.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

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.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Kline Learns to Blog

So, after successfully completing his 2006 re-election campaign without putting any substance on his campaign web site, and after mischaracterizing (whether out of ignorance or malice) the work I did on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog, John Kline has decided that it's high time that he make his blogging debut on The Hill Blog, a weblog for members of Congress and other policy insiders in D.C.

And what is the topic which has finally motivated Kline to break his online silence? New York Democrat Charlie Rangel's proposal to reinstate the draft.

The American people need to fasten their seat belts because Democrats are taking us back to the Sixties. On cue, the Democratic leadership is once again abandoning the mainstream and lurching to the left.

For months, they ran a campaign trying to convince voters they would govern from the middle. Yet, here we are, two months before Democrats officially regain the majority in the 110th Congress, and already incoming Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charley [sic] Rangel wants to pander to the liberal base of the Democratic Party and reinstitute the military draft.

In all sincerity, I have no idea why Kline bothered to write this. His thesis appears to be that a Democratic-led Congress will "lurch to the left" and reinstate the draft --- a thesis which he immediately undermines:

Why should anybody take Mr. Rangel's draft talk seriously? His lack of sincerity was exposed in 2004 when even he didn'’t vote for the bill he authored which would have reinstituted the military draft. In fact, his military draft proposal was defeated 402-2 in the House of Representatives.

Kline is correct that when Rangel introduced similar legislation in 2004, 186 Democrats voted against it, including Nancy Pelosi and Rangel himself, as Kline acknowledges. Instead of proving that the Democratic party is lurching to the left, Kline succeeds in proving precisely the opposite. He goes on to reject Rangel's proposal "on its merits", just as Pelosi has done.

Everyone with a shred of intellectual honesty accepts Rangel's proposal for what it is: an effort to initiate a discussion about shared sacrifice in a time of war, something which has been nonexistent during nearly four years in Iraq. It would have been worth the five paragraphs of effort Kline put into it if he had contributed something to such a discussion, but instead he wasted his time writing a self-refuting post which amounts to nothing more than whining.

Throughout the campaign, I was convinced that Kline was keeping his mouth shut in order to keep from saying anything foolish. This aimless rant about the draft suggests I was right.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Kline Record: A Brief Summary of the 2006 Campaign

As provided by Kline's 2006 opponent, Coleen Rowley, in today's Pioneer Press. Reproduced here in it's entirety, so it will still be available after the article disappears from the PiPress website:

Big money bought distortion, and the facts didn't matter

On Nov. 7, a Democratic wave swept across the country and ushered new leadership into the House and Senate. But a few Republicans survived the wave, including my opponent, John Kline, in Minnesota's Second Congressional District.

I freely admit that I did not run a perfect campaign, and certainly not according to what political experts advise.

But one thing I did right was to spend 10 months focusing my campaign on the issues. John Kline's focus was clearly elsewhere, as demonstrated by his content-free campaign Web site, his refusal to participate in the League of Women Voters' debate, and his failure to respond to numerous issues questionnaires.

Considering Kline's record, this strategy makes perfect sense. He's on the wrong side of public opinion concerning the Iraq War. He voted for permanent military bases in Iraq, and he also just voted to end oversight over the administration's reconstruction contracts there. He has a record of near-unanimous support for George Bush's unpopular domestic agenda, including privatizing Social Security and the Medicare prescription drug plan.

So John Kline hired a Karl Rove protégé to produce a series of 12 smear mailers about me, each containing ugly pictures and whopper lies. Each followed Rove's formula of attacking an opponent at his or her strength: In my case, my law enforcement and national security background and experience teaching ethics. With hundreds of thousands from big oil, drug, defense contractor and insurance company PACs, Kline could pay Rove's protégé a handsome fee for cleverly worded but hugely misleading distortions and then distribute them throughout the district. Kline also spent large sums to constantly air similarly negative TV ads to further mislead voters.

Our Founding Fathers were right to worry about a misinformed electorate. For a long time, I thought our independent news media would conduct "reality checks" on the falsehoods in Kline's negative ad campaign. But it just didn't happen. No media took Mr. Kline to task for saying he was "too busy" to engage in the normal public debates, or to answer voter guide questions. And no media made much effort to expose the distortions Mr. Kline was making in his ads or mailers. When they were mentioned at all, it was to say that our "race" (grouping us together) was one of the most negative in the country, ignoring the fact that all of the negativity came from Kline's campaign.

One thing is clear. The special interest corruption we deplore is rooted in political campaign financing. Without enacting comprehensive ethics reforms applicable to Congress itself, including campaign finance reform (something John Kline ardently opposes), and without a more alert news media to referee the facts, the same scenario of negative ads producing misinformed voters will continue to repeat itself.

Ultimately, this is not about Kline or Rowley; it is about a bad system that needs fixing. Otherwise the mute buttons of our TVs will just get another workout next election cycle, millions of dollars will again dissipate as wasted airwaves into the universe, and we will still not be one step closer to getting the responsible, trustworthy government that we deserve.

It's worth pointing out that in publishing this article, the PiPress is rectifying, in a small and belated way, its hideously partisan handling of the endorsement process.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

All Class

Apparently a 16-point victory isn't enough for John Kline's supporters. I've now received word that Coleen and at least one other member of the campaign staff have received anonymous post cards thanking them for running a "terrible campaign":

It appears that Kline's supporters share John Kline's high standards of decency and class. (In case it needs to be said, any destruction of John Kline's yard signs did not happen at the direction of our campaign).

Friday, November 17, 2006


John Kline defeated Coleen Rowley by a margin of 56-40. Why? Rather than seriously analyze that question, Paul Demko of the City Pages gives Kline's Chief of Staff an opportunity to spin furiously:

Even a tidal wave couldn't lift this leaking rowboat. Despite the best climate for Democratic challengers in more than two decades and an opponent who's been a staunch supporter of George W. Bush's disastrous policies in Iraq, the former FBI official-turned-9/11 whistleblower lost by 16 points. We'll let John Kline's chief of staff, Steve Sutton, handle the gloating on this one. "The reason she underperformed is, quite frankly, she's just a very weak candidate. Unorganized, uninformed, unprepared. I think voters were shocked at how little she knew, the depth of her knowledge, how thin it was on these issues. Even on Iraq, which was her number-one issue, she was unable to really articulate a coherent plan." All in all, a spectacular fall from grace for the 2002 Time person of the year, an honor she shared with two other publicized whistleblowers.

One more time:

What's really spectacular about this spin-as-analysis is that Demko goes on to blast Patty Wetterling because she allegedly "attempted to tar her opponent as a tax-and-spend liberal intent on liberating all sex offenders and providing them with government-financed lifetime supplies of crystal meth." I, of all people, am acutely aware that Kline used a very similar tactic in his campaign. I guess Demko gives Kline a pass because the attack worked in Kline's case.

The truth is, after an agonizing misstep in January, Rowley spent nearly 10 months running a clean, issues-oriented campaign. But her message was drowned out by Kline's relentless smear attacks on TV and in direct mail --- more than a dozen attack pieces in all.

Kline's campaigns consist of smear attacks and nothing else, and nothing is out of bounds to him. Whoever wants to run against him in 2008 needs to understand that. It would be nice if a few more voters in CD-02 understood it as well.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


So, in two consecutive election cycles, John Kline wins re-election by identical 56-40 margins.

A few thoughts. In 2004, Teresa Daly had money. Unfortunately, it seems that's about all she had; she certainly didn't have a winning message (she supported both the Iraq occupation and eliminating the estate tax. Why would any voter who favors those positions vote for a Democrat instead of Kline?). In 2006, Coleen Rowley had a winning message --- on a national scale, the "U.S. out of Iraq" and anti-corruption positions won a resounding endorsement, and that was reflected in MN-02 as shown in Amy Klobuchar's totals here. Once again, however, message was pretty much all Rowley had. Hers was an inexperienced campaign [take for example the role I played in it], which made a brutal blunder early on, a blunder which no doubt accounts for at least 6-8 percentage points of Kline's victory margin, if not more. And of course, she raised only half the money Daly did.

