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John Kerry on Government Reform

Jr Senator (MA), Democratic nominee for President


FactCheck: Yes, Kerry was absent from Senate 76% in 2003

BUSH_CHENEY CLAIM: “As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Kerry was absent for 76 percent of the committee’s hearings.”

CNN FACT CHECK:Official records confirm that Sen John Kerry attended 11 out of 49 public committee meetings from 1993 through January 2001, for an absentee rate of 78%. President Bush’s campaign credits Kerry for attending another public meeting in June 1999, although official records do not indicate exactly who attended. Assuming Kerry did attend this 12th meeting, his absentee rate would be 76%, as the Bush campaign claims. The Kerry campaign says that most of the committee meetings are closed and that attendance records are not public, suggesting that his attendance rate could be higher if closed meetings were included in the tally. However, Kerry himself could authorize the committee to release his attendance records for closed meetings, but has not done so.

Source: CNN FactCheck on 2004 statements by Bush and Kerry , Oct 29, 2004

FactCheck: Kerry passed more than 5 bills, but less than 56

BUSH: He introduced some 300 bills and he’s passed five.

KERRY: Once again, the president is misleading America. I’ve actually passed 56 individual bills that I’ve personally written and, in addition to that, and not always under my name, there are amendments on certain bills.

FACT CHECK: Bush said Kerry passed five bills. Kerry said he’s passed 56. Who’s right? That depends on the definition of “passed” and “bills.” Bush counted only measures technically defined as “bills,” leaving out four “joint resolutions” that also have the force of law, and he also omitted two laws whose House versions were adopted in a form nearly identical to Senate versions authored by Kerry. When Kerry said “I’ve actually passed 56 individual bills that I’ve personally written” he was counting everything that had passed the Senate, whether or not it cleared the House. He also counts 24 resolutions that have no force of law.

Source: Analysis of Third Bush-Kerry debate (FactCheck 2004) , Oct 15, 2004

Every vote must be counted

Q: What will you do to assure elections officials that the federal government is committed to making the Help America Vote Act work as Congress intended?

A: we are going to prechallenge some of these automatic machines -- the Diebold machines -- where there have already been problems. And we’re going to prechallenge and have a team across this country who are focused on those particular areas of the country where they are notorious about switching addresses, telling people they’re not registered

Source: Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum , Jan 11, 2004

Only Senator elected 4 times without a dime of PAC money

It is time that we had a President who doesn’t just talk about family values, but who values families in the policies we present to the nation. I’m angry about the way this administration sides with the insiders, the influential, those who have the power to parade their extraordinary sums of money in Washington. Almost $100 million a month, spent to get the Congress to do something or to stop the Congress from doing something. And usually it’s a power exercised behind closed doors with privileged secrecy that they deny a spotlight on to the American people.

I stand before you as the only person elected to the US Senate four times without ever taking a dime of soft money, special interest PAC money, or independent expenditures. I will be a President who will get the money out of American politics and restore the democracy of our country for all Americans.

Source: Speech at 2003 Take Back America Conference, Washington, DC , Jun 5, 2003

Flag and patriotism belong to all Americans

Q: What do you think about the actions and policies of the Bush administration?

A: People want to know why Bush is rolling back environmental protections, why everyone is sacrificing for the war on terrorism except millionaires who are just getting new tax breaks, and why is he selecting judges who want to turn back the clock on civil rights and workers rights and the right to choose. The American flag and patriotism doesn’t belong to any political party - it belongs to all of us as Americans.

Source: MoveOn.org interview , Jun 17, 2003

Voted YES on Congressional pay raise.

Congressional Summary:
    Makes appropriations to the Senate for FY2010 for:
  1. expense allowances;
  2. representation allowances for the Majority and Minority Leaders;
  3. salaries of specified officers, employees, and committees (including the Committee on Appropriations);
  4. agency contributions for employee benefits;
  5. inquiries and investigations;
  6. the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control;
  7. the Offices of the Secretary and of the Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate;
  8. miscellaneous items;
  9. the Senators' Official Personnel and Office Expense Account; and
  10. official mail costs.
Amends the Legislative Branch Appropriation Act of 1968 to increase by $50,000 the gross compensation paid all employees in the office of a Senator. Increases by $96,000 per year the aggregate amount authorized for the offices of the Majority and Minority Whip.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D, FL-20): We, as Members of Congress, have responsibility not just for the institution, but for the staff that work for this institution, and to preserve the facilities that help support this institution. We have endeavored to do that responsibly, and I believe we have accomplished that goal.

Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. SCALISE (R, LA-1): It's a sad day when someone attempts to cut spending in a bill that grows government by the size of 7%, and it's not allowed to be debated on this House floor. Some of their Members actually used the term "nonsense" and "foolishness" when describing our amendments to cut spending; they call that a delaying tactic. Well, I think Americans all across this country want more of those types of delaying tactics to slow down this runaway train of massive Federal spending. Every dollar we spend from today all the way through the end of this year is borrowed money. We don't have that money. We need to control what we're spending.

