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Kirsten Gillibrand on Government Reform

Democratic Jr Senator (NY)


Sunlight Report: lobbyist meetings & earmarks on website

She has insisted, to the point of annoying Congressional colleagues, on openness in government, posting a "Sunlight Report" on her Congressional Web site listing her meetings with lobbyists as well as the names of individuals seeking government grants known as earmarks.
Source: Michael Powell and Raymond Hernandez, New York Times , Jan 23, 2009

No lobbyist gifts

Source: 2006 Senate campaign website, gillibrand2006.com, “Issues” , Nov 7, 2006

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 requiring lobbyist disclosure of bundled donations.

Amends the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 to require a registered lobbyist who bundles contributions totaling over $5,000 to one covered recipient in one quarter to:
  1. file a quarterly report with Congress; and
  2. notify the recipient.
"Covered recipient" includes federal candidates, political party committees, or leadership PACs [but not regular PACs].

Proponents support voting YES because:

This measure will more effectively regulate, but does not ban, the practice of registered lobbyists bundling together large numbers of campaign contributions. This is a practice that has already taken root in Presidential campaigns. "Bundling" contributions which the lobbyist physically receives and forwards to the candidate, or which are credited to the lobbyist through a specific tracking system put in place by the candidate. This bill requires quarterly reporting on bundled contributions.

We ultimately need to move to assist the public financing of campaigns, as soon as we can. But until we do, the legislation today represents an extremely important step forward.

Opponents support voting NO because:

This legislation does not require that bundled contributions to political action committees, often referred to as PACs, be disclosed. Why are PACs omitted from the disclosure requirements in this legislation?

If we are requiring the disclosure of bundled contributions to political party committees, those same disclosure rules should also apply to contributions to PACs. Party committees represent all members of that party affiliation. PACs, on the other hand, represent more narrow, special interests. Why should the former be exposed to more sunshine, but not the latter?

The fact that PACs give more money to Democrats is not the only answer. Time and again the majority party picks favorites, when what the American people want is more honesty and more accountability.

Reference: Honest Leadership and Open Government Act; Bill H R 2316 ; vote number 2007-423 on May 24, 2007

Voted YES on granting Washington DC an Electoral vote & vote in Congress.

Bill to provide for the treatment of the District of Columbia as a Congressional district for representation in the House of Representatives, and in the Electoral College. Increases membership of the House from 435 to 437 Members beginning with the 110th Congress. [Political note: D.C. currently has a non-voting delegate to the US House. Residents of D.C. overwhelmingly vote Democratic, so the result of this bill would be an additional Democratic vote in the House and for President].

Proponents support voting YES because:

This bill corrects a 200-year-old oversight by restoring to the citizens of the District of Columbia the right to elect a Member of the House of Representatives who has the same voting rights as all other Members.

Residents of D.C. serve in the military. They pay Federal taxes each year. Yet they are denied the basic right of full representation in the House of Representatives.

The District of Columbia was created to prevent any State from unduly influencing the operations of the Federal Government. However, there is simply no evidence that the Framers of the Constitution thought it was necessary to keep D.C. residents from being represented in the House by a voting Member.

Opponents support voting NO because:

The proponents of this bill in 1978 believed that the way to allow D.C. representation was to ratify a constitutional amendment. The Founders of the country had the debate at that time: Should we give D.C. a Representative? They said no. So if you want to fix it, you do it by making a constitutional amendment.

Alternatively, we simply could have solved the D.C. representation problem by retroceding, by giving back part of D.C. to Maryland. There is precedent for this. In 1846, Congress took that perfectly legal step of returning present-day Arlington to the State of Virginia.

Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act; Bill H R 1905 ; vote number 2007-231 on Apr 19, 2007

Voted YES on protecting whistleblowers from employer recrimination.

Expands the types of whistleblower disclosures protected from personnel reprisals for federal employees, particularly on national security issues.

Proponents support voting YES because:

This bill would strengthen one of our most important weapons against waste, fraud and abuse, and that is Federal whistleblower protections. Federal employees are on the inside and offer accountability. They can see where there is waste going on or if there is corruption going on.

