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Damon Political Report

Amodei’s long-winded speeches rank him among the top 10 smartest lawmakers

Updated Monday, May 21, 2012 | 3:21 p.m.

Mark Amodei

Mark Amodei

Ever listen to Rep. Mark Amodei give a speech and you know the man can be long-winded.

But his verbosity seems to have earned him a new ballyhooed distinction — ninth smartest speechmaker in Congress.

According to a new study by the Sunlight Foundation, Amodei speaks at almost a 14th grade level — putting him in the top 10 smartest speechmakers overall and the smartest speaker in Nevada’s delegation.

The study, which found Congress collectively speaks at a 10th grade level, relies on the Flesch-Kincaid test — which assigns grade levels based on use of longer words and longer sentences.

Amodei clearly wins out on the second measure.

Take one example from a speech he gave on the debt-ceiling earlier this year:

“Yes, there are loopholes, and, yes, there are others who may be able to pay more, but why on earth would you ask them to pay more into this system of spending that we have created, which is in no way accountable to any of those folks who are paying.”

Indeed even the authors of the study noted the limitations of the Flesch-Kincaid test.

“It tells us nothing about the clarity or correctness of a passage of text,” the author wrote.

Amodei responded to the ranking with characteristic self-deprecation.

"Nothing I have ever done with my life has ever been associated with outstanding academic achievement and I can assure you nothing has changed," Amodei said. "Maybe they ought to re-look at their criteria."

While Amodei’s verbose sentence structures earned him a high grade level, his vocabulary is hardly the most robust in Congress.

Since he’s been in Congress — which admittedly isn’t that long at less than one year — Amodei has used only two words that appear on the Kaplan list of 100 most common SAT words.

That puts Amodei squarely at the bottom of the pack.

Conversely, Sen. Harry Reid, who speaks at a 9th grade level — the lowest in Nevada’s delegation — has the strongest vocabulary, according to the study.

Well, at least at first glance.

Reid is ranked No. 1 for most frequently using words that appear on the top 100 list. But that’s because he loves to use the word "compromise."

He’s uttered "compromise" 147 times this session — more than any other lawmaker.

Of course, the study didn’t investigate how many times Reid’s usage of "compromise" was preceded by the term “failed to” or “refused to” or “just plain won’t.”

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