Joseph Lieberman on Government Reform
Democratic Jr Senator (CT), ran for V.P. with Gore, ran for president 2004
Public has right to know candidate's personal income taxes
LIEBERMAN: It is really necessary to have total transparency in people who serve in our government. Ned, will you release your tax returns to respect the public's right to know?
LAMONT: I have done everything asked of me to respect the public's right
to know. We have submitted hundreds of pages of documentation on everything financial.
LIEBERMAN: He hasn't answered the question. I take it that he is saying he will not release his returns. I think that's an insult to the public's right to know.
Source: 2006 Connecticut Democratic Senate Primary debate
Jul 6, 2006
Earmarks are great for Connecticut
LAMONT: Let me talk about that transportation bill with 6,341 earmarks. An earmark is a special piece of pork written by a lobbyist, submitted at the last moment. And it's wrong. It's legal, but it's wrong. If you're not shouting from the rafters that
this is wrong, then you're complicit and you're part of the problem. That bill also included the infamous bridge to nowhere.
LIEBERMAN: We were all against the bridge to nowhere. But there are earmarks that are good. Is he against the earmarks I put in
the bill for $50 million to decrease congestion along I-95, or the money for ferry service from Bridgeport? Those are good earmarks.
LAMONT: Alaska gets 10 times what we do. We're not doing very well on that front. But more importantly, I think we
should outlaw these earmarks. They corrupt the political process. They are written by lobbyists & they're wrong. You support the earmarks, you work with the lobbyists, & that's what needs to be changed.
LIEBERMAN: The earmarks are great for Connecticut
Source: 2006 Connecticut Democratic Senate Primary debate
Jul 6, 2006
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 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].
- Considers D.C. a congressional district for purposes of representation in the House.
- D.C. shall not be considered a state for representation in the Senate.
- Limits D.C. to one Member under any reapportionment.
- Increases membership of the House from 435 to 437.
- Entitles Utah to one additional Representative until the next census, and modifies the reapportionment formula thereafter.
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 YES 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.
Proponents of the amendment say to vote NAY on the tabling motion because:
Reference: Feingold Amendment to Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act;
Bill S.Amdt.2962 to S.2349
; vote number 2006-080
on Mar 29, 2006
- Using the term "registered lobbyist'' will create a huge loophole. The Ethics Committee treats the actual listed lobbyists as registered lobbyists, but not the organization.
- So, for example, a company can give a Senator free tickets to a show or a baseball game, as long as a lobbyist doesn't actually offer or handle them. If the lobbyist's secretary makes the call, that would be permitted.
- If these companies can still give gifts, we won't have a real lobbyist gift ban. We won't be able to look the American people in the eye and say, "We just banned gifts from lobbyists,'' because we didn't.
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.
Proponents of the bill say to vote YEA because:
- We have heard from the media about the bribes and scandals, but we have heard only silence from the House Ethics Committee. One of the greatest travesties of these scandals is not what Congress did, but what it didn't do.
- The American people perceive the entire ethics system--House and Senate--to be broken. We can pass all the ethics reforms we want--gift bans, travel bans, lobbying restrictions--but none of them will make a difference if there isn't a nonpartisan, independent body that will help us enforce those laws.
- The Office of Public Integrity established in this amendment would provide a voice that cannot be silenced by political pressures. It would have the power to initiate independent investigations
and bring its findings to the Ethics Committees in a transparent manner.
Opponents of the bill say to vote NAY because:
Reference: Collins Amendment to Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act;
Bill S.Amdt.3176 to S.2349
; vote number 2006-077
on Mar 28, 2006
- The Constitution gave us not only the right but the duty to create our own rules, including the rules concerning our ethics. They are enforced internally by the Senate itself.
- The decisions made under this amendment would be no different than right now. The final decision will be made by the Senate Ethics Committee. All this really does is find a way to further publicize that complaints have been made.
- We have people accusing us almost daily of having done something wrong and publishing it through blogs and all that. I think we should be very careful in setting up another tool for these bloggers to create more charges against the Senate.
- I cannot support an amendment that either replaces the Senate Ethics Committee or adds another layer to our already expensive and time-consuming process. I urge the Senate to defeat this provision.
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 & 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 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.
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.
Subject independent 527s to rules for political committees.
Lieberman 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
Restrict lobbyist gifts & disclose lobbyist info on Internet.
Lieberman co-sponsored restricting lobbyist gifts & disclosing info on Internet
EXCERPTS OF BILL:
- Title I: Enhancing Lobbying Disclosure: Requires...
- quarterly instead of semiannual filing of lobbying disclosures reports;
- an annual report on registered lobbyists' contributions;
- maintenance of lobbying information in an electronic database, available to the public free of charge over the Internet;
- disclosure by registered lobbyists of all past executive and congressional employment; and
- disclosure of registered lobbyists' payments or reimbursements for travel and related expenses of government officials.
- Title II: Oversight of Ethics and Lobbying: annual report to Congress on lobbying registration and reports for compliance or noncompliance by lobbyists and their clients.
- Title III: Slowing the Revolving Door - Extends from one to two years the ban on lobbying contacts by former
Members of Congress, and officers of the legislative branch; and prohibits former Congressional employees, within one year after leaving office, from making lobbying contacts with a Member or employee of Congress.
- Title IV: Ban on Provision of Gifts or Travel by Lobbyists in Violation of the Rules of Congress: Prohibits a registered lobbyist from making a gift or providing travel to a Member or employee of Congress, unless the gift or travel may be accepted under the rules of the House or the Senate.
- Title V: Commission to Strengthen Confidence in Congress Act of 2006 - Establishes a Commission to report to Congress on congressional ethics requirements and to recommend improvements to ethical safeguards.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs; Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar No. 369; never came to a vote.
Source: Lobbying Transparency & Accountability Act (S.2128/H.R.4975) 05-S2128 on Dec 16, 2005
Reject photo ID requirements for voting.
Lieberman co-sponsored rejecting photo ID requirements for voting
OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: Expresses the sense of Congress that:
- 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; (
- the Department of Justice should challenge any state law that limits a citizen's ability to vote based on discriminatory photo identification requirements; and
- 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
Page last updated: Jul 15, 2008