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The talk of Washington

Indiana congressmen are a plain-spoken bunch, according to an analysis of their floor speeches.

Sunlight Foundation has released an assessment of the vocabulary and sentence structure used by each of 530 members of Congress since 1996. The report shows few in the Hoosier delegation speak at or near a college level.

The highest grade levels for Hoosier statesmen are 13.5 for Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, and 13.4 for Republican Sen. Richard Lugar.

Visclosky’s oration ranks 15th highest and Lugar’s 17th highest among their cohorts. Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., tops the rankings with a 16.01 grade level assigned to his speeches.

Four Indiana congressmen speak between 12 and 12.9 grade levels: in ascending order, Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd; Republican Sen. Dan Coats; Rep. Mike Pence, R-6th; and Rep. Andre Carson, D-7th.

Rep. Dan Burton, R-5th, is at 11.29, followed by Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, 11.18; Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-8th, 11.05; Rep. Todd Rokita, R-4th; 10.4; and Todd Young, R-9th, 9.4. The latter four are in their first terms on Capitol Hill.

Young’s allocution score is the 39th lowest in Congress. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., came in last, at a 7.9 grade level.

The Sunlight Foundation is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that promotes transparency and accountability in government. It based its research on the website CapitolWords.org, which tracks the most popular words and phrases in the Congressional Record.

The foundation said its findings showed that the most moderate members of either political party tend to speak at the highest grade levels, and the most extreme members speak at the lowest grade levels.

Also, the foundation said, the more words a congressional member speaks on the floor, the simpler his speech tends to be.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks at a 9.7 grade level, according to the analysis, while House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, speaks at a 12.6 grade level.

The Sunlight Foundation found that Congress as a whole speaks at a 10.6 grade level today. Its high was 11.5 in 2005. The U.S. Constitution is written at a 17.8 grade level and the Declaration of Independence at a 15.1 grade level, the foundation said.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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