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John Edwards on Government Reform

2004 Democratic Nominee for Vice President; Former Jr Senator (NC)


I should not have voted for that bankruptcy law

I should not have voted for that bankruptcy law. The bankruptcies that are occurring, about half of them are the result of medical costs. It’s not fair, and it’s not right.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Las Vegas Jan 15, 2008

No use of signing statements as back-door vetoes

Q: Under what circumstances would you sign a bill into law but also issue a signing statement reserving a constitutional right to bypass the law?

A: I strongly disagree with President Bush’s use of signing statements as back-door vetoes and permission slips to disregard laws he finds inconvenient or objectionable. As president, I will return to the way that signing statements have been used historically. No one, including the president, is above the law.

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power Dec 20, 2007

Bush damages constitution by increasing power of presidency

Our Founding Fathers believed deeply in a system of checks and balances among the three branches of government. Whether on signing statements, disregard for the Geneva Conventions, or violation of the established FISA process to authorize warrantless and illegal spying on American citizens, the Bush administration has repeatedly attempted to increase the power of the executive branch relative to the judiciary and legislative branches, which does damage to the constitutional design of our government and violates our constitutional traditions. We do not have a royal presidency. We do not have a king of the United States of America. Whatever George Bush thinks, he is not king. And it’s important for the American people to understand that their president respects them and understands that the Oval Office and the White House and the presidency doesn’t belong to one person. It belongs to the American people.
Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power Dec 20, 2007

Use signing statements as in the past, unlike Bush

I will go back to the way signing statements have been used historically. I’m going to make absolutely certain that our three branches of government are co-equal. We don’t have a royal presidency, we don’t have a king of the US, whatever Bush thinks, he is not king. It’s important for the American people to understand that their president respects them and understands that the oval office and the white house and the presidency don’t belong to one person, but the American people.
Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Democratic Debate Dec 13, 2007

Let’s all pledge not another dime from Washington lobbyists

Q: Are you seeing that Sen. Clinton would not maintain the momentum of change?

EDWARDS: I have never taken money from Washington lobbyists. And I’ve said: Why don’t we all make an absolutely clear statement that we are the Democratic Party; we’re the party of the people; we are not the party of Washington insiders? And we can say it clearly and unequivocally, by saying we will never take another dime from a Washington lobbyist. I’ve asked the other candidates to join me in that. And at least, until now, Sen. Clinton’s not done it.

CLINTON: I believe we have to change Washington. I’ve stood up against the special interests, I’ve taken them on. But there is this artificial distinction that people are trying to make: Don’t take money from lobbyists, but take money from the people who employ and hire lobbyists and give them their marching orders. I think we can do a much better job if we say we have got to move toward public financing, get the money out of American politics.

Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate on “This Week” Aug 19, 2007

Money from trial lawyers OK because they don’t push policy

Q: You have taken a firm stand against accepting money from lobbyists. But trial lawyers are now contributing significantly to your campaign. How is that any better than lobbyists?

A: It’s very different, because what’s happened is the lobbyists in Washington DC are the people whose job it is to rig this system against all of you. They do it every single day. They get paid to do it. And the difference between them and trial lawyers is that when lawyers give money to the jury who are making the decisions, that’s called a bribe. When lobbyists go to members of Congress and give money to them, that’s called politics. The question is, are we actually going to bring an end to this? Are we going to stop it? You’re being outspent 18 to 1 by big multinational corporate lobbyists in Washington DC. What I believe is that America needs change. We don’t need lobbyists in Washington. We need the Democratic Party and a president who will stand up for working men and women.

Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 8, 2007

Public campaign finance would reduce length of campaigns

Q: Is the presidential campaign too long?

A: It’s definitely too long. And one of the things we could do is publicly finance our political campaigns, which we should do.

Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 8, 2007

Democrats should say no to all insider lobbyist money

I asked [the other candidates] whether all the Democratic candidates and whether the Democratic party would say no from this day forward to Washington insider lobbyist money. We should say, this game is over; the system is rigged in Washington, DC. It is not working for you; it is not working for the American people. And we’re going to stand up to give the power in America back to you and back to all Americans who deserve it by saying no forever to lobbyist money in Washington, DC.
Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum Aug 7, 2007

Big change means take power from Big Oil & Big Drugs

The question all the viewers are asking is, How do we bring about big change? And I think that’s a fundamental threshold question. And the question is: Do you believe that compromise, triangulation will bring about big change? I think the people who are powerful in Washington--big insurance companies, big drug companies, big oil companies--they are not going to negotiate.

They are not going to give away their power. The only way that they are going to give away their power is if we take it away from them.

And I have been standing up to these people my entire life. I have been fighting them my entire life in court rooms--and beating them. If you want real change, you need somebody who’s taking these people on and beating them over and over and over.

Source: 2007 YouTube Democratic Primary debate, Charleston SC Jul 23, 2007

Vigorously prosecute voter suppression efforts

Q: What would you do to ensure that all Americans are able to cast a free and unfettered vote and that that vote be counted?

A: If our voting system actually worked, we would have never had George Bush as president, would we? Al Gore was actually voted into the presidency. First, we ought to allow same day registration for voting. Second, we need a president who vigorously prosecutes voter suppression efforts, because we know they’re going on all over the country in every single election. Third, we need paper ballots. I don’t trust these machines, having lived through the 2004 election. We need paper ballots. We need to assist those who need assistance, the disabled, to make sure that they’re able to vote. And last, those who have been convicted of a crime and have served their time are no less Americans and they ought to have their voting rights restored. They ought to be able to participate in the election. They are part of our democracy and their voice needs to be heard.

