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Barack Obama on Government Reform

Democratic incumbent President; IL Senator (2004-2008)


No one should wait more than a half-hour to vote

Citizenship means standing up for everyone's right to vote. Last year, part of the Voting Rights Act was weakened. But conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are working together to strengthen it; and the bipartisan commission I appointed last year has offered reforms so that no one has to wait more than a half hour to vote. Let's support these efforts. It should be the power of our vote, not the size of our bank account, that drives our democracy.
Source: 2014 State of the Union address , Jan 28, 2014

Waiting 6 or 7 hours to cast a ballot betrays our ideals

Defending our freedom is not the job of our military alone. We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes our most fundamental right as citizens: the right to vote. When any Americans--no matter where they live or what their party--are denied that right simply because they can't wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. That's why, tonight, I'm announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. And I'm asking two long-time experts in the field, who've recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney's campaign, to lead it. We can fix this, and we will. The American people demand it. And so does our democracy.
Source: 2013 State of the Union Address , Feb 12, 2013

OpEd: Achieve via regulation what was blocked in legislation

Even though global warming hysteria and cap and trade are long dead, the fight is far from over because President Obama is now moving forward with a plan to achieve through regulation what could not be achieved through legislation. In December of 2009, the Obama EPA issued what it called the "endangerment finding"--a finding that greenhouse gases harm public health and welfare. Armed with this "finding" the EPA is planning to regulate greenhouse gases instead through the Clean Air Act, which was never meant to regulate carbon. Like cap and trade, this plan will have the same $300-$400 billion pricetag, it will put the same amount of jobs in jeopardy, and it will cause the same amount of havoc for our economy. My fight today is to stop them from achieving this cap and trade agenda through the back door.
Source: The Greatest Hoax, by James Inhofe, p. ix , Feb 28, 2012

OpEd: 2010 federal pay freeze was all smoke and mirrors

After his "shellacking" in 2010, Obama, reacting to public rage over federal pay, proposed a two-year freeze. But as USA Today reported, this freeze involved the use of smoke and mirrors. Across-the-board pay hikes would be frozen, but "many federal workers will receive other pay hikes--longevity increases (called steps), promotions in grade, bonuses, overtime and other cash payments":

Most federal employees are ranked at a general schedule (GS) grade from 1 to 15, and each grade has 10 steps within it. Step raises are largely automatic, based on longevity, but merit can hasten a step pay raise or even move a worker up multiple steps. Not every worker gets a step raise every year, but the raises average about 2% per year for workers as a group.

Source: Suicide of a Superpower, by Pat Buchanan, p. 28-29 , Oct 18, 2011

Open Government Initiative on first full day in office

After Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election, I was heartened to see him issue an Open Government Initiatives on his first full day in office. "I firmly believe that Justice Louis Brandeis once said, that sunlight is the best disinfectant," Obama said, "and I know that restoring transparency is not only the surest way to achieve results, but also to earn back the trust in government without which we cannot deliver changes the American people sent us here to make." After eight years of Bush and Cheney's secretive and deceitful ways, that sounded like a welcome relief. Obama ordered all federal agencies to "adopt a presumption in favor" of FOIA requests and so laid the groundwork to eventually release reams of previously withheld government information on the Internet.

Well, so far it hasn't turned out the way Obama set forth. Most agencies had yet to walk the way.

Source: 63 Documents, by Gov. Jesse Ventura, p. 3-4 , Apr 4, 2011

OpEd: Broke promise to pay for every dime of new spending

President Obama broke his promise to pay for 'every dime' of new government spending. Of course, that's not the only promise that he has broken. He said that health-care reform would be a transparent, bipartisan effort; instead, the health-care bill was written behind closed doors and passed without any Republican support. He promised to not raise taxes on the middle class, but he broke that pledge. This is not change we can believe in. This is change we still can't believe.
Source: Courage to Stand, by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, A.P. excerpts , Jan 6, 2011

Constitution says what states CAN'T do to you

Remember the 2001 interview about the Constitution by then-Illinois senator Barack Obama that surfaced during the 2008 campaign? Speaking about the Supreme Court in the 1950s and 1960s during the civil rights movement, Obama expressed regret that the High Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues of political and economic justice in society:

"To that extent, as radical as I think the people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it's been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted it the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can't do to you. Says what the federal government can't do to you, but it doesn't say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf."

Source: America by Heart, by Sarah Palin, p. 13-14 , Nov 23, 2010

Transition team ethics statement: "No Ego, No Glory"

Back in May, when it was clear to Obama that Hillary Clinton couldn't catch up, Obama launched early transition planning. By the time of the election more than 600 Democrats were consulted on the transition, and more than 150 were granted security clearances. Conversely, John McCain was so worried that leaks would make him look presumptuous that he asked for no security clearances for his people before the November election.

All members of the team signed a strict ethics statement attesting that they weren't lobbyists, and all received what was called the "No Ego, No Glory" memo pointing out that they were volunteering for the good of the country and should not expect a job in return.

One early memo told Obama that Democrats were generally bad at transitions and Republicans good at them because Democrats focused on policy and Republicans on management. Obama vowed privately that his transition would be more Republican: more disciplined, organized, and secretive.

Source: The Promise: Obama Year One, by Jonathan Alter, p. 15-16 , May 18, 2010

Used signing statements, like Bush, 17 times in 2009

Accusing Pres. Bush of abusing signing statements, candidate Obama pledged in 2007 not to use them to "nullify or undermine congressional instructions as enacted into law." When asked, Obama responded unequivocally, "We aren't going to use signing statements as a way to do an end run around Congress."

After taking office, however, Obama suddenly became enamored with signing statements. In fact, in 2009 Obama used signing statements to object to specific legislative provisions 17 times. Obama stopped issuing statements after some Democrats objected that he was breaking his campaign pledge. Promise salvaged?

Actually, no--it just got worse. The Obama administration still ignores parts of legislation they sign; they just stopped issuing signing statements announcing their intention to do so. Instead, the administration feels justified in ignoring objectionable provisions as long as they have previously expressed concern about them in a "statement of administration policy."

Source: To Save America, by Newt Gingrich, p. 65-66 , May 17, 2010

OpEd: shunning Fox News is like Nixon's 1960s Enemies List

behave."

This hyperbolic treatment of Fox News recalls nothing so much as former president Richard Nixon's enemies list--a collection of 20 journalists and public officials the administration saw as especially biased against them.

In 2009, Obama's staff said the White House would treat Fox News "the way we would treat an opponent. As they are undertaking a war against Obama and the White House, we don't need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations Obama could take over any of their news organizations or their corporate parents, fire their management, dismiss their boards, and reconstitute them as he wishes. How far with Obama go in harassing those who disagree with him and have the audacity to report their opinions publicly? His powers would dwarf those of President Nixon if Obama gets his way. Unlike his predecessor,

Source: Take Back America, by Dick Morris, p.121 , Apr 13, 2010

We face a deficit of trust, not just a budget deficit

we have to recognize that we face more than a deficit of dollars right now. We face a deficit of trust--deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap we have to take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Ave.--to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; to give our people the government they deserve.

That's what I came to Washington to do. That's why--for the first time in history--my administration posts on our White House visitors online. That's why we've excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs, or seats on federal boards and commissions.

But we can't stop there. It's time to require lobbyists to disclose each contact they make on behalf of a client with my administration or with Congress. It's time to put strict limits on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates for federal office.

Source: 2010 State of the Union Address , Jan 27, 2010

FactCheck: Yes, set up first reverse-revolving door policy

Obama touted his efforts to change Washington's ways, saying, "we've excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs or seats on federal boards and commissions."

Obama, by executive order last January, did put in place the federal government's first-ever reverse-revolving door policy, which says that anyone who has lobbied within the previous two years can't join a part of the administration that he or she lobbied.

The order allows for waivers, however, and several have been granted. For instance, former Raytheon lobbyist William Lynn became deputy secretary of defense. Obama might have been trying to leave himself some wiggle room when he specified "policymaking jobs." But Lynn's job sounds to us like it involves policymaking. And it's hard to claim that Ron Kirk, the United States trade representative, doesn't have a policymaking role. Kirk didn't need a waiver because he was a lobbyist--for Merrill Lynch and others--in Texas, not Washington, but Obama made no such distinction.

Source: FactCheck.org on 2010 State of the Union speech , Jan 27, 2010

Economic agenda builds new foundation for lasting prosperity

We have lived through an era where too often short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. And all the while, critical debates & difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.

Well, that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here. Now is the time to act boldly and wisely--to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do

Source: 2009 State of the Union address , Feb 24, 2009

Eliminate government programs that no longer work

Many of my plans will cost money, which is why I’ve laid out how I’ll pay for every dime--by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don’t help America grow. But I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less--because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy.
Source: Speech at 2008 Democratic National Convention , Aug 27, 2008

FactCheck: Worked with McCain on ethics, but bill fell apart

Obama offered a twisted account of his working with a Republican and “against party loyalty.” He said he “worked with John McCain” on ethics legislation, when in fact their short-lived collaboration collapsed into bitter public wrangling long before any bill resulted.

It’s true that Obama approached McCain on the floor of the Senate in early 2006, amid the unfolding Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, and suggested that they work together on an ethics bill. But Obama backed out of the effort, saying to McCain in a letter dated Feb. 2, 2006, that he and other Senate Democrats had decided against McCain’s idea of a “task force” on ethics, preferring to let standing Senate committees work on the matter.

McCain sent back an angry, blistering response, accusing Obama of insincerity and “self-interested partisan posturing.”

[However] it’s true that both Obama and McCain wanted tougher ethics legislation than either the Democratic or Republican leadership at first was willing to support.

Source: FactCheck.org analysis of 2008 Saddleback joint appearance , Aug 16, 2008

Cabinet members should hold national town hall meetings

It is Obama's hope that as he cleans up the federal government and makes it more transparent and honest, he will encourage more Americans to reclaim their right as citizens in a participatory democracy. [According to the Obama campaign's "Plan to Change Washington"], Obama will insist that his cabinet officials hold periodic national town hall meetings. All White House communications about regulatory policymaking between persons outside government and White House staff shall be a matter of public record All executive branch departments and rule-making agencies shall conduct their business in public.

Obama intends to close the revolving door that allows former government employees to work as lobbyists, then rotate back into government. Political appointees will not be allowed to work on any regulation or contract related to their prior employer for two years. And no political appointee will be able to leave government service and lobby the government for the remainder of the administration.

Source: Obamanomics, by John R. Talbott, p.107 , Jul 1, 2008

Need a government that listens to the people again

My belief is the will of the voters, expressed in this long election process, is what ultimately will determine who our next nominee is going to be. What I think is most important to the voters is that we have a government that is listening to them again They feel as if they’ve been shut out. When I meet mothers who are trying to figure out how to get health care for their kids, it’s not just the desperation of that single mom. It’s also that when they try to find some help, oftentimes they’re hitting a brick wall. They don’t get a sense that the debates that are happening in Washington right now relate to them at all. What they believe is that people are trying to get on TV and they’re trying to score points and they’re trying to win elections, and that they’re not interested in knocking down the barriers that stand between the American people and their dreams. They want their government back, and that’s what I intend to provide them when I’m nominated for president of the US.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin , Feb 21, 2008

Give D.C. the opportunity to elect its own representatives

Q: In the nation’s capital, a lot of residents feel that the nation’s leaders are not paying much attention to their home city.

A: The first thing I would do would be to move forward with an agenda to make sure that we give D.C. the opportunity to elect its own representatives and have some political power on Capitol Hill. Representation would make a big difference. I want to deal with the homeless situation here in Washington, D.C. I think it is a travesty that we’ve got men--and increasingly women--families, across the street and the in shadow of this great capital, that shows a lack of concern, not just for the capital, but for American, when we are allowing something like that to happen. And as president of the United States I would be offended to drive by it. It’s something that we are going to focus on directly.

Source: 2008 Politico pre-Potomac Primary interview , Feb 11, 2008

Bad idea to over-classify information

Q: Is there any executive power the Bush administration has claimed or exercised that you think is unconstitutional?

A: I believe the Administration’s use of executive authority to over-classify information is a bad idea. We need to restore the balance between the necessarily secret and the necessity of openness in our democracy--which is why I have called for a National Declassification Center.

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

Bush’s signing statements are a clear abuse of prerogative

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

A: Signing statements have been used by presidents of both parties, dating back to Andrew Jackson. While it is legitimate for a president to issue a signing statement to clarify his understanding of ambiguous provisions of statutes and to explain his view of how he intends to faithfully execute the law, it is a clear abuse of power to use such statements as a license to evade laws that the president does not like or as an end-run around provisions designed to foster accountability. I will not use signing statements to nullify or undermine congressional instructions as enacted into law. The fact that President Bush has issued signing statements to challenge over 1100 laws--more than any president in history--is a clear abuse of this prerogative.

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

Public submits policy ideas on Obama’s “My Policy” website

What could community politics look like under an Obama presidency? Perhaps it might be a national day of neighborhood meetings: designating some Saturday as a meeting day for neighbors to get together, discuss the key problems in their community, and identify what they want to be done in order to change their society. Perhaps it could be a series of national town meetings available live online and via public TV on specific topics, designed to bring together policy experts, government officials, and the public. Perhaps it could be a national suggestion box, where Obama encouraged emails offering the best ideas for improving society, such as the “My Policy” section of Obama’s website urging anyone to submit policy proposals to him. Perhaps it could be advice and information for people who want to run for public offices, such as a database searchable by location of available posts.
Source: The Improbable Quest, by John K. Wilson, p. 5 , Oct 30, 2007

Prayer can’t prevent disasters; good policy can handle them

Q: Do you believe that, through the power of prayer, disasters like Hurricane Katrina could have been prevented?

A: I believe in the power of prayer. And part of what I believe in is that, through prayer, not only can we strengthen ourselves in adversity, but that we can also find the empathy and the compassion and the will to deal with the problems that we do control. Most of the issues that we’re debating here today are ones that we have the power to change. We may not have the power to prevent a hurricane, but we do have the power to make sure that the levees are properly reinforced and we’ve got a sound emergency plan. And so, part of what I pray for is the strength and the wisdom to be able to act on those things that I can control. And that’s what I think has been lacking sometimes in our government. We’ve got to express those values through our government, not just through our religious institutions.

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

Registered 150,000 new minority voters in Chicago in 1992

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

A: You know, when I moved to Chicago to organize minority communities, I saw what happened when folks don’t have enough political power. So when I got out of law school, I organized the voter registration drive and we registered 150,000 new voters in 1992. Then I became a civil rights attorney, enforcing voting rights against the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois.

Source: 2007 NAACP Presidential Primary Forum , Jul 12, 2007

Half of us don’t vote; time for taking it back

Politics has never been pure, but there’s a sense that over the last several years, the race for money & influence & power has left the hopes and concerns of most Americans in the dust. All you see from Washington is another scandal or petty argument. And so we get discouraged. Half of us don’t vote. The half of us who do vote were voting against somebody instead of voting for something.

We know what fills the void: the lobbyists, the influence peddlers with the cash and connections. It’s the pharmaceutical companies that get to write our drug bills. It’s the oil lobbyists that get to meet with the same White House that silences the scientists who’ve warned us about the destruction of our planet. They write the checks and you get stuck with the bills. They get the access; you get to write a letter. They think they own this government, but we are here to tell them today that our government is not for sale and we are taking it back, right here and right now. We are taking it back.

Source: Take Back America 2007 Conference , Jun 19, 2007

Bush administration has done “great damage” to U.S.

This has probably been the most ideologically driven administration in my memory. And I don’t know how far I’d have to go back to find one, a combination of House, Senate, and White House, that has been so obstinate in resisting facts, dissenting opinions, and compromise. Everything is based on a set of preconceived notions that ignore whatever reality and information comes at them. I think this administration has done great damage to this country.
Source: In His Own Words, edited by Lisa Rogak, p.129 , Mar 27, 2007

Filibuster has long tradition, but used to harm civil rights

Throughout the Senate’s modern history, the filibuster has been a guarded prerogative, one of the distinguishing features that separates the Senate from the House and serves as a firewall against the dangers of majority overreach.

There is another, grimmer history to the filibuster, one that carries special relevance for me. For almost a century, the filibuster was the South’s weapon of choice in its efforts to protect Jim Crow from federal interference, the blockade that effectively gutted the 14t & 15th Amendments. Decade after decade, courtly, erudite men like Senator Richard B. Russell of Georgia used the filibuster to choke off any and every piece of civil rights legislation before the Senate, whether voting rights bills, or fair employment bills, or anti-lynching bills. With words, with rules, with procedures & precedents--with law--Southern senators had succeeded in perpetuating black subjugation in ways that mere violence never could. For many blacks, the filibuster had snuffed out hope.

Source: The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama, p. 81 , Oct 1, 2006

Electing US Senators empowers people: keep 17th Amendment

Q: [to Keyes]: You’ve publicly endorsed the repeal of the 17th Amendment, which gives individual voters rather than the state legislature the right to choose their US Senators. Doesn’t that disenfranchise people?

KEYES: Senators were originally chosen by the state legislatures for the simple reason that the US Senate was supposed to represent the state government as sovereign entities. Our laws in Illinois are passed by the state legislature. Are the people disenfranchised in the passing of these laws I don’t think so.

OBAMA: Listen, I love my colleagues in the state legislature but I think [Illinois citizens] should be voting, not state legislatures. I have a little understanding about our constitution because I teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago and I understand that’s how the constitution was framed. It also prohibited anyone but white, male property owners from voting. That’s why we had amendments. It’s a funny way to empower people to take their vote away.

Source: Illinois Senate Debate #3: Barack Obama vs. Alan Keyes , Oct 21, 2004

People are really ready for a message for change

Kerry cares a lot about diversity in the party. And I think that certainly made a difference. I also think that the manner in which we won our primary in Illinois was a hopeful sign, because the conventional wisdom was that I would get the black vote and then a sliver of white vote, and instead we won in places people didn’t expect us to win, in suburban areas, in rural areas. And it indicates that people are really ready for a message for change. What they want is somebody who has a positive message, who has a tone in their politics that says, “We can disagree with the other side without being disagreeable.”
Source: Meet The Press, NBC News, 2004 interview with Tim Russert , Jul 25, 2004

Campaign race baiting works in both directions

Black politicians discovered what white politicians had known for a very long time: that race-baiting could make up for a host of limitations. Younger leaders, eager to make a name for themselves, upped the ante, peddling conspiracy theories all over tow -the Koreans were funding the Klan, Jewish doctors were injecting black babies with AIDS. It was a shortcut to fame, if not always fortune; like sex or violence on TV, black rage always found a ready market. Nobody I spoke with in the neighborhood seemed to take such talk very seriously. As it was, many had already given up the hope that politics could actually improve their lives, much less make demands on them. To them, a ballot, if cast at all, was simply a ticket to a good show. Black had no real power to act on the occasional slips into anti-Semitism or Asian-bashing, people would tell me; and anyway, black folks needed a chance to let off a little steam every once in a while-what do you think those folks say about us behind our backs?
Source: Dreams from My Father, by Barack Obama, p.186 , Aug 1, 1996


Barack Obama on Campaign Finance Reform

Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens United

President Barack Obama says the nation should consider mobilizing behind a constitutional amendment process to overturn the Supreme Court ruling that loosened restrictions on money in politics.

Obama made the comment Wednesday in an online chat with the website Reddit. The 2010 Citizens United ruling paved the way for a flood of campaign cash from corporations, unions and wealthy interests.

The president says that even if the amendment process fell short, "it can shine a spotlight" on super PACs and, in his words, "help apply pressure for change."

Obama says that in the meantime there's a need for more disclosure of the large campaign contributions flowing into super PACs and that such contributions, quote, "fundamentally threaten to overwhelm the political process."

Source: Boston Globe, "Amendment on Money in Politics" , Aug 30, 2012

Ban insider trading by members of Congress

Let's take some steps to fix the corrosive influence of money in politics. Send me a bill that bans insider trading by Members of Congress, and I will sign it tomorrow. Let's limit any elected official from owning stocks in industries they impact. Let's make sure people who bundle campaign contributions for Congress can't lobby Congress, and vice versa--an idea that has bipartisan support, at least outside of Washington.
Source: 2012 State of the Union speech , Jan 24, 2012

Citizens United decision: major victory for Big Oil

Teddy Roosevelt must have been spinning in his grave in January 2010 when the Supreme Court, in Citizen's United v. Federal Election Commission, voted 5-4 to extend the right of free speech to corporations and unions, lifting any limits on so-called independent expenditures on political campaigns. President Obama called the decision "a major victory for Big Oil, Wall Street banks, heath insurance companies, and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans."

This decision will allow the giant pharmaceutical companies and the factory farm conglomerates to spend unlimited amounts of money to get their water carriers into office and defeat the all-too-rare candidates who actually stand up for the public good. It has now become even easier to auction off our democracy to the highest bidder.

Source: Third World America, by Arianna Huffington, p.133-134 , Sep 2, 2010

Only a few waivers on lobbyists in senior positions

Rep. CHAFFETZ: You said you weren't going to allow lobbyists in the senior-most positions within your administration, and yet you did. I applauded you when you said it--and was disappointed when you didn't.

Pres. OBAMA: I can stand here unequivocally and say that there has not been an administration who was tougher on making sure that lobbyists weren't participating in the administration than any administration that's come before us. Now, what we did was, if there were lobbyists who were on boards an commissions that were carryovers and their term hadn't been completed, we didn't kick them off. We simply said that moving forward any time a new slot opens, they're being replaced. There have been a handful of waivers where somebody is highly skilled--for example, a doctor who ran Tobacco-Free Kids technically is a registered lobbyist; on the other end, has more experience than anybody in figuring out how kids don't get hooked on cigarettes.

Source: Obama Q&A at 2010 House Republican retreat in Baltimore , Jan 29, 2010

Post all earmark request online before each vote

I'm calling on Congress to continue down the path of earmark reform. Democrats and Republicans, you've trimmed some of this spending, you've embraced some meaningful change. But restoring the public trust demands more. For example, some members of Congress post some earmark requests online. Tonight, I'm calling on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single Web site before there's a vote, so that the American people can see how their money is being spent.
Source: 2010 State of the Union Address , Jan 27, 2010

FactCheck: Yes, agreed to public financing, then declined it

The Statement:McCain said, “Obama didn’t tell the truth to the American people when he signed a piece of paper that said he would take public financing if I did. That’s his signature on a piece of paper.”

The Facts:Public financing refers to the $85 million in public money that candidates are eligible to receive, if they agree not to raise additional funds for the general election.

McCain refers to a questionnaire from the Midwest Democracy Network, which asked presidential candidates whether they would forgo private funding in the general election campaign. In an e-mailed response on Nov., 17, 2007, Obama wrote: “Yes: I have been a long-time advocate for public financing.” But on June 19, he announced he would not be accepting public financing, allowing him to raise unlimited funds.

The Verdict: Mostly true. Obama did indicate he would accept public financing if his opponent did the same. But he did not sign anything, as McCain states.

Source: CNN FactCheck on 2008 presidential race , Oct 13, 2008

GovWatch: Promised public financing, and then retreated

Obama said in a questionnaire in Sept. 2007, “If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.” In Feb. 2007, Obama challenged Republican presidential candidates to agree to public financing of the general election. John McCain responded positively.

Fast forward 16 months. Obama announces that the system of public financing “is broken,” and he will rely on his well-oiled private fundraising machine. The McCain camp accuses Obama of “breaking his word.” True or false?

While the Sept. 2007 “Yes” seemed unequivocal, the Obama camp argued that the fine print of the deal remained to be worked out with the eventual Republican nominee. Obama only promised to “aggressively pursue” such an agreement; there never were serious negotiations between the Obama and McCain campaigns.

We judge this as a carefully parsed retreat on public financing--the turnaround is blatant.

Source: GovWatch on 2008: Washington Post analysis , Jun 20, 2008

AdWatch: I opt out of broken public campaign finance system

We’ve made the decision not to participate in the public-financing system for the general election. We’ll be forgoing more than $80 million in public funds during the final months of this election.

It’s not an easy decision, especially because I support a robust system of public financing of elections. But the public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who’ve become masters at gaming this broken system. John McCain’s campaign and the RNC are fueled by contributions from lobbyists & special interest PACs. We’ve already seen that he’s not going to stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions of dollars in unlimited donations.

Declare your independence from this broken system and let’s build the first general election campaign that’s truly funded by the American people. With this decision this campaign is in your hands in a way that no campaign has ever been before.

Source: GovWatch on 2008: “Rejecting public financing” Ad-Watch , Jun 20, 2008

GovWatch: No, McCain & RNC don’t get much money from PACs

Obama announced he would become the first presidential candidate since 1972 to rely totally on private donations for his general election campaign, opting out of the system of public financing and spending limits that was put in place after the Watergate scandal. One reason, he said, is that “John McCain’s campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs.”

We find that to be a large exaggeration and a lame excuse. In fact, donations from PACs and lobbyists make up less than 1.7% of McCain’s total receipts, and they account for only about 1.1% of the RNC’s receipts.

It’s not our place to comment on Obama’s financial strategy, except to note that it is perfectly legal and also that McCain and Obama both refused to accept public funds or spending limits during the primary campaign. We also note that Obama’s decision is likely to give him a big financial advantage over McCain in the weeks just before the election.

Source: GovWatch on 2008: Washington Post analysis , Jun 20, 2008

Lobbyists & special interests have strangle-hold on agenda

Sen. Clinton and I have both offer detailed proposals to try to deal with [numerous problems]. Some of them are the same. Some, we have differences of opinion. But understand that what is lacking right now is not good ideas.

The problem we have is that Washington has become a place where good ideas go to die. They go to die because the lobbyists and special interests have a strangle-hold on the agenda in Washington. They go to die in Washington because too many politicians are interested in scoring political points rather than bridging differences in order to get things done.

And so the central premise of this campaign is that we can bring this country together, that we can push against the special interests that have come to dominate the agenda in Washington, that we can be straight with the American people about how we’re going to solve these problems and enlist them in taking back their government.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin , Feb 21, 2008

Ended corporate jet travel subsidized by lobbyists

THE PROBLEMOBAMA’S PLANOBAMA’S RECORD
Source: Campaign booklet, “Blueprint for Change”, p. 3-5 , Feb 2, 2008

Never took money from federal lobbyists or their companies

I don’t take PAC money. I don’t take money from federal lobbyists. I’m not taking money from their companies. It is true that there are employees of all sorts of companies that have given to my campaign because, frankly, I’ve raised a lot of money, and sometimes in $25, $50, $100 donations. But that does mean that I’ve gotten a bunch of money from drug lobbyists. It’s important to make that distinction. With respect to universal coverage, understand what this debate is about. This is a legitimate policy debate. I respect the positions that Edwards and Clinton have taken. They have decided that we should mandate coverage for all adults. I believe that the problem--and understand what that means. A mandate means that, in some fashion, everybody will be forced to buy health insurance. Edwards has been honest that that may mean taking money out of people’s paychecks in order to make sure that they’re covered. Clinton has not been clear about how that mandate would be enforced.
Source: 2008 Congressional Black Caucus Democratic debate , Jan 21, 2008

No lobbyist money; no PAC money; fund campaigns instead

I don’t take money from federal lobbyists. I don’t take money from PACs. In reducing special interest lobbying, I alone of the candidates here have actually taken away the power of lobbyists. A law I passed this year says to lobbyists, if you are taking money from anybody and putting it together and then giving it to a member of Congress, that has to be disclosed. Ultimately what I’d like to see is a system of public financing of campaigns, and I’m a cosponsor of the proposal.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate in Las Vegas , Jan 15, 2008

Money is the original sin in politics and I am not sinless

Q: You’ve been talking a lot about lobbyists and money in politics. The Boston Globe in August reported: “In Obama’s eight years in the Illinois Senate, almost 2/3 of the money he raised for his campaigns came from political action committees, corporate contributions, unions, and many other corporate interests.” You now talk about, “Well, I’m not taking any money from lobbyists.” You do take money from state lobbyists. You took $1.5 million from federal employees who work for federal lobbying firms. There seems to be a real inconsistency between the amount of money you raise and where it’s coming from, and your rhetoric.

A: I have said repeatedly that money is the original sin in politics and I am not sinless. I have raised money in order to bankroll my campaigns. But what I have been consistent about is fighting to reduce the influence of money in politics at every level of government. I am the only candidate in this race who has really pushed hard to reduce the influence of lobbyists.

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series , Nov 11, 2007

Reduced cost TV ads for candidates; $85M presidential limit

Obama has suggested public financing of elections, reduced-cost TV ads for candidates, and limits on the revolving door for congressional staffers who become lobbyists. He sought to ban gifts from lobbyists and corporate-financed travel. To show his commitment, Obama even gave up one of his favorite perks: low-cost travel on private planes donated by lobbyists. He accounced that he would “pay the full costs of a flight taken on someone else’s private plan, rather than pay the much cheaper price of a first-class ticket.“

Obama supported numerous reforms that his colleagues would not embrace, including proposals to prohibit paid coordination of lobbying, ban lawmakers from negotiating future employment as lobbyists, prohibit earmarks in which a member of Congress has a financial interest, and ban the use of earmarks to buy votes.

So far, John McCain has been the only Republican to agree to Obama’s proposal to limit general election spending to $85 million.

Source: The Improbable Quest, by John K. Wilson, p.162-163 , Oct 30, 2007

Ok to take $5 donations from drug company employees

Q: Do you accept campaign contributions from insurance executives?

A: I don’t accept money from federal registered lobbyists and from federal PACs. Now, I’m sure that we’ve received money from people who work at insurance companies or work at drug companies, because we’re getting contributions of $5, $10, $100 from all sorts of people. We don’t want to finance our campaign by people whose professional job it is to influence legislation in Washington. The drug companies, the insurance companies spent a billion dollars over the last 10 years blocking reform. That’s how we ended up with a prescription drug bill that is better for drug companies than it is for our seniors. So it is an imperfect system. Money is the original sin of politics, & when you’re running for president, you’re going to do some sinning when it comes to raising money because otherwise you can’t compete. But it’s less important what your health-care plan is, than are you able to overcome the special-interest-driven agendas?

Source: Huffington Post Mash-Up: 2007 Democratic on-line debate , Sep 13, 2007

Public campaign financing with free television & radio time

Obama supports public financing of campaigns combined with free television and radio time as a way to reduce the influence of moneyed special interests. In February 2007, Obama proposed a plan that requires major party candidates to agree on a fundraising truce, return excess money from donors, and stay within the public financing system for the General Election.
Source: 2008 Presidential campaign website, BarackObama.com “Flyers” , Aug 26, 2007

1998: First law passed, 52-4, stripping legislator perks

Legislatively, Obama managed to pass a decent number of laws for a first-term lawmaker in the minority party. His first major legislative accomplishment was shepherding a piece of campaign finance reform in May 1998. The measure prohibited lawmakers from soliciting campaign funds while on state property and from accepting gifts from state contractors, lobbyists or other interests.

The senate’s Democratic leader offered Obama the opportunity to push through the bill because it seemed like a good fit fo the do-good persona projected by Obama. It was a tough assignment for a new lawmaker, since he was essentially sponsoring legislation that would strip away long-held privileges and perks from his colleagues. One colleague angrily denounced the bill, saying that it impinged on lawmakers’ inherent rights. But Obama worked the issue by an overwhelming 52-4 vote.

The bill lifted Illinois, a state with a deep history of illicit, pay-to-play politics, into the modern world when it came to restrictions.

Source: From Promise to Power, by David Mendell, p.123-124 , Aug 14, 2007

2004: Used state money for seemingly political mailing

[Before the 2004 primaries] an Obama flyer dubbed “Legislative Update” looked suspiciously like campaign advertising, although its cost was borne by state taxpayers. The flyer had been mailed to every household in Obama’s state senate district under even more suspicious circumstances. It arrived in mailboxes just days before an ethics law prohibited elected officials running for office from dispersing such taxpayer-funded literature.

[A Chicago Tribune story] began like this: “Obama claims the mantle o a reformer, but he spent $17,191 in state taxpayer money on a mailer that had the look and feel of a campaign flier. The mailing went out just days before a new ban on the pre-election dissemination of such state-paid constituent newsletters went into effect, part of a package of ethics reforms that Obama takes credit for getting passed.“

The story never implied illegality, but said that he appeared to have breached ”the spirit of the law.“ Obama said to the author, ”Okay, I’ll give you that.“

Source: From Promise to Power, by David Mendell, p.238-239 , Aug 14, 2007

No “bundled” money from federal-registered lobbyists

Q: You have taken a firm stand against accepting money from lobbyists, yet you allow them to raise money for you and “bundle” it. What’s the difference between those things?

A: No, no, I do not have federal-registered lobbyists bundling for me, just like I don’t take PAC money. People need to know who we are going to fight for. The reason I’m in public life, the reason that I am running for president is because of you, not because of folks who are writing big checks.

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

Campaigns last too long & cost too much

Campaigns last too long and they cost too much money. And they’re disproportionately influenced by Washington insiders, which is why it’s not going to be enough just to change political parties [in the presidency]. But we also have to make sure that we are mobilizing Americans across race & regions, if we’re actually going to bring these changes about. Change doesn’t happen from the top down, it happens from the bottom up. It’s because millions of voices get mobilized and organized.
Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum , Aug 8, 2007

Doesn’t take PAC money or federal lobbyists’ money

Q: [to Kucinich] What do you have that Senator Clinton and Senator Obama do not have?

KUCINICH: The new doctrine that I’m going to promote throughout this campaign is that we’ll use the science of human relations and diplomacy to settle your differences without committing the young men and women to war, unless it’s absolutely necessary.

CLINTON: The issue is: Which of us is ready to lead on day one? I have 35 years of being an instrument and agent of change.

OBAMA: I don’t think this is just a Republican problem. I think this is a problem that spans the parties. And we don’t just need a change in political parties in Washington. We’ve got to have a change in attitudes of those who are representing the people. And part of the reason I don’t take PAC money, I don’t take federal lobbyists’ money is because we’ve got to get the national interests up front as opposed to the special interests. And that is something that I’ve got a track record doing.

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

People know his “bundlers” because he pushed disclosure law

OBAMA: [to Gravel]: We don’t just need a change in political parties in Washington. We’ve got to have a change in attitudes of those who are representing the people. And part of the reason I don’t take PAC money, I don’t take federal lobbyists’ money is because we’ve got to get the national interests up front as opposed to the special interests.

GRAVEL: Barack Obama says he doesn’t take money from lobbyists. Well, he has 134 bundlers. Now, what does he think that is? And, besides that, he has received $195,000 from the head of a foreign-owned bank who has lobbyists in Washington.

OBAMA: Well, the fact is I don’t take PAC money and I don’t take lobbyists’ money. And the bundlers--the reason you know who is raising money for me, Mike, is because I have pushed through a law this past session to disclose that. And that’s the kind of leadership that I’ve shown in the Senate. And that’s the kind of leadership that I’ll show as president of the United States.

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

FactCheck: no lobbyist money; yes from bundlers who lobby

A testy exchange between Gravel and Obama requires some clarification. Gravel claimed, “Barack Obama said he doesn’t take money from lobbyists [but] he has 134 bundlers. Now, what does he think that is?”

Gravel and Obama weren’t actually contradicting each other. However, Obama’s policy is an ethical tightrope. Obama’s official policy is: “The Obama campaign does not accept donations or fundraising help from federal lobbyists or PACs.” Obama, however, is sticking to a strict interpretation of his ban on lobbyist contributions.

[The largest bundler was] Robert Wolf, COO of the Switzerland-based UBS Investment Bank, who raised money for Obama to the tune of $194,930. Those contributions don’t violate the letter of Obama’s pledge, even though UBS, like most large corporations, has lobbyists in Washington. Obama voluntarily listed Wolf, along with 254 other “bundlers” (influential types who agree to encourage and collect individual contributions) on his Web site.

Source: FactCheck on 2007 YouTube Democratic Primary debate , Jul 23, 2007

First bill ever passed was campaign finance reform

Q: You’ve promised in your campaign a new kind of politics, but just this week the Chicago Sun-Times reported on questionable ties you have with a donor who was charged last year for demanding kickbacks on Illinois business deals. Aren’t you practicing the very same kind of politics that many of the others on this stage have engaged in?

A: We have thousands of donors. This donor engaged in some unethical behavior and I have denounced it. But I have a track record of bringing people around this new kind of politics, since I was in the state legislature. The first bill I ever passed was campaign finance reform legislation--the first in a generation in Illinois. Now, in the US Senate we were able to work to strengthen the lobbying ethics reform bill, despite the resistance of some of my colleagues in both parties. And, in terms of how we’ve been running this campaign, we have seen that I have not taken money from federal registered lobbyists. We are not taking money from PACs.

Source: 2007 South Carolina Democratic primary debate, on MSNBC , Apr 26, 2007

FactCheck: no lobbyist money, yes from lobbyist spouses

Obama said, “I have not taken money from federal registered lobbyists. We’re not taking money from PACs.” It’s true that Obama hasn’t accepted any money from political action committees. And a campaign spokesman said that the campaign has returned $50,566 from 49 donors whom it had identified as lobbyists.

Nevertheless, Obama accepts money from lobbyists’ spouses and other family members, their partners at the law firms where they work if the partners aren’t registered to lobby, senior executives at companies that hire lobbyists, and state-level lobbyists. Among his top fundraisers are at least a few who were registered lobbyists as recently as last year. The campaign says it is making a “best effort” to stay away from tainted money. “It isn’t a perfect solution to the problem and it isn’t even a perfect symbol,” a spokesman said.

Source: FactCheck on 2007 South Carolina Democratic debate , Apr 26, 2007

Hopefund PAC pushes government to honor sacred commitments

At [Obama’s PAC] Hopefund, our hope says that government alone cannot teach our kids to learn--but that government must honor its sacred commitment to provide the best schools.“Hope,” as we understand it, does not mean government solving our problems. It means government changing its priorities just enough to give every child a decent shot at life and keep the doors of opportunity open for all.
Source: PAC website, HopeFundAmerica.com, “About Barack” , Nov 17, 2006

Lobbyist influence comes from access, not money

Few lobbyists proffer an explicit quid pro quo to elected officials. Their influence comes from having more access than the average voter, having better information, and more staying power when it comes to promoting an obscure provision in the tax code that means billions for their clients.

For most politicians, money is not about maintaining status and power. It is about scaring off challengers and fighting off the fear. Money cannot guarantee a victory, but without money, you are pretty much guaranteed to lose.

When I decided to run for the Senate, I found myself spending time with people of means. As a rule, they were smart, interesting people, expecting nothing more than a hearing of their opinions in exchange for their checks. But they reflected, almost uniformly, the perspectives of their class.

I became more like the wealthy donors I met, in the sense that I spent more time above the fray, outside the world of hardship of the people that I had entered public life to serve.

Source: The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama, p.109-115 , Oct 1, 2006


Barack Obama on Earmark Reform

Would love line-item veto, but start with earmark reform

Rep. RYAN: You've said that you want to take a scalpel to the budget and go through it line by line. We want to give you that scalpel. I have a proposal with my home state senator, Russ Feingold, bipartisan proposal, to create a constitutional version of the line-item veto. Problem is, we can't even get a vote on the proposal. Would you support a line-item veto in helping us get a vote on it in the House?

Pres. OBAMA: I think there's not a President out there that wouldn't love to have it. And I think that this is an area where we can have a serious conversation. I don't like being held up with big bills that have stuff in them that are wasteful but I've got to sign because it's a defense authorization bill. One thing that you have to acknowledge, is that the earmarks problem is not unique to one party and you end up getting a lot of pushback when you start going after specific projects of any one of you in your districts. But I am willing to have a serious conversation on the line-item veto issue.

Source: Obama Q&A at 2010 House Republican retreat in Baltimore , Jan 29, 2010

Freeze discretionary government spending for 3 years

Families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same. So tonight, I'm proposing specific steps to pay for the trillion dollars that it took to rescue the economy last year.

Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don't. And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.

We will continue to go through the budget, line by line, page by page, to eliminate programs that we can't afford and don't work. We've already identified $20 billion in savings for next year.

Source: 2010 State of the Union Address , Jan 27, 2010

FactCheck: Yes, earmarks total $18B in this year’s budget

Obama was right about the amount of earmarks, when he said they “account for about $18 billion of our budget.” According to the budget watchdog group, Taxpayers for Common Sense, earmarks totaled just $18.3 billion in 2008. Citizens Against Government Waste came in with a slightly smaller number of $17.2 billion, and the Office of Management and Budget smaller still at $16.9 billion.
Source: FactCheck.org on 2008 second presidential debate , Oct 7, 2008

Eliminating earmarks isn’t enough; but I’ll check every line

McCAIN: Obama suspended requests for pork barrel projects after he was running for president. He didn’t happen to see that light there in the first three years as a member of the US Senate. Obama [says the earmark total of] $18 billion is not a lot of money. Do you know it’s tripled in the last five years? Do you know it’s gone completely out of control, to the point where it corrupts people? It corrupts people. That’s why we have people under federal indictment and charges. It’s a system that’s got to be cleaned up. I have fought against it.

OBAMA: Nobody is denying that $18 billion is important. Absolutely we need earmark reform. And when I’m president, I will go line by line to make sure that we are not spending money unwisely. But the fact is that eliminating earmarks alone is not a recipe for how we’re going to get the middle class back on track.

Source: 2008 first presidential debate, Obama vs. McCain , Sep 26, 2008

Google for Government: let public track federal grants

Barack has a strong record of achievement in improving ethics in government. Below is a summary from his campaign's position paper, entitled "Plan to Change Washington":
Source: Obamanomics, by John R. Talbott, p. 97-98 , Jul 1, 2008

Use technology to shine a light on spending

Every aspect of our government should be under review. My Administration will open up the doors of democracy. We’ll put government data online, and use technology to shine a light on spending. We’ll cut through the red tape to make sure that every agency is meeting cutting edge standards. We’ll make it clear to the special interests that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over, because the American people are not the problem in this 21st century--they are the answer.
Source: Speech in Flint, MI, in Change We Can Believe In, p.258-9 , Jun 15, 2008

Consistently in favor of more disclosure around earmarks

I’ve been consistently in favor of more disclosure around earmarks. Keep in mind, a lot of these are worthy projects in our states. I have actively pursued projects that I think are important. But I want to make sure that they’re not done in the dark of night, that they’re not done in committee, that everybody stands up and says, “this is the kind of spending that I think is important.” I have consistently supported those efforts. I will push for those as president of the US.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin , Feb 21, 2008

Created a publicly searchable database on earmarks spending

Q: A recent report said you were responsible for $91 million in earmarks. You have refused to say where the money went.

A: No, that’s not true. We’ve actually disclosed all our earmarks. We’ll be happy to provide you with that information, because I believe very strongly in transparency. One of the things that I did was to pass a bill with Tom Coburn, very conservative Republican but a sincere fiscal conservative. We got together and created what we call Google for Government. It’s a searchable database, where every single dollar of federal spending is posted on the Internet, so that ordinary voters can take a look. If they see a bridge to nowhere being built, they know where it’s going and who sponsored it. If they see a no-bid contract going to Halliburton, they can check that out, too. The idea is that we open up the process so that the American people can make judgments about whether or not government is doing what it’s supposed to be doing with its taxpayer money.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin , Feb 21, 2008

Shine light on federal contracts, earmarks, & proposed bills

THE PROBLEM OBAMA’S PLAN
Source: Campaign booklet, “Blueprint for Change”, p. 3-5 , Feb 2, 2008

Create “Google for Government” to track government spending

Obama and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) teamed up to pass a law that will lift the veil of secrecy in Washington by creating a Google-like search engine that will allow regular people to track federal grants, contracts, earmarks and loans online.

Obama also introduced legislation that would shed light on all earmarks by disclosing the name of the legislator who asked for each project earmark, along with a written justification, at least 72 hours before a full Senate vote. Senators would be prohibited from advocating for an earmark if they have a financial interest in the project.

In 2007, Obama co-introduced a bipartisan plan described as the “gold standard for reform.” The ethics package that passed the Senate included a number of Obama’s provisions, including bans on subsidized travel on corporate jets, meals and gifts from lobbyists; disclosure of project earmark sponsors and recipients; and disclosure requirements for campaign contributions that lobbyists “bundle.”

Source: 2008 Presidential campaign website, BarackObama.com “Flyers” , Aug 26, 2007

Sponsored bill to disclose earmarks on Internet

Together with Oklahoma Sen. Jim Coburn, Obama co-sponsored S.2590, “a bill to require full disclosure of all entities and organizations receiving federal funds.” The bill requires creation of a website with a freely searchable database of entities receiving Congressional earmarks. The bill was signed into law in Sept. 2006.

Pro: This is logical, cost-efficient, and sensible.
A future president should be committed to transparency in government spending.

Con: he’s spoiling the fun for everyone.
“One man’s pork is another man’s beef.” Without Congressional earmarks, where would we be? In a strange land where members of Congress could not rely on earmarked appropriations to do favors for friends and entrench themselves in office.

Pro: This is patriotic.
Section 3 of S.2590 excludes classified information from the Act’s purview, so there is no danger that the Coburn-Obama Act will gore and sacred bulls.

Source: Should Barack Obama Be President?, by Fred Zimmerman, p.37 , Oct 17, 2006


Barack Obama on Voting Record

FactCheck: Yes, Obama cast 130 “present” votes in IL Senate

Clinton was mostly right when she attacked Obama for casting 130 “present” votes as an Illinois state senator. But she was wrong when she added, “the Chicago Tribune, his hometown paper, said that all of those present votes was taking a pass. It was for political reasons.”

It’s true that Obama voted “present” nearly 130 times, rather than casting a yes or no vote, an option in the state Legislature. But the article that said he “essentially took a pass” was an op-ed piece quoting a Clinton endorser, not the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board.

Beyond that, there’s some substance to Clinton’s general criticism. Obama says some of his votes were part of intricate parliamentary maneuvering, not just avoiding political heat. The NY Times found a mixed record: “Sometimes the ‘present’ votes were in line with instructions from Democratic leaders or because he objected to provisions in bills that he might otherwise support. But in at least a few cases, the issue was politically sensitive.”

Source: FactCheck.org on 2008 Congressional Black Caucus Dem. Debate , Jan 21, 2008

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 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

Election reform is #1 priority to prevent disenfranchisement.

Obama adopted the CBC principles:

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

Sponsored bill criminalizing deceptive info about elections.

Obama 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.

Obama 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

Sponsored bill to post earmarks on the Internet.

Obama 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.

Obama 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

Prohibit 'voter caging' which intimidates minority voting.

Obama co-sponsored prohibiting 'voter caging' which intimidates minority voting

Rep. CONYERS: "Since the late 1950's, the pernicious practice of 'voter caging' has been used to discourage or prevent eligible voters from casting their vote. Recent elections have shown that caging tactics are not outdated, and in fact, have disenfranchised voters in recent midterm and Presidential elections. While caging efforts have traditionally been directed at minority communities, all voters are susceptible to these attempts at voter intimidation and suppression.

"The undemocratic practice of voter caging involves sending mail to voters at the addresses at which they are registered to vote. Should such mail be returned as undeliverable or without a return receipt, the voter's name is placed on a 'caging list.' These caging lists are then used to challenge a voter's registration or eligibility.

"In my home State of Michigan, I have seen firsthand how caging efforts are used to harass, bully, and ultimately disenfranchise, eligible voters. With a Michigan lawmaker advocating 'suppress the Detroit vote,' I cannot help but think that is synonymous with 'suppress the Black vote' as Detroit is 83% African American. These voter suppression campaigns always seem to target our most vulnerable voters--racial minorities, low-income people, homeless people, and college students.

"Caging tactics meant to suppress the vote do more than impede the right to vote. They threaten to erode the very core of our democracy. By eliminating barriers to the polls, we can help restore what has been missing from our elections--fairness, honesty, and integrity."