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.

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.