Source: 2007 NAACP Presidential Primary Forum Jul 12, 2007

Supports public financing of elections

I support a ban on contributions by federal lobbyists to federal officials, public financing of elections, and other measures to reduce the influence of special interests in Washington. I strongly supported the McCain-Feingold bill. I believe in equal rights and dignity for gay and lesbian Americans.
Source: 2004 Presidential National Political Awareness Test Mar 3, 2004

Day 1: Order limits on lobbyists & special interests

Q: After the inauguration, what would be your first action as president?

A: I will introduce legislation and sign executive orders to limit the influence of lobbyists and special interests in Washington. These measures will include: preventing candidates for federal office from taking contributions from Washington lobbyists; closing the revolving door between lobbyists’ shops and government jobs; shining a bright light on lobbyist influence; and stopping the war profiteering in Iraq

Source: Associated Press policy Q&A, “DAY 1” Jan 25, 2004

Ban lobbyist campaign donations and disclose activities

Q: Is there anything intrinsically wrong with being a lobbyist?

EDWARDS: No. There’s something wrong with the impact that Washington lobbyists are having on our system of government. The lobbyists are taking democracy away from the American people. Lobbyists who make huge campaign contributions are lobbying the Congress every day. We need to restore the power in this democracy to the American people so that these insiders are not continuing to run this government.

What I would do is ban their contributions. I would shine a bright light on their activities so we know what they’re doing. And I would make them tell us everything they’re doing: Who they’re lobbying for; the money they’re spending; who they’re trying to influence. The power of the American people to have their representatives decide only in the interests of the American people has been taken away. I’ve never taken any money from Washington lobbyists, but no one should be able to take money from them.

Source: Democratic 2004 Primary Debate at St. Anselm College Jan 22, 2004

Judge’s philosophy matters-juries rely on trust

As I sat in Judge Dupree’s courtroom as a clerk, I came to understand how a presiding judge’s philosophical leanings-the Judge was himself an ardent conservative-could shape the outcome of a trial in countless ways. A judge’s influence is subtle but powerful. The parties and particularly the jury look to the judge as a rigorous protector of the law and take everything the judge says as serious, important, and impartial, whether it is the last of these or not.

For lawyers as well as judges, trials are about credibility-if a jury is to believe in your case, the jury must believe you. You have to earn their trust, and after you have earned it, you have to earn it again, every day.

The 12 souls who spend full days, full weeks, or sometimes long months sitting only a few feet from you get to know you almost as well as you know yourself. My faith in the wisdom of ordinary people took root in the mill towns of my youth. But the juries of my adulthood deepened that faith.

Source: Four Trials, by John Edwards, p. 11 Dec 1, 2003

Hold attorneys accountable for frivolous lawsuits

Q: Your position on the issue of civil tort reform?

A: I am proud of my 20 years work against powerful insurance companies and drug companies. I believe we have the best legal system in the world, but it is not perfect and can be improved. For example, doctors and health care providers are facing rising malpractice premiums and are having difficulty getting reimbursement for the services they provide. I have proposed that we put additional responsibilities on attorneys who file malpractice cases by requiring that they have the cases reviewed by independent experts who determine that they are serous and meritorious before a case can be filed and that the attorneys certify that this has been done. If an attorney fails to meet their obligations the attorney would be held accountable. And I would impose a three strikes and you’re out rule so that if an attorney violated the requirement three times they would lose their right to file such cases for a substantial period of time.

Source: Concord Monitor / WashingtonPost.com on-line Q&A Nov 7, 2003

Put forward an agenda that stands up for all Americans

Q: What about Bush administration policies?

A: I’ve put forward an agenda that stands up for all Americans. My agenda includes a plan to make the first year of college free for any young person willing to work for it. My agenda for America includes a plan to protect older workers from losing their pensions, a plan to pass a prescription drug benefit and to stop drug companies from keeping less- expensive drugs off the market, and a $2500 family leave tax credit for ne

Source: MoveOn.org interview Jun 17, 2003

$50B aid to states to avoid municipal layoffs

Q: What is your view on revenue sharing?

EDWARDS: I have a plan about how to get the economy going and to help states and municipalities with this terrible budget crisis. I have introduced legislation that would provide $50 billion to states and municipalities so that they don’t have to lay off workers, so they are not laying off fire fighters, so they’re not cutting education.

Source: AFSCME union debate in Iowa May 17, 2003

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.
Reference: Bill HR.2356 ; 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.
Reference: Bill S.565 ; vote number 2002-38 on Feb 27, 2002

Voted YES on banning campaign donations from unions & 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.
Reference: Bill S.27 ; vote number 2001-64 on Apr 2, 2001

Voted YES on funding for 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

Voluntary public financing for all general elections.

Edwards adopted 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.

Source: The Hyde Park Declaration 00-DLC9 on Aug 1, 2000

Other candidates on Government Reform: John Edwards on other issues:
Nominees:
GOP: Sen.John McCain
GOP V.P.: Gov.Sarah Palin
Democrat: Sen.Barack Obama
Dem.V.P.: Sen.Joe Biden

Third Parties:
Constitution: Chuck Baldwin
Libertarian: Rep.Bob Barr
Constitution: Amb.Alan Keyes
Liberation: Gloria La Riva
Green: Rep.Cynthia McKinney
Socialist: Brian Moore
Independent: Ralph Nader
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Page last updated: Feb 08, 2010