Project Vote Smart (PVS) is a non-profit, non-partisan research organization that collects and distributes information on candidates for public office in the United States. It covers candidates and elected officials in six basic areas: background information, issue positions (via the Political Courage Test), voting records, campaign finances, interest group ratings, and speeches and public statements. This information is distributed via their web site, a toll-free phone number, and print publications. The president of the organization since its founding is Richard Kimball.
PVS also provides records of public statements, contact information for state and local election offices, polling place and absentee ballot information, ballot measure descriptions for each state (where applicable), links to federal and state government agencies, and links to political parties and issue organizations.
In 1986, Richard Kimball ran unsuccessfully for one of Arizona's two U.S. Senate seats. In a candidate's debate, he described the campaign process to prospective voters:
"Understand what we do to you. We spend all of our time raising money, often from strangers we do not even know. Then we spend it in three specific ways: First we measure you, what it is you want to purchase in the political marketplace — just like Campbell's soup or Kellogg's cereal. Next, we hire some consultants who know how to tailor our image to fit what we sell. Lastly, we bombard you with the meaningless, issueless, emotional nonsense that is always the result. And whichever one of us does that best will win."
Kimball used this philosophy to found Project Vote Smart in 1992.
Originally based at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, PVS established its headquarters and research center in 1999 at the Great Divide Ranch near Philipsburg, Montana. In 2006, the Project added a branch at The University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. Coincident with this move, the Project gave its president Richard Kimball a pay increase which was criticized by some alumni and which contributed to a reduction in its Charity Navigator score. In December 2010, the Tucson office was closed in preparation for two new satellite research offices. The reason for the closure of the Tucson branch was also related to the University’s budget cuts, which eliminated the Project’s "rent-free space at a 1,500- square-foot house off the main campus." 
In January 2011, Project Vote Smart moved its Key Votes Department and Political Courage Test Department to facilities offered by both the University of Texas-Austin and the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California, respectively. Students at both universities now choosing to intern with the organization receive college credit in exchange for their research hours.
Project Vote Smart does not accept contributions from corporations, labor unions, political parties, or other organizations that lobby, support or oppose candidates or issues. All funding is provided by individual contributions and foundation grants such as from the Ford Foundation, Carnegie Foundation, and Pew Foundation.
Individual contributors are considered members, and are given the opportunity to visit their headquarters at the Great Divide Ranch where they work as research volunteers alongside interns and staff.
Introduced by the Project during the 2010 election season, it is "the interactive tool that enables voters to compare their position on various issues with that of a candidate."
In March 2014, Project Vote Smart laid off six employees, citing financial difficulties. A seventh employee quit because of the sudden layoffs.
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