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The 2016 Presidential Candidates on Child and Victim/Survivor Advocacy

Update, February 9: I added a seventh metric based on Congressional ratings from the First Focus Campaign for Children, a bipartisan child advocacy organization founded by Colin Powell’s foundation, America’s Promise.

This project assesses the 2016 presidential candidates’ records on child advocacy and victim/survivor advocacy. Child advocacy and victim/survivor advocacy are near and dear to my heart. Unfortunately, popular candidate tracking websites like On the Issues and I Side With do not provide quality information about candidates on these two specific issues. Consequently, I created this guide for myself and others who are similarly interested in candidates’ positions and records on these issues.

Candidates were included if they met the following conditions: (1) are still in the race as of Wednesday, February 3, 2016, (2) are running for one of the two major U.S. political parties, and (3) received more than 1% of the vote in the Iowa Caucus. Ten candidates met these conditions: Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump.

This project utilizes seven different metrics for comparing the presidential candidates’ records on child advocacy and victim/survivor advocacy. Those metrics are: (1) U.S. Congressional sponsorships of bills, (2) U.S. Congressional cosponsorships of bills, (3) Governor activity, (4) the Children’s Defense Fund’s ratings, (5) the First Focus Campaign for Children’s ratings, (6) the International Justice Mission’s ratings, and (7) advocacy for international treaties that further child advocacy and victim/survivor advocacy. I intentionally chose different metrics so as to capture as many candidates from as many angles as possible.

These seven metrics help quantify seven candidates’ dedication to child advocacy and victim/survivor advocacy: Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, and Bernie Sanders. The remaining three candidates — Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Donald Trump — have (1) no publicly accessible policy records on child advocacy and victim/survivor advocacy, (2) never received ratings from the aforementioned non-profits, and (3) have made no statements (that I could find) on the aforementioned international treaties.

I honestly could not think of a quantifiable metric to measure their dedication to advocacy. So to be fair, I should mention that Carson has demonstrated a commitment to child advocacy to some extent through (1) his Pediatric Neurosurgery career and (2) the Carson Scholars Fund‘s Scholars Program and Reading Project. Translating that commitment into an equitable metric system, however, is beyond my current abilities.

Using the candidates’ charitable contributions also would not work. So also to be fair, I should mention that Carly Fiorina’s Fiorina Foundation at one point in 2003 supported Care-A-Van for Kids and later a homeless women’s shelter.  Donald Trump’s Trump Organization supported a number of relevant charities (including the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation and the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up Campaign) over the years. On the flip side, Trump forced a women’s shelter to close in order to expand luxury developments.

Maybe in the future, with more time, I can come up with a better system.

The parameters for each metric are described in detail in each respective section. The results of each metric are presented without personal analysis, so as to allow readers to draw their own conclusions.

U.S. Congress Results

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There are two metrics used involving U.S. Congressional activity: (1) sponsorship of bills and (2) cosponsorship of bills. Here are the parameters around both Congressional metrics:

1) Both bills and resolutions were considered (referred hereafter collectively as “bills”).

2) All bills sponsored or cosponsored by the presidential candidates were considered.

3) All bills about abortion (from all angles) were excluded. (Candidates’ records on abortion are easily accessible and widely reported.)

4) All bills that would, in their sponsors’ or cosponsors’ minds, specifically and actively contribute to child advocacy and victim/survivor advocacy were included. This means that I included bills that I personally believe actually harmed children or victims/survivors. For example, I included bills that rose out of the “war against autism” movement — all of which were opposed by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. Though I agree with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, I am nonetheless including the bills because the bill’s sponsors and cosponsors believed they were specifically and actively contributing to child advocacy. As another example: I included all types of “education reform” bills, regardless of personal opinion, if their stated purpose was to help children.

5) Since all the presidential candidates that served in Congress either served at different time periods or for different durations, the most accurate time average seemed to be the following: the most recent and full three years that the candidate served in Congress. For Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Bernie Sanders, this was 2013-2015. For Hillary Clinton, this was 2006-2008. For John Kasich, this was 1997-1999.

6) To find all bills that purported to specifically and actively contribute to child advocacy and victim/survivor advocacy during the aforementioned time periods and durations, I used GovTrack.us and Congress.gov to find all bills sponsored or cosponsored by the respective candidates. Bills were included if they were relevant to one of the following categories: child care, development, education, and safety; child abuse; children’s rights; domestic violence; elder abuse; physical abuse; safety measures in general such as background checks and mandatory reporting; sexual abuse; trafficking (all kinds).

