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District #5 - F. James Sensenbrenner (R)

U.S. Representative


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F. James Sensenbrenner (R)

Sensenbrenner's Page

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Political Money Line

Also see incumbent's Personal Finances to see where potential conflicts of interest may occur with his voting on issues. Does he own stock in the health care or pharmaceutical industry while voting on the Medicare Drug program, which will benefit the industry to the tune of $750 billion in public expenditures over the next decade? Does your representative have his or her finances in a blind trust to eliminate such conflicts? Does he or she receive campaign contributions from the health care or pharmaceutical industries while voting against a universal health care system? In Sensenbrenner's case the answer is yes to both.

Sensenbrenner opposes universal health care (says it's socialized medicine when it's not, and he knows it, and accepts government-paid healthcare himself), and he opposes the Clean Elections public funding of campaigns because it blocks free speech (it doesn't, and he also knows that). He also opposed Rep. Bernie Sanders bill to require congressmen to put their finances into blind trusts so they couldn't vote on issues to benefit their holdings (says it isn't fair).



Challenger Web Page



Jim Burkee (R)



Burkee is a decent replacement, though his position on health care mirrors US Rep. Tom Coburn's, which is terribly lacking and favors the insurance industry (from whom Coburn receives significant campaign contributions).


Tyler Williams
Campaign Director and Media Relations

Chris Johnson
Deputy Campaign Director

Campaign Mailing Address
PO Box 168
Cedarburg, WI 53012


For a list of all candidates for state office go the State Elections Board and click on "All Candidates Registered."

Incumbent History

Incumbent has Town Hall Meetings listed at: Hint: If you speak at Jim's meetings, let him know that your questions will be short and to the point; and you'd appreciate that his answers were the same. Otherwise he will filibuster you and then call time. Equal time is all you are asking for. I didn't do that at first. Now I do. Also, don't go first. Let him spout his immigration heroics using someone else's time. For more details see: sensenbrenners_gambit.htm

Incumbent has listed his issues at:

Sensenbrenner should first work to clean up the political system: In his May 24th column, U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner has ideas on how to reduce gas prices, and he has good ideas with regard to resolving the immigration crisis. But Jim refuses to accept the political catalyst fueling his opponents. It's called Money. If we didn't have a moneyed political system that virtually demanded bad government policies and spending in return for campaign cash, we wouldn't have these and other problems to begin with. See the complete Lohman response here.

On the issues


As my representative, I have approached Jim Sensenbrenner on many issues and found his positions mostly against the best interests of his voting constituency, and very much in favor of the Republican's cash constituency. I am not one of those in awe whenever he speaks.

Sensenbrenner enjoys one of the strongest re-election positions in the country, largely because he allows his constituency latitude in his town hall meetings where people can complain about bad government (albeit usually to no avail). Even when he doesn't agree with them, he speaks eloquently as to why he doesn't and overwhelms them with supposed facts that cannot be immediately checked.

But when you really study what he has done and not done on behalf of his constituency, his record is pretty pathetic. He will brag that he is in the top 5% with regard to votes against spending money, but don't be fooled by that. He is a grandstander. He carefully weighs whether his vote would be popular back home, and he votes against it if it isn't and his vote isn't needed for passage. If his vote is needed for passage, he will vote with his party and against his people every time (see Spending below).

It is rare that he will break with his party, and  knows that even the immigration issue will be controlled by the moneyed interests.

But when you really study the issues of ethics, campaign reform and cleaning up the political system -- the issues that eat into the taxpayer's wallet to the tune of over $3000 per year average -- Sensenbrenner receives very low marks. It will probably take another dozen or so criminal convictions of his colleagues before he turns.

Of course Sensenbrenner was one to vote on the recent minimum wage bill that gave low-wage earners an increase on the one hand, but simultaneously took it back from them with a poison-pill amendment to shift taxes from the wealthy to the low income workers via estate tax repeal. Senate Democrats wisely blocked its passage. Shame on Mr. Sensenbrenner.

In a word, it is time for Sensenbrenner to retire.


Campaign Finance Reform

Sensenbrenner has routinely opposed any kind of campaign reform on the (false) claim that (a) it would violate the US Constitution's free speech clause, which it would not because the Clean Money system is voluntary, and (b) that it would increase taxes, which it also would not. It would dramatically reduce them. Sensenbrenner just likes things as they are, where he enjoys a better than 90% chance of being re-elected, and the Republican party (which is heavily influenced by money) stands a better chance of remaining in power and he stands a better chance of retaining his chairmanship of the judicial committee.

Campaign Reform: On July 25, 1996, Sensenbrenner voted for a bill (HR 3820) that, had it passed, would have doubled the limit individuals could contribute to candidates (which favors republicans), lowered PAC limits (which harms Democrats), and would have opened giant loopholes for soft money expenditures. This bill to put more special-interest money into our political system ultimately passed with his vote.

