Joseph Lieberman on Government Reform
Democratic Jr Senator (CT), ran for V.P. with Gore, ran for president 2004
Term limits result in weak government that governs poorly
The Founding Fathers felt that elected office holders should rotate in and out of public office after a limited period of time. But term limits, which were a feature of the Articles of Confederaion [in the 1780s], were not included in the Constitution
because they didn’t work. Term-limited, part-time lawmakers at the federal and state levels were either weak or absent. We would not want to have a Senate composed of 100 people who had never held public office before. It would not govern well.
Source: Excerpt from “In Praise of Public Life”, p. 19-21
May 2, 2000
Instead of “Is it legal?” pols should ask “Is it right?”
People in public office are squeezed by many of the same financial and family pressures that so many others are. But unlike most people, politicians have power, and therefore they are faced with opportunities and ethical challenges others are not.
We are role models. We have voluntarily entered into a contract with the voters that is based on trust. If we violate that trust, our government, our democracy, suffers. So the first question a public figure must always ask himself when making a
decision about his personal behavior or actions, about whether to take an opportunity, is not just “Is it legal?” but “Is it right?”
I ask my staff to imagine how they would feel if they knew that a particular action would be questioned the
following morning in banner headlines on the front pages of the newspapers. The question should not be if it was legal (hopefully we would not knowingly do anything illegal). We called that our “Front Page Rule” and still try to live with it.
Source: Excerpt from “In Praise of Public Life”, p. 50-2
May 2, 2000
Using opponent’s personal details is wrong
Opposition research [on candidate’s personal lives] does nothing but demean our politics and defame the people who are its targets. There is nothing wrong with going after your opponent’s voting record or any other evidence of negligence in his public
life, but digging into his bank account, his phone records, his sexual life, and literally his garbage when these things have nothing to do with the performance of his public duties-past, present, or future-is wrong.
Source: Excerpt from “In Praise of Public Life”, p. 76
May 2, 2000
Preserve the independent counsel law, with limits
An independent counsel law is most effective when used for significant investigations and least effective when used to pursue flimsy charges. To limit use of the law, Congress might raise the evidentiary threshold for appointing an independent counsel
and reduce the number of executive branch officials - which now numbers 240 - who fall under its jurisdiction.
I have no doubt that if we fail to craft a workable substitute to the independent counsel, down the road, we’ll find ourselves in a crisis
similar to Watergate or Iran-Contra or Whitewater, with a public skeptical of the legitimacy of the criminal process, and, possibly, with a president or attorney general more interested in their own careers, than in getting to the facts. Then, we will
wish that in 1999 we had done more to preserve the bedrock democratic principle of the rule of law, that is the ability to independently prosecute even our most powerful officeholders.
Source: Op-Ed for the Los Angeles Times by Lieberman
Mar 2, 1999
Voted YES on banning "soft money" contributions and restricting issue ads.
Vote on passage of H.R. 2356; Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (Shays-Meehan bill, House equivalent of McCain-Feingoldf bill). Vote to ban “soft money” contributions to national political parties but permit up to $10,000 in soft money contributions to state and local parties to help with voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives. The bill would stop issue ads from targeting specific candidates within 30 days of the primary or 60 days of the general election. Additionally, the bill would raise the individual contribution limit from $1,000 to $2,000 per election for House and Senate candidates, both of which would be indexed for inflation.
; vote number 2002-54
on Mar 20, 2002
Voted NO on require photo ID (not just signature) for voter registration.
Motion to Table Schumer Amdt. No. 2937; To permit the use of a signature or personal mark for the purpose of verifying the identity of voters who register by mail, and for other purposes. Voting Yes would kill the amendment. The amendment would allow a signature to identify voters who register by mail, instead of requiring showing photo identification or other proof of residence before being allowed to vote.
; vote number 2002-38
on Feb 27, 2002
Voted YES on banning campaign donations from unions and corporations.
Vote to ban soft money donations to political parties and forbid corporate general funds and union general funds from being spent on issue ads. The bill would increase the individual contribution limit to candidates from $1,000 to $2,000.
; vote number 2001-64
on Apr 2, 2001
Voted YES on continuing funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.
This table motion would end debate on an amendment aimed at funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Support for the motion to table is a vote for NEA funding. [YES to table means supporting the NEA; NO means defunding the NEA].
Status: Motion to Table Agreed to Y)80; N)16; NV)4
Reference: Motion to table Smith Amdt #1569;
Bill H.R. 2466
; vote number 1999-260
on Aug 5, 1999
Voted YES on favoring 1997 McCain-Feingold overhaul of campaign finance.
Support of the campaign finance bill proposed by Senators McCain (R-AZ) and Feingold (D-WI).
Status: Cloture Motion Rejected Y)53; N)47
Reference: Campaign Finance Reform Bill;
Bill S. 25
; vote number 1997-267
on Oct 7, 1997
Voted YES on Approving the presidential line-item veto.
Approval of the presidential line-item veto authority.
Status: Conf Rpt Agreed to Y)69; N)31
Reference: Conference Report on S. 4;
Bill S. 4
; vote number 1996-56
on Mar 27, 1996
Voted NO on banning more types of Congressional gifts.
To exclude certain items from the Congressional Gift Ban.
Status: Amdt Failed Y)39; N)60; NV)1
Reference: Murkowski Amdt to S. 1061;
Bill S. 1061
; vote number 1995-339
on Jul 28, 1995
Voluntary public financing for all general elections.
Lieberman signed the manifesto, "A New Agenda for the New Decade":
Return Politics to the People
At a time when much of the world is emulating American values and institutions, too many Americans have lost confidence in their political system. They are turned off by a partisan debate that often seems to revolve not around opposing philosophies but around contending sets of interest groups. They believe that our current system for financing campaigns gives disproportionate power to wealthy individuals and groups and exerts too much influence over legislative and regulatory outcomes.
The time for piecemeal reform is past. As campaign costs soar at every level, we need to move toward voluntary public financing of all general elections and press broadcasters to donate television time to candidates.
The Internet holds tremendous potential for making campaigns less expensive and more edifying and for engaging Americans directly in electoral politics.
We should promote the Internet as a new vehicle for political communication and champion online voting.
Goals for 2010
Source: The Hyde Park Declaration 00-DLC9 on Aug 1, 2000
- Introduce voluntary public financing for all general elections.
- Allow properly regulated voter registration and voting online.
- Implement civic education courses in every public school.