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John Lewis on Government Reform

Democratic Representative (GA-5)


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

Voted NO on requiring photo ID for voting in federal elections.

Requires that to vote in federal elections, an individual present a government-issued, current, and valid photo identification. After 2010, that ID must require providing proof of US citizenship as a condition for issuance. An individual who does not present such an ID is permitted to cast a provisional ballot, and then present the required ID within 48 hours. Exempts from this requirement the absentee ballot of any eligible overseas military voter on active duty overseas.

Proponents support voting YES because:

The election system is the bedrock that our Republic is built on and its security and oversight is of paramount concern. Only US citizens have the right to vote in Federal elections, but our current system does not give State election officials the tools they need to ensure that this requirement is being met.

This bill is designed to increase participation by ensuring that each legitimate vote will be counted and not be diluted by fraud. There are many elections in this country every cycle that are decided by just a handful of votes. How can we be certain that these elections, without measures to certify the identity of voters, are not being decided by fraudulent votes?

Opponents support voting NO because:

There is something we can all agree on: only Americans get to vote, and they only get to vote once. But what we are talking about in this bill is disenfranchising many of those Americans. It is already a felony for a non-American to vote. We had hearings and what we found out was that the issue of illegal aliens voting basically does not occur.

The impact of this will disproportionately affect poor people and African Americans, because many are too poor to have a car and they do not have a license. We have no evidence there is a problem. We have ample evidence that this will disenfranchise many Americans. This is the measure to disenfranchise African Americans, Native Americans. It is wrong and we will not stand for it.

Reference: Federal Election Integrity Act; Bill H R 4844 ; vote number 2006-459 on Sep 20, 2006

Voted NO on restricting independent grassroots political committees.

A "527 organization" is a political committee which spends money raised independently of any candidate's campaign committee, in support or opposition of a candidate or in support or opposition of an issue. Well-known examples include MoveOn.org (anti-Bush) and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (anti-Kerry). Voting YES would regulate 527s as normal political committees, which would greatly restrict their funding, and hence would shift power to candidate committees and party committees. The bill's opponents say:
  • This legislation singles out 527 organizations in an effort to undermine their fundraising and is a direct assault on free speech.
  • This bill would obstruct the efforts of grassroots organizations while doing nothing to address the culture of corruption in Congress.
  • H.R. 513 is an unbalanced measure that favors corporate trade associations over independent advocates. Corporate interests could continue spending unlimited and undisclosed dollars for political purposes while independent organizations would be subject to contribution limits and source restrictions.
  • H.R. 513 also removes all limits on national and state party spending for Congressional candidates in primary or general elections--an unmasked attack on the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and clear evidence that the true intention in advancing H.R. 513 is not reform, but partisan advantage in political fundraising.
    Reference: Federal Election Campaign Act amendment "527 Reform Act"; Bill H.R.513 ; vote number 2006-088 on Apr 5, 2006

    Voted NO on limiting attorney's fees in class action lawsuits.

    Class Action Fairness Act of 2005: Amends the Federal judicial code to specify the calculation of contingent and other attorney's fees in proposed class action settlements that provide for the award of coupons to class members. Allows class members to refuse compliance with settlement agreements or consent decrees absent notice. Prohibits a Federal district court from approving:
    1. a proposed coupon settlement absent a finding that the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate;
    2. a proposed settlement involving payments to class counsel that would result in a net monetary loss to class members, absent a finding that the loss is substantially outweighed by nonmonetary benefits; or
    3. a proposed settlement that provides greater sums to some class members solely because they are closer geographically to the court.
    Reference: Bill sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley [R, IA]; Bill S.5 ; vote number 2005-038 on Feb 17, 2005

    Voted NO on restricting frivolous lawsuits.

    Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2004: Amends the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to:
    1. require courts to impose sanctions on attorneys, law firms, or parties who file frivolous lawsuits (currently, sanctions are discretionary);
    2. disallow the withdrawal or correction of pleadings to avoid sanctions;
    3. require courts to award parties prevailing on motions reasonable expenses and attorney's fees, if warranted;
    4. authorize courts to impose sanctions that include reimbursement of a party's reasonable litigation costs in connection with frivolous lawsuits; and
    5. make the discovery phase of litigation subject to sanctions.
    Reference: Bill sponsored by Rep Lamar Smith [R, TX-21]; Bill H.R.4571 ; vote number 2004-450 on Sep 14, 2004

    Voted YES on campaign finance reform banning soft-money contributions.

    Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance Overhaul: Vote to pass a bill that would 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 sponsored by Shays, R-CT, and Meehan D-MA; Bill HR 2356 ; vote number 2002-34 on Feb 14, 2002

    Voted NO on banning soft money donations to national political parties.