7) Candidates’ voting records were excluded. There are two reasons for this: (1) the vast majority of bills that did pass all passed with unanimous consent, thus specific votes were not recorded; and (2) the vast majority of bills that did not pass never made it far enough to face a general vote. Thus for the purposes of this metric, voting records are not reliable indicators of candidates’ active and specific advocacy for children and abuse victims/survivors.

8) I determined the highest and lowest performers by the number of child and victim/survivor advocacy bills; however, I also include the percentage of advocacy bills in relation to total bills for those that prefer that.

Overall results:

According to U.S. Congressional sponsorships and cosponsorships of bills, the candidate most active with regards to child advocacy and victim/survivor advocacy is Hillary Clinton. According to U.S. Congressional sponsorships and cosponsorships of bills, the candidate least active with regards to child advocacy and victim/survivor advocacy is Ted Cruz.

U.S. Congress: Sponsored Bills

Results:

Hillary Clinton: 31 (out of 321 bills; 9.66%)

Bernie Sanders: 11 (out of 185; 5.95%)

Marco Rubio: 4 (out of 204; 1.96%)

John Kasich: 0 (out of 25; 0%)

Ted Cruz: 0 (out of 167; 0%)

N/A:

Jeb Bush

Ben Carson

Chris Christie

Carly Fiorina

Donald Trump

Highest performer(s) of metric: Hillary Clinton

Lowest performer(s) of metric: John Kasich and Ted Cruz

Click here to see a full accounting of the presidential candidates’ sponsored bills in U.S. Congress.

U.S. Congress: Cosponsored Bills

Results:

Hillary Clinton: 79 (out of 1059; 7.46%)

Bernie Sanders: 45 (out of 406; 11.08%)

Marco Rubio: 31 (out of 622; 4.98%)

John Kasich: 10 (out of 209; 4.78%)

Ted Cruz: 5 (out of 328; 1.52%)

N/A:

Jeb Bush

Donald Trump

Ben Carson

Carly Fiorina

Chris Christie

Highest performer(s) of metric: Hillary Clinton

Lowest performer(s) of metric: Ted Cruz

Click here to see a full accounting of the presidential candidates’ cosponsored bills in U.S. Congress.

Governor Activity Results

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Here are the parameters around the Governor metrics:

1) All governor statements, resolutions, and bills that were notably featured on Project Vote Smart (referred hereafter collectively as “notable governor activities”) were considered.

2) As with the U.S. Congress results, all notable governor activities about abortion (from all angles) were excluded. (Candidates’ records on abortion are easily accessible and widely reported.)

3) As with the U.S. Congress results, since all the presidential candidates that served as governors either served at different time periods or for different durations, the most accurate time average seemed to be the following: the most recent and full three years that the candidate served as governor. For Chris Christie and John Kasich, this was 2013-2015. For Jeb Bush, this was 2004-2006.

4) As with the U.S. Congress results, all notable governor activities that would, in their minds, specifically and actively contribute to child advocacy and victim/survivor advocacy were included. This means that I included notable governor activities that I personally believe actually harmed children or victims/survivors.

5) To find all notable governor activities that purported to specifically and actively contribute to child advocacy and victim/survivor advocacy, I used Project Vote Smart. I utilized their “Political Summary” section to track each governor’s notable activities with relation to the same categories used for the U.S. Congress results. All Notable governor activities were included provided they fit within one of these categories: child care, development, education, and safety; child abuse; children’s rights; domestic violence; elder abuse; physical abuse; safety measures in general such as background checks and mandatory reporting; sexual abuse; trafficking (all kinds). The results were then additionally filtered by the chosen, aforementioned time period for each governor.

6) Unlike the U.S. Congress results, some candidates’ voting records were included in these results — if, and only if, they were notably featured on Project Vote Smart.

Overall results:

According to Governor activity, the candidate most active with regards to child advocacy and victim/survivor advocacy is Jeb Bush. According to Governor activity, the candidate least active with regards to child advocacy and victim/survivor advocacy is Chris Christie.