Campaign Reform: Also in 1996, Sensenbrenner refused to support a campaign finance reform measure by Linda Smith (R-WA) which would have eliminated “soft money" and banned fund-raiser parties within 50 miles of the Capital, two of the most egregious congressional abuses in Washington today. He argues that representatives in suburban D.C. could be harmed, although they could have easily been exempted.

Lobbyist-paid trips

Sensenbrenner has the dubious honor of receiving the most lobbyist-paid trips than any other congressional member. He loves to tell constituents that he lets lobbyists pay for the trips so the taxpayer doesn't have to. He will not admit that for every dollar he saves the taxpayer the lobbying industry gets $100 back in the form of his vote for their cause.  In a report in April, Political Money Line, which tracks money in politics, found that Sensenbrenner took $168,000 worth of privately funded trips since 2000 - more than any other lawmaker.  (reported by AP Jan 2006)   Political Money Line currently lists that total as $203,175.00, an additional $35,000.00 in trips in only the past  four months.  See for yourself:

And where did he go “for us"?  Taiwan (2), Guatemala (2), Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, Tokyo (4), Singapore (2), Las Vegas (every year), Bangkok, Qatar (2), France (2), China, Germany (5), Liechtenstein (Annually – the last golf outing there was cancelled by his hosts, because of the Abramoff scandals, but because he reportedly had a tiff with them, they paid for a trip for just himself and his wife.  So much for having to be there for a meeting with other leaders for foreign policy issues.) Bahrain, Dubai, Louisiana, Belgium, California (2).

The issue is not where he went, but who paid for it. If it is truly an official trip the taxpayers should pay for it and his wife doesn't need to go along. For every dollar the taxpayers pay for these trips we will save $100 in special-interest government giveaways. 

22 trips costing $179,814 are listed at

See also Spivak and Bice, Like Sensenbrenner, staffers enjoy global perks


Unemployment Benefits

Sensenbrenner supported a Bush tax cut of $264 billion in 2004, at the same time he voted against extending unemployment benefits by six months at a time more jobs were being outsourced. The tax cuts were 40 times the cost of the benefits, but Jim came through for the corporate campaign contributors.




Sensenbrenner is a grandstander. He will routinely vote against spending bills when his vote is not needed for passage, and it looks good to the public. But when his is a tie-breaking vote and needed for a Republican win, he will side with the Republicans and against his constituents. He likes the label of being a deficit-hawk whenever it does not interfere with his partisanship.

When the massive highway spending bill (that was loaded with pork) was voted on, he was one of only 8 US representatives (out of 435) to vote against it "because it was pork-laden." Of course, his vote didn't matter in that case. But when his vote was needed to pass CAFTA, he voted for passage even though he had railed against it in his Town Hall meetings as a job killer for the US. It passed by only two votes. Had he voted against it and it had failed, he would have been chastised at best and lost his chairmanship at worst. (Had he voted against it the vote would have been a tie and would not have passed.)



Sensenbrenner cannot find an ethics bill he likes, so he voted to weaken ethics rules: See


Sensenbrenner opposed an ethics bill introduced by Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that would have forced all congressmen to put their financial holdings into blind trusts so they could not vote on bills that affected industries they owned or were about to own stock in. When Members of Congress own stocks in banking, television, telecommunications and petroleum industries, and are then allowed to introduce, block or otherwise influence congressional votes on banking, FCC, and off-shore drilling regulations, a serious conflict of interest exists that ultimately costs the taxpayers.


When the bill to cut subsidies and tax breaks to the oil industry, shortly after Exxon announced its $37 Billion profits for the year, Sensenbrenner voted against it. I'm sure that his holding nearly $1 million in Exxon shares had nothing to do with his vote (wink, wink).

Note: Sensenbrenner's stock portfolio as reported in 2003 is:   


Sensenbrenner owns stock in:

Health Care – Abbott Laboratories, General Electric, Merck, Pfizer, Pharmacia,

Telecommunications – AT&T, AT&T Wireless, Bell South, Comcast, Lucent, Qwest, SBC Communications, Verizon (Bell Atlantic), Vodaphone Airtouch

Banking and Financial – Bank One Corp., Dunn & Bradstreet, Moody's, Morgan Stanley/Dean Whitter, One Group Prime Money Market

Petroleum – BP Amoco, ExxonMobile

Energy – Centerpoint Energy, Covanta Energy, PG&G, Reliant Energy, WE Energies, Centerpoint Energy

Insurance – Allstate, Highlands Insurance Group

Chemical – I.E. DuPont de Nemours, Eastman Chemical, Monsanto

Defense --

The issue is not that he is rich and has to invest his money somewhere. It is that his money, like Senator Herb Kohl's, should be placed in a blind trust where he cannot sway his wealth -- through his congressional votes -- to the detriment of all other investors and those with retirement accounts. When Congress gave away the $70 billion digital spectrum in the 1996 Telecommunications Act, I would rather have seen Sensenbrenner vote on it without knowing he was not heavily invested in communications. Or when they gave the pharmaceutical industry its $780 million Medicare Drug Program I'd like to know that he was not heavily invested in the pharmaceutical industry. Or petroleum, banking, energy, environmental (anybody remember GE's pollution nightmare?), or any other industry.