One of the most important provisions protects national security whistleblowers. There are a lot of Federal officials who knew the intelligence on Iraq was wrong. But none of these officials could come forward. If they did, they could have been stripped of their security clearances, or they could have been fired. Nobody blew the whistle on the phony intelligence that got us into the Iraq war.

Opponents support voting NO because:

It is important that personnel within the intelligence community have appropriate opportunities to bring matters to Congress so long as the mechanisms to do so safeguard highly sensitive classified information and programs. The bill before us suffers from a number of problems:

  1. The bill would conflict with the provisions of the existing Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998, which protecting sensitive national security information from unauthorized disclosure to persons not entitled to receive it.
  2. The bill violates the rules of the House by encouraging intelligence community personnel to report highly sensitive intelligence matters to committees other than the Intelligence Committees. The real issue is one of protecting highly classified intelligence programs and ensuring that any oversight is conducted by Members with the appropriate experiences, expertise, and clearances.
  3. This bill would make every claim of a self-described whistleblower, whether meritorious or not, subject to extended and protracted litigation.
Reference: Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act; Bill H R 985 ; vote number 2007-153 on Mar 14, 2007

Supports Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance Reform.

Gillibrand adopted the Blue Dog Coalition press release:

In a press conference today the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of 32 moderate to conservative Democrats, announced their continued support for the Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance Reform bill (H.R. 2356), which is being debated on the House floor today. The Coalition was joined by the lead sponsors of the Senate Campaign Finance Reform bill. “I believe that we need to end the influence of ‘soft money’ generated from undisclosed sources. And I believe that we need to rein in illegal foreign contributions,” said Rep. Ken Lucas (KY), Blue Dog Campaign Finance Reform Task Force Co-Chairman. “True campaign finance reform will restore to the American people their voice in the legislative process--a voice that has been drowned out in recent years by big-money donors.”

The Blue Dog Coalition endorsed the Shays-Meehan bill in March of this year. An official Blue Dog endorsement comes with the approval of no less than two-thirds of the Coalition’s 32 members. “My own campaign experience has demonstrated to me the need for strong campaign finance reform measures,” said freshman Blue Dog Rep. Adam Schiff (CA), whose victory last November was the most expensive House race to date – combined, both candidates spent $11 million. “In order to protect the integrity of our democratic electoral process, we must reduce the corrosive influence of unregulated soft money donations.”

“I have been a strong supporter of Shays-Meehan and urge my colleagues to join with us so we can restore the faith of the American people in our elections,” said Rep. Dennis Moore (KS), a member of the Blue Dog Campaign Finance Reform Task Force. “I’ve worked with Sen. McCain on reform legislation before and I know that by working in a bipartisan manner, we can get big money out of politics.”

Source: Blue Dog Coalition press release 01-BDC4 on Jul 12, 2001

Require Internet disclosure of all earmarks.

Gillibrand signed H.R.5258& S.3335

    The website shall be comprised of a database including the following information, in searchable format, for each earmark:
  1. The fiscal year in which the item would be funded.
  2. The number of the bill or joint resolution for which the request is made, if available.
  3. The amount of the initial request made by the Member of Congress.
  4. The amount approved by the committee of jurisdiction.
  5. The amount carried in the bill or joint resolution (or accompanying report) as passed.
  6. The name of the department or agency, and the account or program, through which the item will be funded.
  7. The name and the State or district of the Member of Congress who made the request.
  8. The name and address of the intended recipient.
  9. The type of organization (public, private nonprofit, or private for profit entity) of the intended recipient.
  10. The project name, description, and estimated completion date.
  11. A justification of the benefit to taxpayers.
  12. Whether the request is for a continuing project and if so, when funds were first appropriated for such project.
  13. A description, if applicable, of all non-Federal sources of funding.
  14. Its current status in the legislative process
Source: Earmark Transparency Act 10-HR5258 on May 11, 2010

Require full disclosure of independent campaign expenditures.

Gillibrand co-sponsored DISCLOSE Act

Congressional Summary:

Wikipedia & OnTheIssue Summary: