WASHINGTON POLITICIANS may want to think twice the next time they are about to vote on some pork-laden federal project--the nation's personal-computer owners could well be watching. A new service on H&R Block Inc.'s CompuServe on-line network keeps track of every representative's and senator's voting record on each bill or amendment that involves an increase or decrease in federal spending. Created by the National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF), a nonprofit consumer watchdog group, CompuServe's VoteTally service also provides a running record of the impact on federal spending of each legislator's floor votes during the course of a two-year Congress.
The foundation obtains the cost estimates for each bill and amendment from the Congressional Budget Office or an independent watchdog group. It then cross-indexes the estimates with each member's voting record, tallied according to special accounting rules designed to avoid double-counting. CompuServe's 2.3 million subscribers can search VoteTally by state or legislator's name as part of their basic monthly charge of $8.95.
Those who want to do a more detailed analysis can link up electronically with the NTUF Forum, download a software program, and for an additional $4.80 an hour, crunch more comprehensive data. With the software, a subscriber could, for example, compare the voting records of Republican women representatives with those of Democratic women. VoteTally's information is updated every three to four weeks.