His 399-page 2004 portfolio can be seen at:



Sensenbrenner has become known as the immigration hawk of the House, but he refuses to accept that the illegal immigration situation has been fueled by the campaign contributions from the industries (meat packing, agriculture, etc) seeking to exploit low wage immigrants. Campaign dollars have encouraged the hands-off policy by the Bush administration and Bush's stand for "matching willing workers with willing employers." (He should add "willing employers with money.") But now Bush is all concerned about the issue and wants to solve it, though whether he will fund the National Guard to do it, as he promised, or give them authority, which he hasn't, will be pretty difficult with all of the contributions the interested corporations give.


But as far as Sensenbrenner is concerned, you have to decide for yourself if you agree with him on his immigration position or not.


The Houston Chronicle reported on February 9, 2005, that “The law signed by President Bush less than two months ago to add thousands of border patrol agents along the U.S. – Mexico border has crashed into the reality of Bush's austere federal budget proposal, officials said Tuesday."  “Officially approved by Bush on Dec. 17 after extensive bickering in Congress, the National Intelligence Reform Act included the requirement to add 10,000 border patrol agents in the five years beginning with 2006.  But Bush's proposed 2006 budget, revealed Monday, funds only 210 new border agents."


But Sensenbrenner doesn't have clean hands on this issue either, since he voted for every one of the free trade agreements that caused companies like Motorola to move from the United States (running away from $10 an hour jobs) to Mexico (where they are paid $10 a day), and then finally to China, where they pay $100 a MONTH.  Those policies gave Mexico good paying jobs at the expense of American jobs, but for only a few years.  The policies then pulled the rug out from under Mexicans, which caused them to come over the border in search of jobs because all of theirs had gone to China. The policies that Sensenbrenner and the Republican Party have wholeheartedly supported allow American Corporations to dismantle entire industries here in the United States, create competition for even the lowest paying jobs here in the United States.  Now they blame everything on immigrants taking those low paying jobs.  Yet they did nothing, to stop corporate off-shoring and outsourcing of high paying, high tech jobs which had only briefly promised a better future for our middle class, when those jobs went to India and Communist China.

It doesn't matter where you stand on the immigration issue. What matters is that the policies Sensenbrenner votes on are driven by political contributions and not the welfare of the country.

Disclosure: For the record I personally support Sensenbrenner's current immigration stand, though it is probably tougher than many people would like to see. I just think he needs to remove his blinders and recognize that his real enemy is the moneyed political system. Fix that and the corporate interests would no longer have their way. I support legal immigration, and more of it. But allowing terrorists to fly into Mexico and then pass though a porous border is suicidal. Mexico has weak security and a history of bribery of authorities that would let any well-healed terrorist in faster than a dropped Peso could hit the floor. The Mexican government is interested in only one thing; offloading its people that it cannot support because of its massive government corruption. If they would let us be selective about who comes into the US, like nurses and professionals, that would be great. Mexico, by the way, has stronger immigration laws than does the US, and immigrants cannot even own property in that country. But President Fox wants a dual standard, and for the US to take Mexico's excesses without reservation.


Universal Health Care

Sensenbrenner opposes a Canadian-style universal health care system because, he says, "massive amounts of Canadians are coming to the states when they need care." That is true only if you consider 60 patients per year, which the highest any border hospital has treated in a year, as being "massive."


But that is what the health care lobbyists who are able to visit him in his office are telling him, and when your office doors are only open to lobbyists that contribute heavily to the Republican party or finance his many trips to other countries, that's all he is likely to hear.


The truth is that 90% of Canadians prefer their health care system over ours. It is the moneyed health care interests who give $100 million per year in campaign contributions who really oppose fixing the system. Interestingly, GM prefers the Canadian health care system as well, and gave that as a reason that they moved their manufacturing plants to Canada rather than keeping them in the United States.


Sensenbrenner has a “let them eat cake" attitude when it comes to letting other people have access to health insurance.  While he enjoys 100% health coverage paid for by the taxpayers, he regularly tells audiences at Town Hall meetings that they should fund their own healthcare plans with HSAs, Health Savings Accounts, which people have to fund entirely from their own savings.  Of course, when you suffer a catastrophic illness or run out of money, you have no further coverage.  Sensenbrenner ignores that fact, even though it has been pointed out to him repeatedly.


