Tim Johnson Watch

Representative Tim Johnson was elected to represent the residents of Illinois' 15th Congressional District in Central Illinois. His constituents should know what he's doing.

Location: 15th Congressional District, Illinois, United States

A concerned citizen of Central Illinois.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Moving To A Swing State

TJW is personally happy, but bloggily sad, to announce that I no longer make the Fifteenth District my home. While the blog will, therefore, no longer be updated, I am leaving the archives up in the hope that TJW will continue to be a valuable resource that offers IL-15 voters some insight into the political character of Mr. Johnson.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Tim Johnson Votes Against Pay As You Go

Back in October, with a Democratic takeover of the House appearing likely, TJW suggested it was time for Tim Johnson to "lead, follow, or get out of the way."

It didn't take long for Mr. Johnson to signal that he is choosing (d) none of the above. Today, Johnson voted against the common-sense "Pay As You Go" rule. While 48 Republicans saw the logic of fiscal responsibility behind the measure and voted in favor, Mr. Johnson, despite his center aisle rhetoric, chose the partisan course to oppose it.

Here's what CNN Money had to say about Pay As You Go:
The House of Representatives on Friday voted to reinstitute the "pay as you go" budget rule that Democrats credited with helping end federal budget deficits in the 1990s.

By a vote of 280-152, the House approved the internal House rule that would require any new tax cuts to be paid for with other tax increases or spending reductions. Any increased spending on "entitlement" programs, such as the Medicare health plan for the elderly, also would have to be paid for with spending reductions or tax increases.

Defense spending would not be impacted.

With federal debt mounting after steep budget deficits throughout President George W. Bush's presidency, congressional Democrats, aided by a few dozen Republicans, pushed the 'paygo' plan through the House on the second day of the 110th Congress.

Is that really a rule Mr. Johnson's constituents would oppose?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tim Johnson Watch To Continue

Tim Johnson won reelection last night by a 58-42 margin, a substantial victory, but also a slip from his 61-39 margin in 2004.

Thanks to David Gill, for investing so much time, energy, and passion in a race that (given the heavy Republican tilt in voter registration) was destined to be an uphill battle. TJW hopes that Dr. Gill, or another worthy challenger, will continue to fight for the representation the citizens of the Fifteenth deserve. The political environment will continue for some time to be very, very toxic to Republicans, unless George Bush decides to make a real change in course -- an outcome I find highly unlikely.

Tim Johnson Watch will not disappear. For a while, TJW may have less frequent updates, especially as Mr. Johnson's new status as a member of the minority party offers him fewer opportunities to help the GOP leadership ram through bills like the Medicare "reform" law, while at the same time Democratic House leaders promise that there will be genuine transparency and accountability in the House itself.

Nonetheless, TJW will continue to act as a local watchdog for Mr. Johnson, and will post on his doings as events warrant.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Tying It All Together

Let's be honest. This is a Republican district. If Tim Johnson is going to be defeated, it will be with Independent and, yes, Republican votes.

If you're an Independent or Republican who's found Tim Johnson Watch, I'd ask you for a minute of your time to make the case that right now, in 2006, you should vote for Tim Johnson's opponent.

I invite you to take a minute to peruse TJW. It documents Tim Johnson's unusually close ties to George Ryan, Tom Delay, and numerous other criminals and influence peddlers, and his dishonorable refusal to honor his three-term-limit promise. It documents a consistent policy of favoring millionaires over the hardworking people of this District, while refusing to defend Social Security and piling up unprecedented and irresponsible debt. It documents a record of painting himself as a moderate while remaining a reliable vote, when called upon, for the most extreme aspects of the Bush-Delay agenda, including opposing stem cell research, rubber-stamping unnecessary war against Iraq, and approving the half-trillion dollar drug company giveaway that was the Medicare "reform" law.

But beyond the individual failures, there is a bigger picture here. That bigger picture is of a man who has abandoned his responsibility to exercise the judgment that we have elected him to exercise. Here's what Paul Krugman of the New York Times wrote Friday concerning one of Tim Johnson's biggest contributors, the Parsons Corporation:
Consider the symbolism of Iraq's new police academy, which Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, has called "the most essential civil security project in the country." It was built at a cost of $75 million by Parsons Corporation, which received a total of about $1 billion for Iraq reconstruction projects. But the academy was so badly built that feces and urine leak from the ceilings in the student barracks.

Think about it. We want the Iraqis to stand up so we can stand down. But if they do stand up, we'll dump excrement on their heads.

As for how this could have happened, that's easy: major contractors believed, correctly, that their political connections insulated them from accountability....

As a result, the administration and its allies in Congress fought accountability all the way. Administration officials have made repeated backdoor efforts to close the office of Mr. Bowen, whose job is to oversee the use of reconstruction money. Just this past May, with the failed reconstruction already winding down, the White House arranged for the last $1.5 billion of reconstruction money to be placed outside Mr. Bowen's jurisdiction. And now, finally, Congress has passed a bill whose provisions include the complete elimination of his agency next October. (Emphasis added.)
He's talking about you, Mr. Johnson. This goes beyond liberal and conservative, beyond Democrat and Republican. This is about doing the job you were elected to do. Whether it's because of the campaign contributions, or even because Mr. Johnson genuinely believes it when he says that his main job is constituent service, the fact is that Tim Johnson has been grossly derelict in his duty to exercise independent and sensible judgment, even when it may not be what George Bush or Tom Delay want.

During the debate with David Gill, Mr. Johnson refused to answer whether he had voted correctly when he voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq. He called the question "Monday morning quarterbacking" (but consider the first President Bush's autobiography that makes clear the risk was not unforseeable).

