Muckraker: Grist on Politics Republicans for Environmental Protection gave John McCain a “no score” on its just-released 2007 congressional scorecard, as David pointed out earlier. McCain missed all 14 of the votes on which REP scored senators, but the group opted not to give him a zero. Grist called David Jenkins, government affairs director for REP, to find out why.

“We thought the best way to treat this was to not score presidential candidate absences as a negative,” said Jenkins. “It really didn’t seem to be a fair representation of their environmental record if they missed a vote because of the demands of a presidential campaign.”

He continued, “We noticed that some of our key votes on environmental issues happened within 24 hours of a GOP presidential debate, so it was clear that the Democrat leadership was not really coordinating very well with the Republican side of the aisle on when to hold votes.”

Jenkins pointed to one example where he said it was clear that McCain was on the right side of an issue and didn’t deserve a negative score: McCain cosponsored an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act that would have required more transparency in the way the Army Corps of Engineers receives funding for and undertakes water projects, even though the senator didn’t return to D.C. to vote on it. (In the end, it failed 22-69.)

The League of Conservation Voters took a different tack with its much-cited scorecard, released in February. The group counted missed votes as negatives, and McCain missed every vote tallied for 2007, so he got a zero. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton also missed some of LCV’s scored votes last year, but they showed up enough to score a 67 and 73, respectively.

One might ask — and we did — whether someone who claims to be an “environmental champion” should prioritize making it to the Capitol for key environmental votes.

“I think you can certainly make a case if you are a senator or a congressman that it’s part of your obligation to come back and vote,” said Jenkins. “But at the same time, if you can’t and you’re really running for president, that’s obviously the top priority.”

Grist also asked about reports that McCain is going to play hooky for the Senate’s upcoming vote on the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act.

“I would certainly hope that he would get back and vote for it,” said Jenkins. “I think passage of Warner-Lieberman would be a good step forward, laying groundwork hopefully for the next president being able to move something.”

Republican members of Congress who did well on REP’s scorecard include Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), Rep. Dave Reichert (Wash.), and Rep. Chris Shays (Conn.), who received the title “Greenest Republicans in Congress.” Four others had perfect scores: Michael Castle (Del.), Michael Ferguson (N.J.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), and Christopher Smith (N.J.). Rep. Frank Wolf (Va.) was rated “most improved” member of the House, up from a score of 42 in 2006 to 93 in 2007. Arlen Specter (Pa.) was named “most improved” in the Senate, after boosting his zero score in 2006 to a 64 in 2007.