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.

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.