO)! Although candidates for higher office get criticized for missing votes in their current station, especially those for president, the hard truth is that not by not doing so they guarantee loss. The case of the highly principled Representative Thomas B. Curtis of Missouri is demonstrative, as he lost his race for the Senate by two points in 1968 and may have pulled through had he not insisted on continuing to work full-time as a Congressman during campaign season. However, candidates for higher office aren’t legislators in name only as they get right back to work after the contest and it wouldn’t be fair to knock those absent on account of illness. We haven’t seen the like of the true LINO in many years but some of them were in fact highly influential! For these guys, Representative was merely another title. Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (D-N.Y.) was criticized for absenteeism for missing 28% of votes throughout his time in Congress, but that’s nothing compared to these guys:
William Randolph Hearst
Although William Randolph Hearst served two terms in Congress from New York City as a Democrat, he barely voted. Serving from 1903 to 1907, he didn’t vote enough to achieve an ideological score either from DW-Nominate or the MC-Index. By default, his absenteeism makes him one of the worst Congressmen in history. Hearst was too busy running his New York Journal and plotting a run for president to consider doing the job he was elected and paid to do. Hearst pretty much only proposed legislation to the left of the Square Deal with the full knowledge it didn’t stand a chance in Joe Cannon’s Congress. Hearst missed 196 of 223 votes, 88%.
That’s right! Hearst’s primary press rival was also an absentee Congressman. Joseph Pulitzer, who ran New York World, served for a total of one term as a Democrat from 1885 to 1886. Hearst and Pulitzer not only competed in the press, but also competed for spots on the worst list for members of Congress. He missed 51 of 57 votes, making his absentee rate a whopping 89%. He ultimately resigned mid-term to spend more time running the newspaper. In his short time in the House, Pulitzer was known as a critic of big business. In the contest of which of the great press magnates was worse in Congress, Pulitzer wins the prize!
Timothy “Big Tim” Sullivan may seem like an insignificant member at first glance, but he was in fact the boss of Tammany Hall! After the departure of Richard Croker in 1902, Sullivan headed the organization until his death. Serving from 1903 to 1906 as well as 1913 in the House, he was both corrupt and a backer of social reform. I could write much more about Sullivan, but given the material on him he warrants his own post, which I will write in the future. He missed 195 of 212 votes, 92%.
Others With Substantial Absentee Records:
Claude L’Engle (D-Fla., 1913-15) – 273 of 281 votes missed, 97%. Lost renomination.
Richmond Hobson (D-Ala., 1907-15) – 671 of 1054 votes missed, 64%.
James F. Burke (R-Penn., 1905-15) – 721 of 1190 votes missed, 61%.
William Ainey (R-Penn., 1911-15) – 313 of 517 votes missed, 61%.
Eben W. Martin (R-S.D., 1901-07, 1908-15) – 511 of 1192 votes missed, 43%..
Stephen Hoxworth (D-Ill., 1913-15) – 250 of 281 votes missed, 89%. Didn’t run for reelection in 1914.