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John Kline's Record

Disclaimer: The author of this site maintained the campaign weblog of John Kline's opponent in the 2006 election, which made Congressman Kline a bit testy.

As with all blogs, review the facts carefully and draw your own conclusions.

Monday, November 21, 2005

John Kline's Priorities: Tax Cuts for the Wealthy over Food for the Poor

A recent study concludes that 87 percent of Americans are "food secure" --- that is, they have no need to worry where their next meal is coming from.

For those of you with shaky math skills, that means that 13 percent of Americans --- 38 million Americans --- don't know where their next meal is coming from.

The Republican party has controlled the House of Representatives for nearly 11 years, and the Senate and White House for most of the last five. If I were an elected official, especially a Republican, I would be embarrassed that the world's richest country and its sole remaining superpower can't keep 13 percent of its population adequately fed.

But of course, I'm not a Republican, and last Friday, Republicans in the House gave me yet another reason to take pride in that fact, as they (barely) passed a bill to cut $50 billion from the federal budget --- principally by cutting funding for the Food Stamp program (the bill also contains several other appalling measures). It is estimated that these cuts would drop a minimum of 120,000 people from the program, people who are "mostly working families with children."

Not surprisingly, John Kline voted for this bill. Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean that he is insensitive to the needs of the working poor with hungry children. After all, the budget reconciliation bill is a huge piece of legislation, and it's certain that no legislator of either party was 100% in favor or 100% opposed to it. Voting in Congress almost always requires legislators to take some good and some bad. But this bill has Democrats and progressives upset for a variety of reasons, and is one which the National Council of churches calls a "moral disaster of monumental proportion". So how did John Kline explain his vote?

He didn't. A search of the Congressional Record over the last 2 weeks yields no floor speeches by Congressman Kline on this bill. A search of his congressional website lists 59 press releases for 2005 --- 8 of the last 11 bragging about how much pork he's brought into the district --- but not a word about hunger in America, any plans he has to address it, or any indication that he's even given it a thought. His silence on this issue is far more disturbing to me than any statement he might have made justifying his support for this bill. It demonstrates callous disregard for those in need.

And mind you, the hungry, working poor aren't just some folks out in Virginia --- they're right here in Minnesota, too. Food shelves in Minnesota had an all-time record number of visitors in 2004. This morning, I heard on the radio that there are children who are in such a persistent state of hunger that they dream about food. Sure, John Kline is a conservative who believes in smaller government, but he has a responsibility to his affected constituents. He should have some kind of plan or suggestion to help them. Can't he even take the time to acknowledge that there's a problem?

Next week, the House is scheduled to vote on extending Bush's tax cuts to the wealthy, which is estimated to increase the deficit by another $70 billion. There's every reason to believe that Kline will vote for it. Whatever his reasons for supporting the cuts to Food Stamps and other social programs, I guess deficit reduction wasn't one of them.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

John Kline's Ethical Double-Standard

Beware, Bush voters! More Kline flip-floppery ahead!

Of course everyone knows by now that Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's now-former Chief of Staff, was indicted on October 28th on multiple counts of perjury and making false statements (the legal term for lying). Everyone also knows that the current administration puts a premium on ethical conduct, so when a 2-year investigation into allegations that he exposed a CIA operative resulted in indictment, Libby immediately resigned from his White House job.

At the time, John Kline echoed the administration view that someone under indictment should no longer work at the White House (Star Tribune, October 28, 2005):

Republican Rep. John Kline said that he was troubled by the indictment and that it was "appropriate for [Libby] to step aside until his case is resolved."

Good for him. Some Republicans have felt it necessary to defend Libby or attack Fitzgerald, or Joseph Wilson. But Kline did the right thing. It brings dishonor to the Republican party when Republican officials behave unethically, and other Republicans cover for them. It brings honor to the Republican party when Republicans like Kline acknowledge that Libby's behavior was inappropriate, and disavow such behavior within the party (no, Kline didn't explicitly disavow Libby; I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt here).

