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‘Least Effective’ List Causes Controversy

Roll Call reporter Myron Struck set out in 1976 to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the freshman Democratic class in a three-part series. The first two installments went smoothly, but the third, a look at the 11 least effective Members of Congress, caused a storm of controversy.

When word got out that Roll Call was going to publish such a list, leaders “hit the ceiling,” according to Roll Call founder Sid Yudain, and it was reported that some senior Members called for an investigation by the House elections subcommittee.

Yudain, mindful of Roll Call’s policy of not participating in partisan politicking, had already considered not running the list prior to the controversy (“I was not about to condemn one-eighth of the freshman class to defeat for the sake of a story,” he wrote), and conveyed that to a meeting of members of the freshman class.

Shortly thereafter, the 11 Members who made the never-to-be-published list received unmarked letters from “Friends of Roll Call,” letting them know that the paper “despise[s] your voting record and alliances.” The letter went on to point out Members’ votes, which the letter writer considered “anti-Semitic.”

Needless to say, the letters were not connected to Roll Call, and Yudain, in an open letter to Roll Call readers published Sept. 16 on the top of the front page, outlined the whole story. He wrote, “I was surprised that such an obviously phony and despicable letter could generate concern among some Congressmen.”

Yudain also informed readers that the letters would be turned over to the FBI and the Anti-Defamation League. And, while the controversial “least effective” list never made it to print, Yudain promised that if the names of the letter writers were ever discovered, they would most certainly make it into the pages of Roll Call.[IMGCAP(1)]

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