Then, he defended his vote for the war by saying that he has made "tens of thousands of votes" in his career as a state legislator and Congressman, and that none of them was a perfect vote. It's a perfect trial lawyer's technique (Tim Johnson's former career) -- acknowledge a weakness in your case, but do it so blandly that it takes all the wind out of the other side's sails. He gave a similar answer in the 2004 debate (basically, "I've made a lot of mistakes") when asked about allegations of drug use, misconduct as a state legislator, and other improprieties. It may have been a fair answer in 2004, at least if you considered the question irrelevant to Mr. Johnson's performance in Congress.

But it was not a fair answer in 2006. Instead, it was a telling window into Mr. Johnson's view of his job. His vote to authorize a war that has killed thousands of Americans, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and cost hundreds of billions of dollars, was not just one vote among ten thousand. It was a defining moment of his career. And he got it wrong.

Yes, Mr. Johnson, we all make mistakes. Congressman Jack Murtha did -- he was one of the House's biggest supporters of the war, but now he's taking responsibility by admitting he was wrong, and working like hell to solve the problem. But changing the subject -- Tim Johnson's main campaign ad is entirely about ethanol (an issue about which he and his opponent basically agree) -- is not good enough.

Just saying "nobody's perfect" is not good enough.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Tim Johnson: Time to Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

When the Republicans took over the House in 1994, they had their Contract With America. (That was the one promising term limits, forgotten by House Republicans like Tim Johnson forgot his own personal term limit pledge.)

As the Democrats are on the verge of a similarly historic victory, they have their 100 Hours, a promise of how they will "drain the swamp" of House GOP corruption and begin to implement changes that, honestly, should have had bipartisan support all along.

Voters should consider, then, how Tim Johnson will respond to these middle of the road proposals. Unfortunately, it does not look promising. Here's the Democratic agenda, and TJW's estimation of where Mr. Johnson stands:
Day One: Put new rules in place to "break the link between lobbyists and legislation." AGAINST. What can one expect from someone who as a state legislator "asked for contributions on the floor of the Illinois General Assembly" (Kurt Erickson, "End of the tunnel in view; Campaigns almost over -- thankfully", Bloomington Pantagraph, Nov. 5, 2000), voted against a bi-partisan ethics task force, and kept Tom Delay's money while allowing his GOP colleagues to try to protect him?

Day Two: Enact all the recommendations made by the commission that investigated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. AGAINST. Republican Chris Shays (R-CT) has proposed just such a bill (HR 5017). Johnson has refused to cosponsor the bill (though he's usually free with his cosponsorships) and the bill has been relegated by the GOP leadership to die in committee.

Time remaining until 100 hours: Raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, maybe in one step. FOR, BUT ONLY SORT OF. Johnson has supported increase in minimum wage, but has tied it to tax giveaways for the rich.

Cut the interest rate on student loans in half. AGAINST: Tim Johnson does talk a good game on student loans, but he voted earlier this year to increase the interest rate.

Allow the government to negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices for Medicare patients. AGAINST. Tim Johnson was a decisive vote in favor of the half-trillion dollar Medicare "Modernization" Act, which narrowly passed the House 220-215 and which prevents the government from saving taxpayer money by negotiating lower prices from the drug companies.

Broaden the types of stem cell research allowed with federal funds -- "I hope with a veto-proof majority," she added in an Associated Press interview Thursday. AGAINST: In May 2005, Johnson voted against the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, a medical research bill championed by pro-life Republican Mike Castle (R-DE) that passed with 50 Republican votes, and doubtless would have received even more Republican support but for the aggressive opposition of Tom DeLay.

All the days after that: "Pay as you go," meaning no increasing the deficit, whether the issue is middle class tax relief, health care or some other priority. AGAINST: Tim Johnson came to Washington at a time of budget surpluses but has been a consistent supporter of the Bush tax policy of massive cuts for the very, very wealthy, without offsetting cuts in spending, which has caused the deficit to balloon to close to half a trillion dollars per year.
So, by all means, if you make over $250,000 and oppose stem-cell research, vote for Tim Johnson. But if, like most residents of this District, you fit into neither category, November 7 is time to tell Mr. Johnson to get out of the way.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Tim Johnson's Tainted Campaign Cash, Part III

Last week, TJW reported that Johnson took $1000 in 2004 from Nicholas Hurtgen, who has since been indicted on charges of defrauding the State, the Illinois Facilities Planning Board, the Chicago Medical School, and a related charitable trust out of millions. That post further reported that Johnson also took $1000 from Hurtgen's wife, Catherine, who has been reported to have laundered Nicholas's contributions to state officials (Johnson was a state legislator at the time) because SEC rules restricted Nicholas from making such contributions directly.

But it gets still fishier. It turns out that on October 28, 2000 -- the very same day that Hurtgen's wife gave Johnson $1000 -- Johnson also received $1000 from Stuart Levine, who was indicted as Nicholas Hurtgen's co-conspirator in the same fraud. (UPDATE: Levine pleaded guilty today.)

So let's review. Just 10 days before a close election (Johnson beat Mike Kelleher 53%-47%), Hurtgen's wife and his indicted co-conspirator each give the maximum to Johnson. Hurtgen, who can't give Johnson money because federal anti-corruption rules would then restrict his ability to seek State business -- and in any case couldn't give him more than $1000 under then applicable campaign finance laws -- doesn't give him a cent. We can't know what was in anybody's mind, of course, but it's hard to believe this was a coincidence. The clear inference is that Hurtgen encouraged his confidantes to funnel money to Johnson so as to evade both campaign finance limits and anti-corruption rules designed to prevent exactly this kind of influence peddling.

UPDATE: Also maxing out for Johnson on October 28, 2000, was George Ryan's son, George Jr. As you will recall, Johnson was a favorite recipient of Governor Ryan's largesse. Hurtgen, meanwhile, was a bit player in Ryan's corruption, in addition to his own criminal problems. Oh, what TJW would have given to be a fly on the wall during that fundraiser....

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

But At Least He's Good For The Farmers ... Or Not

Tim Johnson is Illinois' lone member on the House Agrigulture Committee. He frequently repeats that "agriculture is the backbone of the district's economy".

You'd expect Tim Johnson to be a reliable voice in Congress for the farmer, wouldn't you?

You'd be wrong.

The National Farmer's Union -- an organization founded in 1902, which today has "a membership of 250,000 farm and ranch families" and "continues its original mission to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers and ranchers and their rural communities" -- keeps score. And Tim Johnson gets a failing grade.

Johnson scored a whopping 50% for the 2005-06 congressional session. And that's the best he's ever done. In 2003-04, he scored a mere 33%. And in 2001-02, it was 30%. (You can see details and methodology for the last two terms here. Those details aren't available for 2001-02, but the scores are here.)

Honestly, if Tim Johnson's not a reliable friend of the farmer, what does he have left?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Tim Johnson's Tainted Campaign Cash, Part II

As I mentioned earlier this week, there should be another entry -- or actually two -- in My Pet Goat's informative list of Tim Johnson's shady donors.

Mr. Johnson accepted $1000 from Nicholas Hurtgen, just weeks before it was disclosed that he was a defendant in a federal whistle blower lawsuit, and just a year before he was indicted in federal court in Chicago on charges of a multimillion dollar construction fraud scheme to defraud the State of Illinois, the Illinois Facilities Planning Board, the Chicago Medical School, and a related charitable trust. (Hurtgen's trial has been delayed, apparently because he is now cooperating with federal prosecutors.)

To make matters more interesting, in 2000, Mr. Johnson also accepted $1000 from Hurtgen's wife, Catherine (who also made several large donations to George Ryan). The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has since suggested that Mr. Hurtgen may have been laundering political contributions through his wife to state officials to avoid an SEC rule that forbids investment brokers from doing business with a public official to whom they have given a political donation within the past two years. Significantly, when Catherine's donation was made in 2000, Tim Johnson was still a state official as a member of the Illinois legislature.

Of course, there is nothing necessarily wrong with accepting money from someone who's later indicted, but as noted previously, it's extraordinary how Tim Johnson seems to end up collecting cash from every corrupt Republican influence peddler.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

TJW Mailbag

Dear TJW:

While reading a local paper (Southern Champaign County Today, 10/11/06), I see that Rep. Tim Johnson won an award from the National Association of Manufacturers. Wow!

I question the newsworthiness of these awards. If you go to nam.org's web site, and download the PDF of who won the award in the 109th house, you see that 224 Republicans out of the 230 Republicans in the house ALSO got this award.

Basically, this award is about as special as the gold star I got for showing up in kindergarten.

Bob Rubendunst,
Sidney, IL
October 12, 2006
And what does NAM want for its gold star? They support the Bush plan to gut social security, freezing the minimum wage, the disastrous 2003 Medicare "Reform" Act, and a menu of extreme environmental depravity (opposing, for example, reductions in the levels of fine particles in the air and mercury in the water, and favoring drilling not just in the ANWR but in the Outer Continental Shelf). This gold star may please Tim Johnson's Republican colleagues in Washington, but it's surely not what's in the best interests of his constituents.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Tim Johnson's Tainted Campaign Cash

What better way to start the week here at Tim Johnson Watch than with more of Mr. Johnson's ties to corruption?

Over at My Pet Goat, Mrs. Cake has been pulling together a veritable America's Most Wanted of Tim Johnson's campaign contributors. On September 30, she posted an annotated list of some of Johnson's big-money contributors and hints of what they might have been paying for. Please visit her site for the full list (and supporting links), which includes links to various influence peddlers and convicts, including now convicted Bob Ney (R-OH), now indicted Tom DeLay (R-OH), and the American Indian tribe associated with convicted Jack Abramoff (via John Boehner (R-OH) and Roy Blunt (R-MO)).

Since there's already so much out there connecting Tim Johnson to the country's and Illinois' most corrupt Republican officeholders, I'd like to focus on some of the corrupt individuals who've been contributing to his campaigns. The rogue's gallery assembled by Mrs. Cake is particularly impressive when one considers how few individual donors Mr. Johnson has (and how much he relies on PACs as his main source of funding). From her September 30 list:
Walter Bollinger
Total received: $1300
Employer was Unistat, direct-mail firm owned by Roger Stanley and involved in George Ryan scandal....

Stuart Levine
Total received: $2000
Has been indicted on charges of fraud, money laundering, and extortion....

Donald Udstuen
Total received: $1000
Udstuen was recently convicted and sentenced in connection with the George Ryan scandal
Quite an impressive list, to be sure, but Tim Johnson is not one to sit on his laurels. Mrs. Cake provided us an update Saturday:
This week, another one of Johnson's contributors made the news. Stuart Levine, who's given Johnson $2000, has officially been indicted in the TRS probes. Bill Cellini, a powerful Springfield Republican who was "Individual A" in Levine's indictment, has given Johnson $4000. Another Johnson contributor, Donald Udstuen, has already been convicted in connection with the Ryan corruption. [And, as TJW has reported, Johnson was a direct recipient of an extraordinary number of George Ryan's tainted "favors". --ed.]
But the fun continues. TJW will be reporting on more corrupt Johnson donors later this week. (And please don't hesitate to send tips to timjohnsonwatch AT yahoo DOT com.)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Stand By Your Man, Or Tim Johnson Circles The Wagons In House Underage Sex Scandal, Part IV

Just a reminder of where Tim Johnson was Thursday night:

(Via WurfWhile.)

Meanwhile, Hoosier reports that Johnson's taking the same tack with his constituents:

All I could quickly think of was to ask about the Foley scandal, to which he gave a fairly straightforward answer (paraphrasing here, I don’t have recording equipment on my home phone line):

The actions are disgusting, but I don’t want to pass any judgement on the House leadership until a full investigation of the facts of who knew what and when is conducted.