And let's be frank: neither Daly nor Rowley are great rhetoricians. Kline gladly debated Daly at every opportunity in 2004, because he mopped the floor with her every time. Kline largely avoided debating Rowley in 2006 becase (a) he could, and (b) even though she's not a great debater, she was right on the issues, and the more opportunities he gave her to demonstrate that, the worse it was for him.

So where do we go from here?

Well, ideally we need a candidate in 2008 who can raise Teresa Daly's money (and more) with Coleen's message. And it would be great to have a candidate who can dish up some smackdown in a debate.

Who is that candidate? I don't know. I know Sharon Marko considered running and --- although she has tried to retroactively hide the fact --- actually did run for a little over 5 weeks in February. Her fundraising totals were roughly one-third of Coleen's over that time, so I'm not too optimistic she can raise the million-plus necessary to beat Kline. Then again, maybe she wasn't really putting that much effort into it.

Anyway, one thing is clear: John Kline doesn't like it that I publish the facts about his record. That's why he spent $50,000-plus smearing me this cycle. But I'm not going anywhere. So if there are any Democrats out there thinking about a 2008 run, and would like my support, feel free to give me a holler.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be migrating my posts [which are not position statements!] from Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog over here, so that nothing gets lost if/when Rowley's site goes away.

Monday, November 06, 2006

GOP Lies to Voters, Knowing They'll Lose a Fair Fight

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), the group of congressional Republicans in charge of winning Republican seats in Congress, is furiously lying to undecided and likely Democratic voters in the hopes of keeping them at home tomorrow. In New Hampshire:

For the second straight day yesterday, Democratic field offices received dozens of phone calls and e-mails from frustrated voters upset about repeated automated phone calls they thought were coming from Democratic candidate Paul Hodes - though the calls were paid for by a Republican group instead.

The National Republican Congressional Committee spent nearly $20,000 on the calls last week. Depending on the rate, that could mean more than 300,000 automated phone calls into the Second Congressional District.

Incumbent Republican Congressman Charlie Bass denounced the calls yesterday and said he tried to get the NRCC to put a stop to them. But a spokesman for the NRCC said the automated phone calls would continue indefinitely.

But it's not limited to New Hampshire. It's an orchestrated effort across the country. At least 20 congressional races are being targeted, that we know of.

So far, it seemsthe NRCC has not targeted MN-02 with RoboCalls. However, it's clear that some Republican operatives are lying to voters in this race. From an email which Rowley for Congress just sent out:

Older voters are being misled by phone calls telling them they can only vote for Coleen at limited polling sites during limited hours!

Apparently the calls are being made on cell phones with East Coast prefixes. Rowley for Congress asks that, if you receive such a call:

Ask who is calling and ask for a number they can be called back at. Ask who they are calling on behalf of. Ask who they are being paid by, or if they say they are not being paid, who asked them to make the call. Make a note of those responses and call our Campaign Headquarters at (xxx) xxx-xxxx.

To be absolutely fair, this is probably part of an orchestrated attack by the NRCC, one that John Kline has no involvement in. However, given the way he's conducted his campaign, there's every reason to believe he applauds this kind of trick.

Obviously Rowley for Congress believes Coleen is right on the issues. But no matter what your position is on the issues of the day, every American should stand united in support for Democracy. But the national Republican Party has mounted a massive disinformation campaign in an effort to keep people from going to the polls and exercising this most fundamental American right.

Tomorrow, you have a chance to show the leaders of the Republican Party that this is unacceptable. Make John Kline and all other Republican candidates pay for what the national Republican Party has become. And do what you can to make sure your friends, neighbors and family know, too. And not just in MN-02, because this is a national problem --- everyone needs to go and vote the rascals out, everywhere.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Top Ten Reasons to Vote for Coleen Rowley

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

A full list of detailed position statements is available here. The full archives for this campaign weblog are here.

Tell your friends, tell your neighbors. On November 7, we have a chance to send someone to Washington who will work for the best interests of the people in Minnesota's Second District. If we blow that chance, we'll get two more years of John Kline's rubberstamp support for George Bush and his policies.

And whatever you do, make sure you help turn out the vote!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

John Kline and Veterans: A Summary

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

Over the past two weeks, we've been examining John Kline's record on veterans' issues. Here's a summary:

  • 0% rating from Disabled American Veterans (DAV) in 2004 and 2005, and an overall C rating from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).
  • He promotes the work he's done to end the "unfair policy" of concurrent receipt, even though the unfair policy hasn't ended, Kline was in a position to actually end the unfair policy but did nothing about it, and he appears to be confused about what "concurrent receipt" actually is.
  • Kline voted against ending the so-called "Military Families Tax".
  • Kline has repeatedly voted to protect tax cuts for the rich at the cost of health care for veterans.
  • And he's cast other votes against additional funding for veterans' health care.
  • He's also voted against job training and debt relief for veterans.
  • And those aren't the only anti-veteran votes he's cast.
  • As if that weren't enough, this spring, Kline told a group of Minnesota veterans, to their faces, that supporting the Republican party is more important to him than supporting them.

John Kline has devoted considerable time and money to spread the idea that Coleen Rowley disrespects veterans because she once compared Kline to Col. Klink from the 1960's sitcom Hogan's Heroes. But this supposedly outrageous comparison didn't prevent veterans like John Murtha, Wesley Clark, Jerald Albrecht, Tommy Johnson and Ginny Johnson from endorsing Coleen. She also has the support of a number of families of those who died on 9/11.

Most important, Coleen genuinely means to support veterans when she's in Congress. In particular, she supports the full concurrent receipt legislation which Kline watched languish and die; she supports expanding TRICARE to member of the Reserves and National Guard, a plan which Kline voted against; and she supports the Assured Funding for Veterans Health Care Act, to insure that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans get the care they need and deserve.

Listening to the Military on Iraq

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

In the October 20 debate on Almanac between Coleen and John Kline, the closest Kline ever came to offering a solution to the conflict was to suggest that we "move troops around" and listen to those military officers closest to the conflict.

The military has spoken up recently about the conflict, in ways that aren't supportive of the current course.

First, United States Central Command provided an analysis a few weeks ago, citing "violence at all-time high, spreading geographically." It also mentions ethnic cleansing.

So, things aren't going well in Iraq. But rather than consider responsible redeployment, like Coleen Rowley has proposed and which Kline's hero James Baker is reportedly considering, Kline wants to stay the course.

Beyond the ever-worsening crisis in Iraq, it seems that all branches of the military are uniformly disgusted with their civilian leadership. An editorial which will appear tomorrow in newspapers from all branches of the military calls for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation. It further states:

Active-duty military leaders are starting to voice misgivings about the war’s planning, execution and dimming prospects for success.

I believe that all branches of the military speaking out publicly against a Defense Secretary is unprecedented. That they are doing so just days before an election sends a clear signal. The military wants to change course in Iraq, and they're telling the voters that they need to help by affecting a change in the civilian leadership.

We have already pointed out several reasons why the occupation of Iraq, all by itself, is sufficient reason to vote for change. Here's one more.

Kline Staffer Acknowledges Smear Tactics Are Standard Practice

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

Yesterday, Rowley for Congress held a press conference to highlight the deluge of smear attacks which John Kline has launched during this election cycle. David Peterson of the Star Tribune reports:

Pressed to specify what her own circular called "John Kline's Lies," Rowley said she had considered using the word "distortions" instead. "A lot of it turns on wordsmithing and connecting the dots by implication," she said.

Kline has accused her, among other things, she said, of wanting to legalize methamphetamines, reinstate the draft and reward illegal immigrants, and of disrespecting the military. None of that is true, she said.

In a rare moment of candor, a Kline campaign spokesman acknowledged that this is standard operating procedure for Kline:

"She is calling a press conference to complain that the other side is campaigning," Young said. "It's a little strange."

For John Kline, spreading lies about your opponent and her staff is all just part of the game.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Bush and Kline: Partisanship Above All

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

This is unbelieveable. Today the New York Times has not one, but two stories, each of which on their own provides sufficient reason to vote against John Kline and any other congressional Republican, regardless of any other considerations.

First, the Times reports that the Bush administration, at the behest of Congressional Republicans, posted captured documents about Iraq's nuclear program online. The motivation for doing so was to encourage war supporters and right-wing bloggers to do further research in an effort to retroactively justify the administration's flawed decision to invade Iraq. The practical consequence, however, is that posting the documents was a horrendous security risk:

Ray E. Kidder, a senior nuclear physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, an arms design center, said "some things in these documents would be helpful" to nations aspiring to develop nuclear weapons and should have remained secret.

A senior American intelligence official who deals routinely with atomic issues said the documents showed "where the Iraqis failed and how to get around the failures." The documents, he added, could perhaps help Iran or other nations making a serious effort to develop nuclear arms, but probably not terrorists or poorly equipped states.

For all their talk about being "tough on terror," the administration didn't think twice about posting sensitive intelligence information online in the hopes of reversing the embarrassment of their flawed rationale for the war. And this is an administration which laughably cited national security concerns as the reason for refusing to disclose the log of who has met with Dick Cheney.

Nothing is more important to this administration than advancing the Republican party's hold on power. Nothing. In such a situation, it is vital that Congress performs its Constitutionally-mandated role of oversight to hold the executive accountable. And that's where the second Times story comes in.

John Kline claims to be a fiscal conservative, and has cited budgetary concerns as his reason for not doing more for disabled veterans. But he has made no effort to address the estimated $8.8 billion in Iraq reconstruction funds which have quite simply vanished, or the war profiteering of companies like Halliburton. And while Kline points to his theoretical support for veterans and troops on the ground and the principal reason to re-elect him, he is silent on the fact that over 370,000 weapons intended for Iraqi security forces haven't been properly tracked, and that 14,000 assault rifles, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades have just disappeared.

These weapons will be used to kill Americans. And the missing billions and war profiteering will cost lives as well. And any member of Congress, from any party, should be working aggressively to insure further deadly blunders of this sort don't occur.

However John Kline and his Republican friends on the House Armed Services Committee recently inserted a provision into a military appropriations bill which shuts down the only office providing any meaningful oversight over Iraq's reconstruction. As of October 1, 2007, we will no longer hear reports about missing reconstruction funds, war profiteering, and missing weapons.

We'll still be wasting billions in taxpayer money, and American soldiers will still be dying needlessly. It's just that we'll never know about it, because John Kline and the House Republican leadership are more concerned with ending the embarrassment of the disaster in Iraq than they are in fixing the mess they made.

There are many reasons to vote for Coleen on November 7, and many reasons to vote against John Kline. But this kind of extreme, single-minded partisanship is reason enough in itself to throw out Kline. And Kennedy, and Ramstad, and Gutknecht.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Concurrent Receipt

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

In mid-September, John Kline sent out a direct mail piece claiming, among other things, that (emphasis in original):

For over 100 years, America's disabled veterans were punished by a practice known as 'concurrent receipt'. What it meant was that, for every dollar a disabled veteran received in disability benefits, that dollar was removed from their pension. It penalized veterans for injuries they received in service to their country.

As a member of the Armed Services Committee, Congressman John Kline helped negotiate the agreement that ended this unfair policy.

It turns out this is doubly misleading. To begin with, 'concurrent receipt' isn't the name of this 'unfair policy'. Rather, it's the solution to the unfair policy:

Concurrent Receipt means to receive both military retirement benefits and VA disability compensation, and up until 2004 this was forbidden by law. To receive a VA disability compensation, disabled military retirees had to waive all or part of their military pay.

In earlier posts on this topic, I got the terminology wrong too, because I mistakenly assumed Kline had it right on his flier. I won't make that mistake again.

The fact that Kline got this exactly wrong on his flier suggests two things. First, it suggests that he wasn't exactly a driving force behind the policy change, if he wasn't even paying sufficient attention to get his terminology correct. Second, it shows (as if there were any doubt), that when Kline sends out a mailing, he's really only interested in perceptions and not substance.

Beyond errors in terminology, the agreement Kline worked on didn't 'end' the unfair policy, as we have discussed previously. Rather, it provides relief for veterans rated as 50% disabled or more, and the relief is phased in over a 10-year period. Kline has stubbornly ignored a bill which would bring a full and immediate end to the practice.

Pioneer Press reporter Frederick Melo recently wrote an analysis of John Kline and Coleen Rowley on veterans issues, and asked Kline about his partial implementation of concurrent receipt. Kline response was "We took that on. It was very expensive. We couldn't get everything (we wanted) done."

But the record shows that the partial fix is exactly what Kline wanted done. When the 108th Congress ended, a bill to provide full concurrent receipt died in the House Armed Services Committee with 383 cosponsors and 207 names on a discharge petition. As a member of that committee, and of the majority party, and as a retired Marine, John Kline could easily have forced the bill onto the floor for an up or down vote, and in all likelihood it would have passed.

But he didn't. He didn't even take the token step of cosponsoring the bill. John Kline needs to stop pretending that he takes this issue seriously.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Kline's Special Taxes for Veterans and Their Families

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

Over the past week or so, we've been calling out votes John Kline has cast against the interests of veterans. He has voted against increased veterans benefits again and again and again. At a recent veterans' forum in Zumbrota, Kline aide Mike Osskopp tried to explain away Kline's 0 rating from the Disabled American Veterans in 2004 and 2005 by characterizing it as a rating on a single vote --- for the federal budget. It's true that DAV only considered a single vote in 2004, but it looked at five votes in 2005. Since Kline has been in Congress, he's only voted with the DAV three times out of 11 for a 27% overall rating, and two of those came during this campaign cycle.

Kline and Osskopp might argue that it's unfair to put too much emphasis on any one rating, and they're right. Probably a more accurate rating is the grade of C Kline received from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, who did a comprehensive analysis of 169 House votes cast over the past 5 years. No matter how you slice it, Kline has been nowhere near as loyal to veterans as he claims.

We wrap up our analysis of Kline's voting record with two special votes. For all his talk of supporting veterans and all his talk of cutting taxes, John Kline has twice voted to continue effective 'taxes' on veterans and their families: specifically, the 'disabled veterans tax' and the 'military families tax'.

11/07/2003, vote #616:
Kline Voted Against Full and Immediate Implementation of Concurrent Receipt. Although Kline is pointing to his work in "ending" the practice of effectively eliminating disability benefits for veterans receiving a pension, the legislation Kline helped put through effects a gradual phase-out of this practice over a 10-year horizon, and does nothing for veterans rated as 40% disabled or less (more detail here). In one of his many efforts to implement concurrent receipt, which would bring an immediate and complete end to this practice, Georgia Democrat Jim Marshall introduced a motion to recommit the National Defense Authorization Act to committee in order to include repeal of the so-called "disabled veterans tax". Kline voted against the motion, which failed 188-217.

5/11/2006, vote #144:
Kline Voted Against Ending the "Military Families Tax". John Salazar of Colorado made a motion to recommit on the National Defense Authorization Act, which would have sent the bill back to the Armed Services Committee in order to put an end to the “Military Families Tax”. Similar to the practice of reducing a disabled veteran's pension by the amount of his disability benefit, current law reduces the amount of a war widow’s annuity by the amount paid out by Veterans Affairs as dependency and indemnity compensation. Kline voted against the motion, which failed 202-220. Every Democrat voted for it.

The motion to recommit was made because separate legislation to end the Military Families Tax, H.R. 808, is stalled in the House Armed Services Committee on which John Kline sits. Kline became one of 212 cosponsors of H.R. 808 on September 26 of this year, just days before returning home to campaign. There is a discharge petition for H.R. 808 with 171 names on it, none of them John Kline’s.