Then again, Kline doesn't owe Libby money (so far as I know). This fact might explain the difference between Kline's reaction to Libby's indictment and that of Tom DeLay.

DeLay's indictment was only handed down on September 28th of this year, but speculation that DeLay was in trouble began shortly after the 2004 congressional elections --- at which time, the Republican leadership in the House started to circle the wagons:

House Republicans proposed changing their rules last night to allow members indicted by state grand juries to remain in a leadership post, a move that would benefit Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) in case he is charged by a Texas grand jury that has indicted three of his political associates, according to GOP leaders.

The rules were changed, briefly, before Democrats and public opinion embarrassed the Republican leadership into reversing the rule change.

How did John Kline vote in that closed-door session in November, 2004? We will probably never know, since it was a closed-door session and Kline has used that fact as an excuse not to reveal his vote. However, any reasonable person can conclude Kline voted with DeLay, as the Star Tribune explains in a November 24, 2004 editorial:

Why do we suspect Kline and Kennedy voted with DeLay? For starters, they declined to say how they voted, calling it an "internal party matter." If they had voted against DeLay, what possible motive could they have for keeping the fact secret? On the other hand, if they voted with DeLay and worry that constituents might not exactly like it, they'd have ample reason to hush up.

Then there is the amount of money that DeLay's political action committee has contributed to their campaigns. The figure $10,000 has been cited for both Kline and Kennedy. But that's only for this election cycle. Overall, Kline has received $30,000 from the DeLay PAC, and Kennedy has received $29,500. That puts them near the top of the list in recipients of DeLay's largesse.

Ah, yes. When $30,000 in campaign contributions is involved, suddenly Kline isn't so eager to publicly --- or even privately --- opine that an indicted Republican leader should step down.

And Kline still has DeLay's money. You might think that Kline would want to return the 30 grand, if for no other reason than to insulate himself from the taint of DeLay's wrongdoing. But so far he has not, and indeed he doesn't plan to (Pioneer Press, September 30th 2005):

U.S. Rep. John Kline, who represents Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District, will return $30,000 in campaign contributions he received from Majority Leader Tom DeLay if his national political action committee . . . is convicted of money-laundering, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

Earlier in the day, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee challenged Republican House members, including Kline and two others from Minnesota, to return what it called "tainted DeLay money."

Kline spokeswoman Angelyn Shapiro accused Democrats of spinning the indictment out of proportion.

"What we have here is yet another attempt by the Democratic Party to divert our attention away from their lack of a serious national agenda," Shapiro said.

The Kline campaign makes the valid point that they received $30,000 from DeLay's national PAC, not the Texas-based TRMPAC which is accused of breaking Texas state campaign finance laws. But is it reasonable to assume that DeLay was laundering money through one of his PACs, but not others? If it's true, as Kline insists, that DeLay's national PAC is 'clean', then why would Kline agree to return the money if DeLay is convicted? And why is Kline applying a different ethical standard to Libby than he did to DeLay?

Maybe Kline believes that Libby's alleged perjury is a more serious crime than DeLay's alleged campaign finance and money-laundering violations. Or perhaps Kline believes that White House staffers should be held to a higher standard of conduct than congressional leadership.

Of course it's difficult to ignore the fact that DeLay has $30,000 invested in Kline, and Libby doesn't.

Monday, November 07, 2005

John Kline is Soft on Torture

Abu Ghraib.

Extraordinary rendition.

Guantanamo Bay.

And in the past few days, we've learned that the CIA has maintained so-called 'Black Sites' all over the world for more than four years now, where prisoners are held indefinitely, and are routinely interrogated using extreme methods such as waterboarding.

What does the White House have to say about this? George Bush today proclaimed 'we do not torture' prisoners, even while the White House continued its vigorous opposition to legislation which would make it illegal for any U.S. authority to torture any prisoner, anywhere. Actually, Bush's statement was more than a little Orwellian:

We are finding terrorists and bringing them to justice. We are gathering information about where the terrorists may be hiding. We are trying to disrupt their plots and plans. Anything we do ... to that end in this effort, any activity we conduct, is within the law. We do not torture.