In other words, delay it until after the mid-terms and get it off the front page. Not suprising and very similar to what is being reported at Tim Johnson Watch.

It all sounds very reasonable, of course. Full investigation, due deliberation, etc., etc. Except that the GOP House Majority Leader has already told us that Hastert knew about Foley and told him the problem had been "taken care of". And except that the head of the GOP's House campaign also says he told Hastert months ago and Hastert did nothing. And except that Foley's Republican chief of staff testified under oath this week that he told Hastert's office years ago. For someone who was quick to suggest that the pages themselves should be the ones to suffer, Tim Johnson is remarkably reluctant to lay blame on the leaders who enabled Mark Foley. Deliberation has its place, but sometimes leaders must lead.

Monday, October 09, 2006

It's The War Stupid, Part II

This morning's news brought an indictment of the Tim Johnson-enabled Bush war perhaps as damning as last month's National Intelligence Estimate reporting that the Iraq War had made us less safe from terrorism:
SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea said Monday it had exploded a nuclear weapon for the first time, an underground test that defied international warnings but was hailed by the communist nation as a "great leap forward" for its people.
Perhaps a nuclear North Korea would have come eventually without Iraq, but there is no doubt that North Korea's nuclear program was accelerated by the Iraq War (because they feared that we would attack a non-nuclear enemy on the flimsiest of justifications, as we had in Iraq) and that its militant leaders were emboldened by it (because they knew that our troops were bogged down in Iraq, leaving us relegated to empty threats).

When TJW speaks to Tim Johnson's defenders -- and encouragingly there do seem to be fewer of them these days -- the more candid among them will usually say something like, Okay, he's not very interested in policy or legislation, but he's great on staying in contact with his constituents and helping out when they have a problem. We can debate the truth of Tim Johnson's "constituent service" -- to TJW's eyes it's basically what every competent incumbent does, except that Johnson is particularly good at taking personal credit for his staff's work -- but, when we see how dangerous a world Mr. Johnson has created for us and our children, we have to conclude that policy matters more.

And Mr. Johnson's policy is a bloody, expensive, dangerous failure.

See also: It's The War, Stupid

Friday, October 06, 2006

Stand By Your Man, Or Tim Johnson Circles The Wagons In House Underage Sex Scandal, Part III

From the Pantagraph:
“Congressman (Tim) Johnson is not condemning Hastert in any way at this point,” added Phil Bloomer, press secretary for the Urbana Republican. “But, he is supportive of the investigations and believes those in positions of responsibility should be held accountable. …Let the chips fall where they may. There is no excuse of allowing teenagers to be put in vulnerable positions.”...

Both Fuller and Bloomer said their congressmen take exception to the depiction of the Foley scandal as a black eye for all Republicans....

“There is a lot of unfortunate exploitation of this tragedy on the part of many Democrats,” agreed Bloomer. “This act was not a political act by Mark Foley. It was not a Republican or a Democratic act. It was an act by a disturbed individual.”
No, what Mark Foley did was not a political act. But Dennis Hastert's decision to cover up what Mark Foley did -- for three years -- was the rankest of partisan acts. And Tim Johnson's apologies for Hastert aren't far behind.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Stand By Your Man, Or Tim Johnson Circles The Wagons In House Underage Sex Scandal, Part II

Fox News -- yes, Fox News -- reports that Hastert's coverup of the Mark Foley scandal could cost the GOP control of the House, and that some House Republicans are starting to treat him like kryptonite:
"The data suggests Americans have bailed on the speaker," a Republican source briefed on the polling data told FOX News. "And the difference could be between a 20-seat loss and 50-seat loss."...

The same pollster who provided the gloomy news on Hastert's effect on GOP candidates nationwide did send out an advisory on Tuesday to rank-and-file Republicans that they might consider canceling appearances with Hastert in their districts. Hours later, Rep. Ron Lewis of Kentucky announced he was canceling a fundraiser scheduled for next week where Hastert was supposed to be the headliner.

As noted below, Tim Johnson has decided to cast his lot with Hastert. And as of now he's not taking the advice to stay away from the Speaker -- they're appearing together at a big-ticket fundraiser in Chicago a week from today. I guess we know where Mr. Johnson stands on cleaning up the House....

Tim Johnson Circles The Wagons In House Underage Sex Scandal

According to NPR yesterday, Tim Johnson has now joined Ray LaHood (R-IL) in calling for the suspension of the House page program in response to recent public revelations that Mark Foley (R-FL) has been carrying on sexually explicit email exchanges with underage pages and that the House Republican leadership -- and especially, Speaker Dennis Hastert, who has known of Foley's misconduct for at least two years -- turned a blind eye to avoid losing Foley's seat and fundraising prowess.

Make no mistake about what Johnson and LaHood are doing. As the conservative Washington Times calls for Hastert's resignation (and rumors swirl that he could resign as early as today or tomorrow), Tim Johnson is trying to save Hastert by deflecting blame onto the page program itself. The Chicago Tribune's Frank James explains the purpose of LaHood's call, now joined by Johnson, to suspend the page program:
Can Republicans change the subject?

Rep. Ray LaHood is known as a straight-talking House Republican. But he is also a loyalist to his fellow Illinois Republican, Rep. Dennis Hastert, the House Speaker.

Both qualities were on display during LaHood’s appearance on CNN yesterday. LaHood essentially absolved Hastert of blame in the Mark Foley congressional page email scandal.

He also plugged his radical idea of suspending the page program. And he acknowledged that the Republican base is likely demoralized by the Foley scandal and will need an extraordinary effort....

As Harold Meyerson, a columnist in today’s Washington Post noted, LaHood’s proposal would wind up punishing the victims—the teenagers who come from all around the country for the rare opportunity to work on Capitol Hill—and not the victimizers....
Or as today's Rockford Registar Star puts it:
Abolishing the page program is a knee-jerk reaction that would deprive young people who are interested in government of a valuable experience. Why punish the pages? They are not the problem....

The page program goes back to Sen. Daniel Webster, who appointed the first Senate page in 1829. House pages have been on the job since 1842. Former pages who’ve come forward since the Foley scandal broke are unanimous in their support of the program.

Foley was a bad apple, sure, but the poor handling by leadership of this matter shouldn’t be allowed to spoil the page program.
In other words, rather than really trying to get to the bottom of and fix and the massive failure of leadership that gave us Mark Foley, Tim Johnson would rather join in LaHood's grandstanding to distract attention from GOP leaders and, especially, Hastert.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tim Johnson Connected To Yet Another Scandal?

Do you remember Woody Allen's Zelig? The title character is sort of a non-descript fellow who somehow keeps showing up in all the major events of the day, including in a photograph with Republican President Warren G. Harding, whose administration's massive Teapot Dome oil scandal has been likened to today's Enron scandal.

TJW is starting to think Tim Johnson is the Zelig of Republican scandals. First, he was Illinois' biggest recipient of funds from the indicted and disgraced Tom Delay (and unlike other Illinois Republicans has refused to return the money). Then, we learned he was listed by convicted Governor George Ryan's convicted chief of staff as the recipient of 66 "favors", or almost 1% of all favors on the governor's list.

And now, we learn that he also tops the Illinois list in receiving cash from newly-convicted GOP Congressman Bob Ney (R-OH).

In other words, the most corrupt Illinois and national Republicans consistently seem to want to do nice things for Tim Johnson. What, one must wonder, do they want in return?

TJW doesn't accuse Tim Johnson of being connected to the Teapot Dome scandal, but it makes you wonder.

Tim Johnson, with former corrupt Republican President Warren G. Harding (and with his successor Calvin Coolidge).

Monday, September 25, 2006

It's The War, Stupid

Today begins Congress's last week in session before they recess to begin full-time campaigning. The Times reports that Republicans still hope to "do something" this week to escape their "do nothing" reputation. They've chosen to let almost everything "fall by the wayside" and "chosen to concentrate on legislation emphasizing their security credentials".

Stoking fears of terrorism worked liked a charm for the GOP in '02 and '04, but it looks like it's going to be a hard sell this year. Already, the Washington Post has reported that Americans now trust Democrats over Republicans by a 46%-38% margin (the same poll had the GOP favored by 61%-25% in late 2002).

But then, this weekend, we found that U.S. spy agencies have confirmed what Democrats have long argued -- that the Iraq War is a disaster for the war on terrorism:
A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks....

The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American intelligence official....

National Intelligence Estimates are the most authoritative documents that the intelligence community produces on a specific national security issue, and are approved by [Bush-appointee] John D. Negroponte, director of national intelligence.
Tim Johnson has been one of Bush's surest and most consistent votes for the misguided Iraq War. He has parroted the Bush line (audio links) that the war makes us safer at home.

But it hasn't made us safer. Mr. Johnson's war has been an unmitigated disaster for the Nation:
  • The National Intelligence Estimate says it has made the risk of terrorism greater.
  • 2,702 brave American soldiers, 104 from Illinois, are dead.
  • 19,910 more are wounded, many of them seriously and permanently.
Honestly, if you really believe that two more years of Tim Johnson's rubber stamp for Bush's disasterous Iraq misadventure is a good idea, then you should surely vote for Mr. Johnson.

But please don't tell TJW that you know how wrong he's been about Iraq but you're still going to vote for him for whatever reason. The costs, and the dangers, are too high.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Tim Johnson: Voting Is Not My Friend

Ah, Fall. There's a chill in the air. There's optimism for the Illini. And thoughts turn toward the upcoming elections.

Unfortunately, these days, when the House Republicans think about elections, it is not with the warm enthusiasm we remember from civics class. No, it is with fear of those polls showing "Democrats with a lead averaging 11 points on the generic congressional ballot test", as "more and more GOP House seats move into the vulnerable column or worse, for them, into extremely vulnerable status".

Today, Tim Johnson and the House Republicans reacted to that fear of the ballot box not by doing something to make the Nation better, but by doing something to make voting harder. In a close and mostly party-line vote, Tim Johnson helped the GOP pass the shameful "Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006", which aims to make it harder for Democratic and Independent voters (including the elderly, the poor, minorities, and disabled people) to vote -- and which has the additional "features" of costing you tax money and probably making it harder for you to vote even if you're not in one of those groups.

Oh, and "shameful" isn't TJW's word. It's the New York Times', in tomorrow's lead editorial. I urge you to read the whole thing, but here's the flavor of it:
One of the cornerstones of the Republican Party’s strategy for winning elections these days is voter suppression, intentionally putting up barriers between eligible voters and the ballot box. The House of Representatives took a shameful step in this direction yesterday, voting largely along party lines for onerous new voter ID requirements. Laws of this kind are unconstitutional, as an array of courts have already held, and profoundly undemocratic. The Senate should not go along with this cynical, un-American electoral strategy.

The bill the House passed yesterday would require people to show photo ID to vote in 2008. Starting in 2010, that photo ID would have to be something like a passport, or an enhanced kind of driver’s license or non-driver’s identification, containing proof of citizenship. This is a level of identification that many Americans simply do not have.

The bill was sold as a means of deterring vote fraud, but that is a phony argument. There is no evidence that a significant number of people are showing up at the polls pretending to be other people, or that a significant number of noncitizens are voting.
Why so afraid of the voters, Mr. Johnson?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Johnson Neither Cutting Fat Nor Bringing Home Bacon

Republicans in Congress are nervous that Americans are tired of Congress's culture of corruption after 12 years of GOP control, but not nervous enough to really do anything about. This week, Tim Johnson joined in an effort to put a figleaf over the problem of porkbarrel spending. From the New York Times:
Nine months after Congressional leaders vowed to respond to several bribery scandals with comprehensive reforms, their pledges have come to next to nothing.

On Wednesday, leaders of the House prepared to take up a rule requiring individual lawmakers to sign their names to some of the pet projects they tuck into major tax and spending bills. As an internal House rule, the requirement would be in effect only until the end of the session, just a few weeks away....

Some called the proposed rule almost pointless since members are often eager to boast of the earmarks they secure for constituents. “There is an element you can’t legislate, and that is shame,” said Representative Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona and a frequent critic of earmarks. “You have got to have some embarrassment when you bring to the floor an earmark for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”...

But Fred Wertheimer, president of the reform advocacy group Democracy 21, called the dispute over the scaled-back earmark rule “absurd.”

“They have had months to reach an agreement even among House Republicans about what this fig leaf should look like,” he said, “and they still haven’t been able to do it.”
In other words, Johnson decided to vote for a bill that would accomplish little and, more important, would table efforts at real reform, so incumbents could campaign on the assertion that they have done something.

While Johnson thus enabled to continuing survival of the earmark system, it seems that he may not be playing that system to his constituents' advantage. While definitive numbers are hard to come by (indeed, that's part of the problem), some recent evidence is suggestive that Mr. Johnson's not doing all that well on this score. The Examiner gives us a rare glimpse into the breakdown of Congressional earmarks, and reports that "the Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations measure ... presently contains 1,867 earmarks worth more than a half-billion tax dollars and averaging nearly $268,000 each". If you do the math, that works out to about $1,150,000 per district. How does Illinois's 15th do? By my count, only $850,000 -- or less than 75% of the national average. This is not an Illinois problem, as the average Illinois district (excluding the 15th) takes in $1,110,000, almost exactly the national average.

So why is it that with a Republican Representative in a Republican Congress the 15th can't even approach the national average? TJW would like to have a Representative who's fighting to cut the fat, but if we can't have that, why can't we have one who will bring home the bacon....?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Don't wake the sleeping Johnson campaign. Via Capitol Fax, even the once solidly Republican downstate is shifting towards the Democrats:

But the most recent Tribune poll found that even in longtime Republican-leaning regions, the GOP no longer might have the upper hand. In the collar counties, 31 percent of voters aligned themselves with Republicans while 29 percent identified with Democrats. Outside the Chicago metropolitan region, voters split equally at 36 percent between Democrats and Republicans. (Emphasis added.)
Meanwhile, back in Washington, the Do Nothing Congress -- which CNN's Lou Dobbs reports will work fewer than 80 days this year -- is finally back in session after a five week holiday. Mostly they've been naming post offices and the like.

The sole controversial bill since return was a bill to prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption (but not for other purposes), which passed 263-146. Tim Johnson voted in favor. It's hard to fault someone for trying to protect Mr. Ed, and TJW is hardly an expert in equine policy, but it is worth noting that the bill was condemned by Johnson's own House Agriculture Committee in a scathing report ("As evidenced by the near unanimous [37-3] rejection of this legislation, the Committee is concerned that if enacted, this bill would negatively impact the health and welfare of horses across the country.").

Monday, September 11, 2006

Help Wanted at the Johnson Campaign?

Sure, the Johnson-backed Bush economic plan hasn't worked too well here in Central Illinois, but here's something Tim Johnson could do to promote local job growth -- he could hire a webmaster for his campaign website.

For one thing, the links have clearly not been updated since 2004:

Even a brief glance would tell an observer that the first link, Bush-Cheney '04, is defunct. Perhaps more worrisome for Mr. Johnson's Get-Out-The-Vote operation, the sites for the Champaign County Republicans and the Illinois College Republican Federation no longer exist. And the Federation of Illinois Young Republicans links to this:

Even the home page's link to "the most recent news about the district" has nothing less than a month old. (The home page also has a link to his 2004 endorsements.)

Perhaps TJW has misjudged Tim Johnson. Maybe he really does intend to honor his promise not to run for Congress more than three times!

How's That Bush Boom Working Out For Illinois' Middle Class?

Tim Johnson has been a consistent and unapologetic supporter for George Bush's economic policies. So, it is fair to ask, how have those massive tax cuts for the super-wealthy and unrestrained deficit spending worked out for Johnson's constituents?

Not well. Political Animal reports that (because the benefits of the recent recovery were so heavily skewed to the richest few) real median household income dropped nationwide by 2.8% from 1999 to 2005. Here in Illinois, it's much worse -- median household income dropped by 10.8% over the same period. That puts Illinois behind all but six states.

The median household is the definition of middle class -- half are doing better, half worse. The middle class is not doing well under the Bush-Johnson approach to the economy.

And the ecomony looks to be cooling off again.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Elsewhere in the Blogosphere

During Tim Johnson Watch's hiatus, several other local bloggers have been covering Mr. Johnson:
  • The Agitated American describes Tim Johnson's hit-and-run "debate" with his opponent, David Gill, where Johnson defended the status quo medical system and then left before Dr. Gill spoke to make the case for universal national healthcare. (Of course, as Paul Krugman pointed out this week, Republicans like the federal government to pay for healthcare when they're overpaying for drugs to big pharmacy companies, but they hate it when they're delivering inexpensive, effective health-care, as the Veterans Administration does post-Clinton.)
  • The conservative IlliniPundit asks, "Is Tim Johnson 'Coasting'?" and wonders, "While I don’t necessarily expect the congressman from central Illinois to be the most powerful man in the house, should we expect more in his third term?"
  • Ol' Guy reports that Gill signs outnumber Johnson signs in his Republican neighborhood.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Campaign Kickoff

With Labor Day marking the traditional kick-off date for election season, Tim Johnson Watch will be back with more complete coverage of Tim Johnson's run for the fourth of his promised three terms in the House of Representatives.