Results:

Jeb Bush: 21

John Kasich: 12

Chris Christie: 10

N/A:

Ben Carson

Chris Christie

Hillary Clinton

Ted Cruz

Carly Fiorina

Marco Rubio

Donald Trump

Highest performer(s) of metric: Jeb Bush

Lowest performer(s) of metric: Chris Christie

Click here to see a full accounting of the presidential candidates’ Governor activity.

Non-Profit Ratings Results

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There are three metrics used involving non-profit ratings: (1) ratings from the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), (2) ratings from the First Focus Campaign for Children (FFFCC), and (3) ratings from the International Justice Mission (IJM). I chose these three non-profit organizations because they are on diverse points of the ideological spectrum yet are all widely admired for their child and victim/survivor advocacy in their respected ideological circles. CDF is well-respected in liberal circles as a champion for children and abuse victims/survivors through their child and family advocacy. FFCC is a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization launched by Colin Powell’s foundation, America’s Promise. IJM is well-respected in conservative circles as a champion for children and abuse victims/survivors through their anti-trafficking advocacy. (I chose these organizations irrespective of my personal opinions about them.)

How CDF created ratings: According to their website, CDF annually scores a set number of Senate and House votes that affected the lives of countless children. The votes in each annual Congressional Scorecard cover a range of issues, including early childhood, child health, hunger and nutrition, K-12 and higher education, child welfare, and other protections for low-income families. The full results of CDF’s ratings can be found here.

How FFCC created ratings: According to their website, FFCC recognizes as “Champions for Children” 50 Members of Congress for their extraordinary efforts to protect and improve the future of America’s next generation. An additional 50 Members are recognized as “Defenders of Children” for their support of policies that advance the well-being of children. In selecting Champions and Defenders, FFCC notes leaders who introduced, co-sponsored, and voted for legislation to meet children’s needs. In addition, the organization considers Members who demonstrated extraordinary initiative by spearheading activities such as sponsoring hearings or garnering the support of their colleagues to improve the health and well-being of children. The full results of FFCC’s ratings for 2015-2012 can be found here: 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012.

How IJM created ratings: According to their website, IJM calculated each Member of Congress’ score by looking at their record over the last four years and using a point system to rank them in three tiers: Champion, Leader or Supporter. Members without a ranking have not yet taken action on trafficking and slavery issues. IJM scores every Member of Congress on opportunities they all share, such as voting on a specific bill related to human trafficking. A Member can gain additional points for taking individual initiative—like writing a Dear Colleague letter, sending a relevant press release or making an important speech—that advances the anti-slavery movement. The full results of IJM’s ratings can be found here.

Overall results:

According to the non-profit ratings of the Children’s Defense Fund, the First Focus Campaign for Children, and the International Justice Mission, the candidate most active with regards to child advocacy and victim/survivor advocacy is Bernie Sanders. According to the non-profit ratings of the Children’s Defense Fund, the First Focus Campaign for Children, and the International Justice Mission, the candidate least active with regards to child advocacy and victim/survivor advocacy is Ted Cruz.

Non-Profit Ratings: Children’s Defense Fund

Results:

Bernie Sanders: 96%

Hillary Clinton: 93%

John Kasich: 43%

Marco Rubio: 25%

N/A:

Jeb Bush

Ben Carson

Chris Christie

Ted Cruz

Carly Fiorina

Donald Trump

Highest performer(s) of metric: Bernie Sanders

Lowest performer(s) of metric: Marco Rubio

Click here to see a full accounting of the presidential candidates’ ratings from the Children’s Defense Fund.

Non-Profit Ratings: First Focus Campaign for Children

Results:

Bernie Sanders: 4 out of 4 years of positive rankings

Ted Cruz: 0 out 3 years of positive rankings

Marco Rubio: 0 out of 4 years of positive rankings

N/A:

Jeb Bush

Ben Carson

Hillary Clinton

Chris Christie

Carly Fiorina

John Kasich

Donald Trump

Highest performer(s) of metric: Bernie Sanders

Lowest performer(s) of metric: Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio

Click here to see a full accounting of the presidential candidates’ ratings from the First Focus Campaign for Children.

Non-Profit Ratings: International Justice Mission

Results:

Marco Rubio: Champion

Bernie Sanders: Champion

Ted Cruz: No Ranking

N/A:

Jeb Bush

Ben Carson

Hillary Clinton

Chris Christie

Carly Fiorina

John Kasich

Donald Trump

Highest performer(s) of metric: Marco Rubio and Bernie Sanders

Lowest performer(s) of metric: Ted Cruz

Click here to see a full accounting of the presidential candidates’ ratings from the International Justice Mission.