Reference: Legislative Branch Appropriations Act; Bill HR2918&S1294 ; vote number 2009-S217 on Jul 6, 2009

Voted YES on providing a US House seat for the District of Columbia.

Congressional Summary:

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Sen. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT): I am cosponsoring the legislation to provide a House seat for DC and an additional House seat for Utah. Representation and suffrage are so central to the American system of self-government that America's founders warned that limiting suffrage would risk another revolution and could prevent ratification of the Constitution. The Supreme Court held in 1820 that Congress' legislative authority over DC allows taxation of DC. Do opponents of giving DC a House seat believe that DC is suitable for taxation but not for representation?

Opponent's argument to vote No:Sen. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): I make a constitutional point of order against this bill on the grounds that it violates article I, section 2, of the Constitution. I appreciate the frustration felt by the residents of DC at the absence of a vote in Congress. According to many experts, DC is not a State, so therefore is not entitled to that representation. Also, one has to raise the obvious question: If DC is entitled to a Representative, why isn't Puerto Rico, which would probably entail 9 or 10 Members of Congress? [With regards to the seat for Utah], this is obviously partisan horse-trading.

Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act; Bill S.160 ; vote number 2009-S073 on Feb 26, 2009

Voted YES on granting the District of Columbia a seat in Congress.

Cloture vote on the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act:[Washington DC currently has a "delegate" to the US House, whose vote does not count. Utah had complained that the 2000 census did not count many Utahns on Mormon missions abroad].

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. BYRD: In 1978, I voted for H.J. Res. 554, that proposed amending the Constitution to provide for representation of D.C. [That amendment passed the Senate but was not ratified by the States]. While I recognize that others believe that the Constitution authorizes the Congress to "exercise exclusive legislation" over D.C., the historical intent of the Founders on this point is unclear. I oppose S.1257, because I doubt that our Nation's Founding Fathers ever intended that the Congress should be able to change the text of the Constitution by passing a simple bill.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. HATCH. There are conservative and liberal advocates on both sides of this issue,and think most people know Utah was not treated fairly after the last census. For those who are so sure this is unconstitutional, [we include an] expedited provision that will get us to the Supreme Court to make an appropriate decision. It will never pass as a constitutional amendment. There are 600,000 people in D.C., never contemplated by the Founders of this country to be without the right to vote. They are the only people in this country who do not have a right to vote for their own representative in the House. This bill would remedy that situation.

Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act; Bill S. 1257 ; vote number 2007-339 on Sep 18, 2007

Voted NO on requiring photo ID to vote in federal elections.

Vote on Dole Amdt. S.2350, amending SP2350 (via the College Cost Reduction Act): To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require individuals voting in person to present photo identification.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. DOLE. I am proposing a commonsense measure to uphold the integrity of Federal elections. My amendment to require voters to show photo identification at the polls would go a long way in minimizing potential for voter fraud. When a fraudulent vote is cast and counted, the vote of a legitimate voter is cancelled. This is wrong, and my amendment would help ensure that one of the hallmarks of our democracy, our free and fair elections, is protected. Opinion polls repeatedly confirm that Americans overwhelmingly support this initiative.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. FEINSTEIN. If one would want to suppress the vote in the 2008 election, one would vote for this because this measure goes into effect January 1, 2008. It provides that everybody who votes essentially would have to have a photo ID. If you want to suppress the minority vote, the elderly vote, the poor vote, this is exactly the way to do it. Many of these people do not have driver's licenses. This amendment would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to actually carry out. It goes into effect--surprise--January 1, 2008 [to affect the presidential election]. I urge a "no" vote.

Reference: Dole Amendment to the Help America Vote Act; Bill S.2350, amending SP2350 ; vote number 2007-269 on Jul 19, 2007

Voted NO on allowing some lobbyist gifts to Congress.

A motion to table (kill) an amendment to clarify the application of the gift rule to lobbyists. Voting NAY would define employees of lobbying companies as registered lobbyists and therefore subject to the gift ban. Voting YEA would apply the gift ban only to specific people who registered as lobbyists.
Reference: Feingold Amendment to Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act; Bill S.Amdt.2962 to S.2349 ; vote number 2006-080 on Mar 29, 2006

Voted YES on establishing the Senate Office of Public Integrity.

An amendment to establish the Senate Office of Public Integrity. Voting YEA would establish the new office, and voting NAY would keep ethics investigations within the existing Senate Ethics Committee.
Reference: Collins Amendment to Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act; Bill S.Amdt.3176 to S.2349 ; vote number 2006-077 on Mar 28, 2006

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

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.

Kerry 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.

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

Make Election Day a national holiday.

Kerry introduced the Federal Election Day Act

Designates November 5, 2002, and November 2, 2004, as Federal Election Day. Makes Federal Election Day a legal public holiday. Identical bills introduced in House HR.934, Senate S.1388 and S.2104.

Source: Bill sponsored by 2 Senators and 1 Rep 01-SR21 on Aug 1, 2001

Criminalize false or deceptive info about elections.