It looks like Johnson may be in for more of a race than he expected when he announced that he would break his three-term-limit pledge.

First, according to the latest FEC discolures (through 6/30/06), Johnson leads his opponent, David Gill, in fundraising by a mere $70,000 ($194,484 vs. $123,487), a remarkably weak showing by an incumbent. By way of contrast, for the 2004 election Johnson outraised Gill by $533,478 to $102,352. To make matters worse for Johnson, he actually trails Gill in individual contributions ($114,121 vs. $70,713), a category he more than doubled Gill in last time around. It's the PACs that's keeping his campaign office lights on -- $7,500 from nuclear power giant Exelon, $6,500 from AT&T, $2,500 from the beer lobby, $2,000 from big tobacco, $2,000 from major Iraq war contractor Parsons Corp., etc.

Second, those weak fund-raising numbers reflect what appears to be a seismic shifts in the electorate away from George Bush and his rubber-stamp supporters in Congress. Non-partisan analyst Charlie Cook describes it as follows:

Republicans are facing a motivation deficit unlike anything they've seen at least since 1982 and probably since 1974, the post-Watergate midterm.

Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial beginning of the fall campaign. And if the political climate remains as it is today -- a very big "if" -- Republicans will likely lose the House and their dominance of the nation's governorships but hang on to the Senate by a thread. Every sign points to a reappearance of the "time for a change" dynamic....

Ultimately, the GOP's biggest challenge heading toward November 7 is getting its people out to vote. When a party's voters are disillusioned and disinclined to participate, candidates' leads in pre-election polls can disappear in the blink of an eye. And some who appeared headed toward victory end up giving concession speeches.

C. Cook, Chilling Numbers for the GOP, 9/2/06 (emphasis added). And today the AP is reporting that Southern women are turning away from the GOP over Iraq.

Game on.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

DeLay's $25,000 Is Not Johnson's Only Radioactive Contribution. Part II

TJW reported Tuesday on the dangerous safety practices of Tim Johnson's largest contributor this cycle, Exelon Corp. which operates all six of Illinois' nuclear power plants.

Exelon seems intent on convincing us that, if Mr. Johnson really fancies himself an environmentalist, he has another contribution he might consider returning. From today's Chicago Tribune:
Another problem struck an Exelon Corp. nuclear plant when electrical equipment Friday unexpectedly began giving off smoke at the Byron Generating Station, located about 90 miles west of Chicago.

Although relatively minor, the incident was at least the fourth problem to hit an Exelon nuclear plant since Monday....

The most serious of the week's problems came on Monday, when Exelon declared an emergency at its LaSalle County Generating Station. Because of an equipment malfunction, plant operators could not confirm that the Unit 1 reactor had properly shut down. Later investigation showed it had.

On Wednesday, undetermined electrical problems forced the shutdown of the 34-year-old Quad Cities 1 reactor, the latest of several setbacks at the nuclear plant. The plant is in Cordova, Ill., across the Mississippi River from Davenport, Iowa....

The problems this week come against the backdrop of the investigation into radiation leaks at three Exelon nuclear plants.

Water containing tritium has leaked at the Dresden Generating Station in Grundy County and at the Byron plant.

Earlier, Exelon had disclosed four tritium spills at its Braidwood Generating Station in far southwest Will County between 1996 and 2003. As a result, tritium was found in groundwater outside the plant at levels that exceed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards.

Exelon and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are investigating the leaks. (Emphasis added.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

DeLay's $25,000 Is Not Johnson's Only Radioactive Contribution

In yesterday's round up of Tim Johnson's fourth quarter fundraising, I somehow failed to mention Johnson's top contributor both for the fourth quarter of 2005 and for the entire election cylce -- it's Exelen Corp., with $2,500 for the quarter (almost 7.5% of all contributions) and $5,000 for the cycle (almost 5% of all contributions).* According to Open Secrets, Exelon was also among Johnson's six biggest contributors for the 2003-04 and 2001-02 cylces.

Exelon operates all six of Illinois's power plants (one through a subsidiary). TJW is not opposed to nuclear power, but TJW is opposed to nuclear power companies that are cavalier about the safety of local citizens. Exelon was in the news this morning for having to declare a state of emergency at a nuclear power plant in Illinois. And this is not Exelon's first major safety problem in Illinois -- there have been at least two other spills since 1998. (Republican Rep. Jerry Weller is apparently still trying to get Exelon to clean up the 1998 spill, which involved 3 million gallons of radioactive water.) Here's a more thorough accounting of Exelon's safety record. And here are safety allegations from an Exelon whistle-blower.

What does Exelon want for its contributions? According to Public Citizen:
Exelon is America's largest nuclear power plant operator with 10 nuclear power plants. Exelon spent $10.5 million since 2000 lobbying the federal government on hundreds of energy policy issues, from increasing federal subsidies to the nuclear industry, to easing regulations over the operation of its plants, to repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act, to subsidies. (Emphasis added; more on Exelon here.)
According to NJ PIRG:
[I]n the Illinois Commerce Commission's most recent reliability assessment report, Exelon got very poor marks....

And finally, Exelon has a penchant for putting profits before safety at their nuclear plants. Exelon has a history of cutting on-site staffing levels, lobbying for license extensions for aging plants, experimenting with increases in power output, firing staff for raising safety concerns, and delaying critical maintenance projects. (Emphasis added.)
For someone who fancies himself an environmentalist, Tim Johnson might want to explain why his biggest campaign contributor is a nuclear power company with a dubious safety record in Illinois!

*Exelon is tied for the quarter with the National Beer Wholesalers Association and for the cylce with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Fourth Quarter Fundraising -- Another Blah Quarter for Johnson

As TJW reported last quarter, Tim Johnson's fundraising is lagging far behind last cycle. Johnson's disappointing fundraising continues with the latest figures, which reflect contributions through December 31, 2005.

Johnson raised $34,732 for the fourth quarter, bringing his total for the cycle up to $109,093. Of the $34,732, a mere $18,232 was from individual contributors, with the rest coming from PACs like the National Beer Wholesalers Association PAC (at $2,500, almost 7.5% of his quarterly fundraising). He continues to outspend his fundraising, leaving him with $80,022 cash on hand and $69,246 in debt, for a campaign net worth of $10,776. Even if Johnson wanted to pay back Tom DeLay's money, he'd have to borrow to do it!

Johnson's challenger, David Gill, raised not much less than Johnson at $24,728 and, for the second consecutive quarter, outstripped Johnson in individual contributions with $22,680 to Johnson's $18,232. Gill has no debt and is $37,735 in the black.

Maybe, as TJW suggested back in November, the raft of GOP scandals coming to light is starting to weigh down Republican contributions. Or maybe Johnson is coasting, feeling secure in the fact that he defeated Gill the last time. I guess the latter is more encouraging for Johnson than the former, but either way these numbers have to be giving the challenger encouragement.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

DeLay's "Soft Landing"

Apparently, House Republicans, though shamed into removing the indicted Tom DeLay from his leadership position, weren't really too mad at him after all. From ABC News:
DeLay Lands Coveted Appropriations Spot

WASHINGTON Feb 8, 2006 (AP)— Indicted Rep. Tom DeLay, forced to step down as the No. 2 Republican in the House, scored a soft landing Wednesday as GOP leaders rewarded him with a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee.

DeLay, R-Texas, also claimed a seat on the subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department, which is currently investigating an influence-peddling scandal involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his dealings with lawmakers. The subcommittee also has responsibility over NASA a top priority for DeLay, since the Johnson Space Center is located in his Houston-area district.

No reports of any dissent in the GOP House ranks, including from Mr. Johnson, who we all know still has Tom DeLay's money.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Decisions, decisions ... Part III

An anonymous commenter asks why it matters that Tim Johnson hasn't picked sides in the race for House Majority Leader:
If Johnson would have picked his choice already you would be bitching that he got paid by someone. Now that he hasn't picked you bitch about that. What ever he does this blog will spins it.
That's a fair question. TJW is no fan of any of the three candidates, so I agree that, in this case, there is no course of action Johnson could take that TJW would approve (save, perhaps, taking a public stand that the Republicans need a fourth option, like Chris Shays (R-CT), who is committed to genuine reform). In other words, I agree that in isolation Johnson's failure to pick a candidate doesn't matter much.

However, in the context of Johnson's overall record, TJW believes that Johnson's failure to pick sides in this contest is revealing of his overall mous operandi -- which is to avoid whenever possible taking a position on controversial issues, especially when doing so might annoy someone in the leadership. There may be no "right" position on who should be Majority Leader, but there surely was a right position on Tom DeLay's proposal to change House ethics rules so that he could remain Majority Leader even if indicted, yet Johnson ducked the vote. There surely was a right position on President Bush's proposal to gut Social Security, yet Johnson avoided taking any position in the hope (correct, it turned out) that Bush's plan would go away for lack of support. There surely was a right position on Bush's decision to cut wages for construction workers working on Katrina reconstruction, but his office would not respond to my inquiry concerning his position on the issue. There surely is a right position on whether Bush should make public records of his dealings with convicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, but Johnson avoided constituent questions on that issue as well.

The stated purpose of this blog is that Johnson's "constituents should know what he's doing". How he is conducting himself in the GOP leadership contest is part of the mosaic of information that his constituents should have.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Decisions, decisions ... Jack Abramoff Edition

Should the Bush Administration release its documents reflecting its contacts with convicted Republican lobbyist (and close DeLay associate) Jack Abramoff? Several Republican members of Congress are starting to say, Yes.

What does Tim Johnson think? Josh Marshall reports that Johnson is ducking the issue.

Methinks there is a pattern here....

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Decisions, decisions....Part II

Over two weeks ago, TJW noted that Tim Johnson was staying on the sidelines in the race for House majority leader to replace the indicted Tom DeLay. Hardly a surprise, but Johnson's still uncommitted, even as almost 70% of the GOP caucus has taken sides....

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Footprints in the Sand

As the House readies to reconvene in two weeks, this might be a good time to review Tim Johnson's legislative "accomplishments" for 2005:

Bills sponsored: Five. Well, one really. On September 22, Johnson introduced five companion bills (HR 3877-81) to "suspend temporarily the duty on certain parts of machinery for molding and forming certain articles". Each bill lists particular parts (e.g., barrel screws) that would be exempt from tariff for a period of time. Presumably, the bills would benefit some American manufacturers who use such parts (and, one hopes, some of those manufacturers are in our District), though they may harm American manufacturers who make such parts, since the bills encourage foreign sourcing. Whatever the merits of these bills, Johnson hardly acted like someone who believed in them. He never issued a press release explaining why these bills had merit or would benefit the nation or the Fifteenth District. Nor, apparently, did he make much effort to persuade his colleagues of the bills' merit, as they found no co-sponsors and were immediately referred to Committee, and no further action was taken.

Sponsored bills enacted: Zero. None even debated. See above.

Appearances in Congressional Record: Thirteen, according to Thomas (Library of Congress) search, although the actual number is twelve (as one instance actually refers to Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-CT)). Of those, seven relate to tributes and similar non-substantive matters (e.g., a tribute to postal employees), two are instances where Johnson asked to change his vote, two are instances where he was too late to vote and asked to make a statement as to how he would have voted, and one was a list of all Representatives and their committee appointments. In other words, Johnson did not make a single floor statement in support of or opposition to any bill before the House.

By any standard, this is an uninspiring legislative record. Especially for a member of the majority party. Especially for someone who is reneging on a term limit pledge because of the purported benefits of seniority for what he can accomplish.