    Support a ban on soft money donations to national political parties but allow up to $10,000 in soft-money donations to state and local parties for voter registration and get-out-the vote activity.
    Bill HR 2356 ; vote number 2001-228 on Jul 12, 2001

    Voted YES on banning soft money and issue ads.

    Campaign Finance Reform Act to ban "soft money" and impose restrictions on issue advocacy campaigning.
    Reference: Bill sponsored by Shays, R-CT; Bill HR 417 ; vote number 1999-422 on Sep 14, 1999

    Election reform is #1 priority to prevent disenfranchisement.

    Lewis adopted the CBC principles:

    Source: Congressional Black Caucus press release 01-CBC7 on Jan 6, 2001

    Subject independent 527s to rules for political committees.

    Lewis co-sponsored subjecting independent 527s to political committee rules

    OnTheIssues.org Explanation: "527 organizations" were inspired by the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill. The "527" refers to the relevant section of the tax code. 527s are independent organizations which raise and spend money on behalf of a candidate, without coordinating with the candidate. An example is the "Swift Boat" group in the 2004 elections. OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: A bill to clarify when organizations described in section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code must register as political committees.

    SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. McCAIN: This bill would end the illegal practice of "527" groups spending soft money on ads and other activities to influence Federal elections. A number of 527 groups raised and spent a substantial amount of soft money in a blatant effort to influence the outcome of last year's Presidential election. These activities are illegal under existing laws, and yet once again, the FEC has failed to do its job and has refused to do anything to stop these illegal activities. Therefore, we must pursue all possible steps to overturn the FEC's misinterpretation of the campaign finance laws, which is improperly allowing 527 groups whose purpose is to influence Federal elections to spend soft money on these efforts.

    The bill we introduce today is simple. It would require that all 527s register as political committees and comply with Federal campaign finance laws, including Federal limits on the contributions they receive, unless the money they raise and spend is only in connection with non-Federal elections.

    Enough is enough. It is time to stop wasting taxpayer's dollars on an agency that runs roughshod over the will of the Congress and the Constitution. We've fought too hard to sit back and allow this worthless agency to undermine the law.

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

    Source: 527s in BCRA (S.271/H.R.513) 05-S0271 on Feb 2, 2005

    Criminalize false or deceptive info about elections.

    Lewis 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

    Sponsored resolution rejecting photo ID for voting.

    Lewis 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

    Establish the United States Public Service Academy.

    Lewis co-sponsored establishing the United States Public Service Academy

    Introductory statement by Sponsor:

    Sen. CLINTON: I rise today to introduce legislation that will create an undergraduate institution designed to cultivate a generation of young leaders dedicated to public service. The US Public Service Academy Act (The PSA Act) will form a national academy to serve as an extraordinary example of effective, national public education.

    The tragic events of September 11 and the devastation of natural disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita underscore how much our Nation depends on strong public institutions and competent civilian leadership at all levels of society. Congress must take a step forward to ensure competent civilian leadership and improve our Nation's ability to respond to future emergencies and to confront daily challenges.

    This legislation will create the US Public Service Academy to groom future public servants and build a corps of capable civilian leaders. Modeled after the military service academies, this academy will provide a four-year, federally-subsidized college education for more than 5,000 students a year in exchange for a five year commitment to public service.

    The PSA Act will meet critical national needs as the baby-boomer generation approaches retirement. Already, studies show looming shortages in the Federal civil service, public education, law enforcement, the non-profit sector and other essential areas.

    Unfortunately our young people are priced out of public service careers all too often. By providing a service-oriented education at no cost to the student, the PSA Act will tap into the strong desire to serve that already exists among college students while erasing the burden of enormous college debt.

    The establishment of a United States Public Service Academy is an innovative way to strengthen and protect America by creating a corps of well-trained, highly-qualified civilian leaders. I am hopeful that my Senate colleagues from both sides of the aisle will join me today.

    Source: United States Public Service Academy Act (S.960 & HR.1671) 07-HR1671 on Mar 23, 2007

    Prohibit voter intimidation in federal elections.

    Lewis 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

    Ban stock trading based on Congressional insider knowledge.

    Lewis co-sponsored STOCK Act

    Congressional Summary:Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK Act): Amends the Securities Exchange Act and the Commodity Exchange Act to prohibit purchase or sale of either securities or commodities by a person in possession of material nonpublic information regarding pending or prospective legislative action.

    Bill explanation (ProCon.org, "Insider Trading by Congress", Feb. 3, 2012):

    Source: H1148/S1871 11-S1871 on Nov 15, 2011

    Require full disclosure of independent campaign expenditures.

    Lewis co-sponsored DISCLOSE Act

    Congressional Summary:

    Wikipedia & OnTheIssue Summary: