Political power ends up in some interesting places.
Why does clout matter? Billions in federal aid are at stake, and the ability to influence everything from how much citizens are taxed to legislation on Medicare, Social Security, guns, immigration and countless other matters. Roll Call’s clout index factors in leadership positions held by lawmakers from the state, their seniority, federal dollars that stream into the state and other factors.
California, by Roll Call’s reckoning, has the most clout overall. It also has the largest number of House members, along with its two senators. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is from California. So is Rep. Xavier Becerra, the top Democrat on the subcommittee that handles Social Security issues.
But when you factor in the clout per lawmaker – and California has 55 of them – the state finishes second to last.
Instead, Alaska wins. The next four influential states are Delaware (Vice President Biden’s home state), Ohio (home to House Speaker John Boehner), Hawaii and Louisiana.
Alaska had years of help on the federal pork front that lingers on, thanks to the late Ted Stevens, who chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee and was the longest-serving Republican senator in history. Alaska has a relatively small percentage of voters 50 and older, as does California. On that yardstick, in fact, both states rank among the lowest in the nation.
Want to know how many voters 50 and older your state has? AARP lists the rankings here. (The top five are Montana, New Mexico, Florida, Hawaii and Maine.)
Some of the states with the highest percentage of older voters also wield the most clout. Montana, where 55 percent of the voters are 50 or older, ranks seventh in clout per lawmaker. Democrat Max Baucus of Montana chairs the powerful Senate Finance Committee, which oversees Social Security and health programs. Hawaii ranks fourth in both clout and older voters. Maine is ninth in clout and fifth in older voters.
Florida (third-highest in older voters) packs power by virtue of its large congressional delegation – but spread over 29 lawmakers in the House and Senate its clout is thin enough to leave it in 33rd place.
But maybe it can ask Alaska for help when it needs something done.
Photo: Architect of the Capitol
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