International Treaties Results

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This metric examines the presidential candidates’ active advocacy for, active advocacy against, general support of, general opposition to, or silence towards four United Nations treaties considered key by many to advancing child advocacy and victim/survivor advocacy: (1) the Convention on the Rights of the Child, (2) the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, (3) the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and (4) the Arms Trade Treaty. (For those who might be wondering, this is why I included the Arms Trade Treaty.)

Overall results:

The candidates most active with advocating for international treaties that further child advocacy and victim/survivor advocacy are Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. The candidates most active with advocating against international treaties that further child advocacy and victim/survivor advocacy are Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

Convention on the Rights of the Child

Active advocacy for:

Bernie Sanders sponsored bills in Congress on three different occasions, advocating for the ratification of the convention: in 1991, in 1993, and in 1997.

General support:

Hillary Clinton has expressed support for the convention.

Marco Rubio speaks positively of the convention in the text of his “Girls Count Act of 2015” bill text.

Silence (or no position found):

Jeb Bush

Ben Carson

Chris Christie

Carly Fiorina

John Kasich

Donald Trump

General opposition:

Ted Cruz has expressed opposition to the convention.

Active advocacy against:

N/A

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Active advocacy for:

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton organized a campaign to pass the convention.

General support:

Bernie Sanders has expressed support for the convention.

Silence (or no position found):

Jeb Bush

Ben Carson

Chris Christie

Carly Fiorina

John Kasich

Donald Trump

General opposition:

N/A

Active advocacy against:

Ted Cruz has actively campaigned against the convention.

Marco Rubio has actively campaigned against the convention on more than one occasion.

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

Active advocacy for:

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton organized a campaign to pass the convention.

Bernie Sanders cosponsored bills in Congress on three different occasions, advocating for the ratification of the convention: in 1999, in 2003, and in 2005.

General support:

N/A

Silence (or no position found):

Jeb Bush

Ben Carson

Chris Christie

Ted Cruz

Carly Fiorina

John Kasich

Marco Rubio

Donald Trump

General opposition:

N/A

Active advocacy against:

N/A

Arms Trade Treaty

Active advocacy for:

N/A

General support:

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has expressed support for the treaty on numerous occasions.

Bernie Sanders voted against a 2013 bill that would have prohibited the U.S. from ratifying the treaty.

Silence (or no position found):

Jeb Bush

Ben Carson

Chris Christie

Carly Fiorina

John Kasich

Donald Trump

General opposition:

N/A

Active advocacy against:

Ted Cruz cosponsored legislation in Congress in 2013 advocating against the ratification of the treaty.

Marco Rubio cosponsored legislation in Congress in 2013 advocating against the ratification of the treaty.

Highest performer(s) of metric: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, each with 2 active advocacies for treaties

Lowest performer(s) of metric: Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, each with 2 active advocacies against treaties

Additional Notes

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This project focused on positive elements: actions taken by the presidential candidates that they believed actively and specifically contributed to better child advocacy and victim/survivor advocacy. However, those who care about child advocacy and victim/survivor advocacy will likely be interested in a few key policy actions and positions by some candidates*** that many child and victim/survivor advocates would consider particularly suspect:

Chris Christie

In 2015, Chris Christie vetoed a bill requiring individuals convicted of domestic violence to surrender firearms and licenses.

Ted Cruz

In 2013, Ted Cruz voted against the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act.

In 2014, Ted Cruz proposed the Protect Children and Families Through the Rule of Law Act so that children from non-contiguous countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras who are not victims of a “severe form of trafficking” would be removed from the U.S.

In 2015, Ted Cruz stated a desire to abolish the Department of Education.

In 2015, Ted Cruz was the only senator who did not vote for S. 178, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.

Marco Rubio

In 2013, Marco Rubio voted against the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act.

Bernie Sanders

In 2000, Bernie Sanders voted against the Victims of Rape Health Protection Act.

*** This list is not comprehensive; it simply materialized from random notes I took while doing research for the project.

If you have any critiques or suggestions for this project, feel free to send them my way. If you notice any errors, factual or otherwise, please let me know.