Kerry co-sponsored criminalizing false or deceptive info about elections

OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: Amends federal criminal law to prohibit any person from knowingly deceiving any other person regarding:

  1. the time, place, or manner of conducting any federal election; or
  2. the qualifications for or restrictions on voter eligibility for any such election.
Creates a private right of action for any person aggrieved by a violation of such prohibition. Prescribes a criminal penalty for such deceptive acts.

SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. OBAMA: Voter participation is fundamental to our democracy, and we must do all we can to encourage those who can to vote. I also hope voters go to the polls with accurate information about what is on the ballot, where they are supposed to vote, and what our Nation's voting laws are.

It might surprise some of you to know, but even in this awesome age of technological advancement and easy access to information, there are folks who will stop at nothing to try to deceive people and keep them away from the polls. These deceptive practices all too often target and exploit vulnerable populations, like minorities, the disabled, or the poor.

Deceptive practices often rely on a few tried and true tricks. Voters are often warned that an unpaid parking ticket will lead to their arrest or that folks with family members who have been convicted of a crime are ineligible to vote. Of course, these warnings have no basis in fact, and they are made with one goal and one goal only: to keep Americans away from the polls.

The bill I am introducing today provides the clear statutory language and authority needed to get allegations of deceptive practices investigated. It establishes harsh penalties for those found to have perpetrated them. Deceptive practices and voter intimidation are real problems and demand real solutions like those offered in my bill.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Rules and Administration; never came to a vote.

Source: Voter Intimidation Prevention Act (S.1975/H.R.4463) 05-S1975 on Nov 8, 2005

Reject photo ID requirements for voting.

Kerry co-sponsored rejecting photo ID requirements for voting

OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: Expresses the sense of Congress that:

  1. a requirement that U.S. citizens obtain photo identification cards before being able to vote has not been shown to ensure ballot integrity and places an undue burden on citizens' legitimate voting rights; (
  2. the Department of Justice should challenge any state law that limits a citizen's ability to vote based on discriminatory photo identification requirements; and
  3. any effort to impose national photo identification requirements for voting should be rejected.

SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. OBAMA: I am submitting a resolution to express the Senate's strong disapproval of recent efforts to disenfranchise Americans. Unfortunately, too many electoral reform efforts seem intent on limiting access to the ballot as opposed to expanding it. In the mid-20th century, the poll tax was the preferred means of disenfranchising large minority populations, specifically African Americans. Today, the poll tax is taking on a new form--a photo identification requirement for voters.

According to the National Commission on Federal Election Reform, such a requirement would "impose an additional expense on the exercise of the franchise, a burden that would fall disproportionately on people who are poorer and urban." Nevertheless, a number of States, including Georgia, have recently passed laws mandating government-issued photo identification for voters at the polls. Nationwide, at least 12% of eligible drivers do not have a driver's license. And Georgia has made it difficult for rural and urban folks to obtain their voter photo identification.

The Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform acknowledges that there is "no evidence of extensive fraud in U.S. elections or of multiple voting."

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Rules and Administration; never came to a vote.

Source: Resolution on Voting (S.CON.RES.53) 05-SC53 on Sep 20, 2005

Post earmarks on the Internet before voting on them.

Kerry co-sponsored posting earmarks on the Internet before voting on them

OnTheIssues.org Explanation: This bill attempts to limit earmarks by publicizing them. Rather than banning earmarks, this bill requires that earmarks and other last-minute add-ins get posted on the Internet. Posting provisions on the Internet for 3 days is intended to restrict lobbyists influence on earmarks that would otherwise go unnoticed.

OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY:

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Rules and Administration; never came to a vote.
Source: CLEAN-UP Act (S.2179) 06-S2179 on Jan 18, 2006

Prohibit voter intimidation in federal elections.

Kerry co-sponsored prohibiting voter intimidation in federal elections

Makes it unlawful for anyone before or during a federal election to knowingly communicate false election-related information about that election, with the intent to prevent another person from exercising the right to vote. Increases from one year to five years' imprisonment the criminal penalty for intimidation of voters.

Introductory statement by Sponsor:

Sen. OBAMA: This bill seeks to address the all-too-common efforts to deceive voters in order to keep them away from the polls. It's hard to imagine that we even need a bill like this. But, unfortunately, there are people who will stop at nothing to try to deceive voters and keep them away from the polls. What's worse, these practices often target and exploit vulnerable populations, such as minorities, the disabled, or the poor. We saw countless examples in this past election.

Of course, these so-called warnings have no basis in fact, and are made with only one goal in mind--to keep Americans away from the polls. We see these problems election after election, and my hope is that this bill will finally stop these practices. This bill makes voter intimidation & deception punishable by law, and it contains strong penalties. The bill also seeks to address the real harm of these crimes--people who are prevented from voting by misinformation--by establishing a process for reaching out to these misinformed voters with accurate information so they can cast their votes in time.
Source: Voter Intimidation Prevention Act (H.R.1281 & S.453) 07-S453 on Mar 1, 2007

Require full disclosure of independent campaign expenditures.

Kerry co-sponsored DISCLOSE Act

Congressional Summary:

Wikipedia & OnTheIssue Summary: