PoliGraph: Byberg right on Peterson’s voting record

Seventh District congressman Collin Peterson is not your average Democrat.

The 10-term DFLer gets high marks from the National Rifle Association, plays guitar, and is more likely to be found in the halls of Congress wearing cowboy boots than Oxfords.

But a YouTube ad from Peterson’s Republican opponent Lee Byberg seeks to puncture Peterson’s reputation as a maverick.

“Collin Peterson knows that Minnesota’s 7th District didn’t support Barack Obama and his socialist agenda,” states an ominous voiceover while a man lists Peterson’s voting offenses on a white board. “This is why he’s so careful to paint himself as a middle-of-the-road candidate… It’s time to retire a lifetime politician who votes with Speaker Nancy Pelosi well over 90 percent of the time.”

Byberg is correct that Peterson’s recently been following the party line. But it hasn’t always been that way.

The Evidence

This investigation will not rule on whether Obama has a socialist agenda, as the ad states; that’s a matter of opinion. Instead, this PoliGraph test will focus on whether the ad gets Peterson’s voting record right.

Generally speaking, Peterson’s district is conservative. Voters there have supported Republicans in the last three presidential elections, although John McCain defeated Barack Obama by just three percentage points in the 7th in 2008.

Byberg’s right that Peterson votes frequently with his party leaders. Of the 1,483 votes Peterson cast during this congressional session, he’s voted with his party about 93.3 percent of the time, according to The Washington Post. That puts Peterson just above his party’s average of 92.2 percent.

Peterson’s so-called party unity score hasn’t always been so high. During the 109th Congress, the last session before Democrats took over the House of Representatives, Peterson voted with his party only 78.7 percent of the time. Between 1995 and 1997, Peterson claimed a party unity score of 64 percent – the lowest of his career.

The Verdict

Byberg’s claim is accurate: In the current session of Congress Peterson voted with his party more than 90 percent of the time.


Lee Byberg for Congress, Collin Peterson 101, accessed Sept. 14, 2010

Congressional Quarterly, Member Profile: Collin Peterson, accessed Sept. 14, 2010

The Washington Post, Votes Database: 111th Congress, accessed Sept. 14, 2010

The Washington Post, Votes Database: 109th Congress, accessed Sept. 14, 2010

The Washington Post, Votes Database: 104th Congress, accessed Sept. 14, 2010

The Wall Street Journal, In the House, It’s Peterson vs. Climate Bill, by Steven Powers, June 22, 2010

Collin Peterson, Peterson Op-Ed: Amendments to Climate Change Bill Were Necessary, July 16, 2010

Congressional Quarterly, Partisanship and Presidential Support in the Bush Era, by John Cranford and Rachel Bloom, accessed Sept. 14, 2010

  • Adam

    You wrote, “whether Obama has a socialist agenda, as the ad states[, is] a matter of opinion.”

    How on earth is it a matter of opinion? Even the most cursory examination of socialist political philosophy, combined with a cursory examination of the President’s platform, would be enough to understand that the Obama agenda doesn’t come remotely close to socialism. It’s not even close to social democracy. It’s liberal capitalism.

    Please remember: Referring to deceptive claims as “opinions” is not the same as being objective.

  • Susan Todd


    From a socialist’s point of view Obama likely doesn’t look like a socialist, he looks more like an fascist socialist, not a liberal capitalist. So I understand your confusion.

    Please remember, from a conservative point of view, Obama looks like a radical fascist socialist, so I think Byberg and the article writter were both kind to Obama with “socialist agenda”.

    I live in the 7th District, and I have voted for Peterson for years, but, his actions lately are just out of touch with the voters, we don’t need a male Nancy p. in the 7th District.

    If Colin wants to vote like Nancy then he should move to Nancy’s District and fight it out with her.