That's simple enough. If the U.S. does it, it must not be torture!

But, this blog is supposed to examine John Kline's record. And what is Congressman Kline's record on torture? Well, when the Abu Ghraib photos were first made public, John Kline had this to say:

Anger, outrage, disgust, embarrassment – these are just a few of my immediate reactions upon viewing the still unreleased photos of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison. What I saw went far beyond the acceptable limits of human decency. What I saw was a failure of discipline, leadership, and the standards of conduct which all Americans – and especially the members of our U.S. Armed Services – value so dearly.

All who have seen the photos – and many who have not – are unanimous in their resolve that something must be done. Responsibility must be taken, and punishment – severe punishment – must be assigned.

The photos of the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison reveal an environment void of accountability and supervision. We have an adage in the military: “You get what you inspect, not what you expect.” Just as the young men and women serving in our military have a responsibility to carry out orders given by their superiors, those superiors have a responsibility to ensure orders are carried out properly and clear guidance is given. For either of them to fail to live up to their obligation is at minimum a dereliction of duty. At its worst it is criminal.

Strong words, indeed. In fact, this is exactly the kind of reaction I would expect from a 25-year Marine Corps veteran who worked closely with both presidents Carter and Reagan. The trouble is, they're only words, and they were written almost 18 months ago now.

John Kline is a member of the U.S. Congress, and not just any member of Congress. He sits on the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel & Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities, which puts him in a strong position to sponsor legislation to insure that everyone who represents America in an official capacity, whether they be a member of the armed forces or the CIA, lives up to the ideals America holds dear.

Only so far, he hasn't.

Contrast this silence with the actions of another Republican, a Senator, who also has a distiguished record of military service. John McCain, himself subjected to torture in Vietnam, is adamant that U.S.-sponsored torture of prisoners stop, and stop now. More than a month ago, McCain attached an amendment to a defense spending bill --- an amendment supported by every member of the Senate, save for 9 Republicans --- which would require all American operatives to adhere to the interrogation guidelines laid out in the Army Field Manual (which do not include, say, sodomizing prisoners with fluorescent lights). In fact, McCain has done more than that. Opposed by a recalcitrant White House, McCain has vowed to attach his amendment to every piece of legislation to come out of the Senate, until it becomes law.

It is ironic that John McCain campaigned vigorously for John Kline when Kline was running against incumbent Bill Luther. In fact, in a November 2, 2000 article in the Star Tribune, Kline spokesman Randy Skoglund emphasized the parallels between McCain and Kline, claiming that the two have common ideologies and background. "John McCain and John Kline have similar traits - people see them as people who tell the truth", Skoglund said.

Sorry Mr. Kline, but you're no John McCain. When McCain first attached his amendment to the defense bill, I challenged Mr. Kline to carry McCain's fight into the House of Representatives, and see to it that the job of restoring America's honor was done. So far, I have received no response from Mr. Kline, either by email or post (which reveals a bit about Mr. Kline's responsiveness to his constituents, but that's a story for another time).

A search of his congressional web site turns up no mention of the McCain amendment or torture, and a review of the Congressional Record shows that Kline has discussed torture exactly once in the past 9 months --- when on June 16 he denounced Amnesty International's reports of U.S. torture as 'unfounded'. Mr. Kline, your silence speaks volumes.

While searching the Congressional Record, I did find one other interesting statement by Mr. Kline. He had just returned from a tour of Iraq to give an optimistic assessment of our progress there. He saw fit to quote a man he says is his hero, Ronald Reagan, who said:

Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor.

Sadly, it appears that John Kline doesn't realize that the reverse is also true.

Update: On December 12, Kline publicly came out in favor of McCain's amendment, albeit in the least forceful possible manner.