See American Progress Action comments about HSAs here: Truth_about_health_savings_accounts.htm


In terms of dollar value, three of Sensenbrenner's top four stock investments are giant pharmaceutical companies (Merck, Pfizer, and Abbott Labs). Is it any wonder that he doesn't want to interfere with their profits?


See also: Single-Payer Myths on this site and download


See this excellent Wall Street Journal article by a physician dealing with the current system:


For an even more in-depth study go to


And see the Canadian's effort to save their Medica system at


Bankruptcy Laws

In 25 years in business I've eaten thousands of dollars of other people's debt, so I understand the flippant attitude of those who spend money like it's going out of style and then file for bankruptcy. But the bankruptcy law authored by Sensenbrenner is heartless and one-sided. Harvard University found that over 90% of bankruptcies involve heavy debt because of health issues and our out-of-control health care system, unemployment or divorce. Over 50% involved high medical bills, a societal problem Sensenbrenner and other congressmen refuse to address (which satisfies the health care community that contributes $100 million per year to politicians).

But Jim's ire about personal bankruptcies does not extend to corporate bankruptcies.

Thanks to a government hands-off policy, credit-card companies have total freedom to charge whatever interests rates suit their fancy, and reach 30% frequently and have been reported as high as 600%. All while the CEOs in these industries pocket $200 million per year and more in salaries and perks. No, they are not hurting. Nor is Sensenbrenner or those of us who do not carry a credit-card balance. But special provisions should have been included to handle these cases and those of our soldiers who had to take a drastic salary cut when they went off to serve our country. But the people who won this issue are the industries and their lobbyists.

Most of us could accept even bad laws if we knew that money was not changing hands at the political level, but over $200 million per year in lobbying and campaign contributions are spent by these industries to ensure that our federal representatives protect and enhance their bottom line.

Or that the politicians did not own stock in the industries involved. Sensenbrenner owns over $250 million stock in the banking and health care industries, which is likely to give him a vested interest in the outcome of the bankruptcy law he authored.

The Democrats did not show any better on this, as enough of them crossed the political divide to avoid a Senate filibuster (most notably Joe Lieberman). Both parties are addicted to campaign cash. It's funny how that works.

See Also: A Bankruptcy Bonus Bonanza -- Executives at auto parts giant Delphi are pressing for over a half billion dollars in bonuses. Why do execs at Delphi merit bonuses and workers only pay cuts? A federal court will soon be asking that question.

Children's Defense Fund Action Council gives LOW MARKS (8%) to Sensenbrenner for his votes on protecting children. See


Telecommunications Act

The government accomplished one of the largest interest-group giveaways in recent history: The FCC gave each television station a second frequency that will handle tomorrow's extra-sharp digital pictures. Each new channel will have six times the bandwidth that they can sell or use for additional profits, like cellular or paging. Had these channels been auctioned off, they would have generated $70 billion in revenues to the treasury in a single year. The National Association of Broadcasters, alone, made campaign contributions of more than $850,000 to candidates running for Congress last year (Sensenbrenner received about $3,000 of it.)

Not that they are ungrateful to the taxpayers, mind you, but the industry is now vocally opposing the return of just 1% of those channels to the public in the form of free time for political candidates during election time — a move that would reduce politicians' reliance on special interests to pay for such time.


Free Trade

Sensenbrenner voted for both NAFTA and GATT, and only time will tell whether he helped give away the country. This issue is almost too broad to cover here, but the bottom line is that the main benefactors of the NAFTA program will be companies whose goods can be manufactured or assembled by lower cost labor and shipped back to America with no tariffs. Companies like General Motors and Kimberly Clark, of which Sensenbrenner owns $16,800 and $2,097,858 in stock, respectively. He also voted for CAFTA (see Spending, above).


Term Limits

On Feb 12, 1997 Sensenbrenner voted against term limits, even though the measure would have given the then-tenth-termer another 12 years in office. According to polls, 65% of the public favors term limits.


Justice Department (FBI searches)

In a recent town hall meeting, Sensenbrenner responded to one constituent with a snide comment about the Justice Department for raiding a fellow congressman's home and office. You know, the congressman that was taped accepting a $100,000 bribe and who hid $90,000 of his booty in his home freezer. Apparently Sensenbrenner feels that congressmen should have total immunity and are above the law, and even a search warrant (following the congressman's refusal to abide by a subpoena) should not qualify for an FBI search.

So the GOP has reached the status of God. If not under these circumstances, when? If the public is to be subjected to unannounced searches, why not congressmen taped in the process of a federal crime?

Sensenbrenner has a far-too-high tolerance for congressional criminal activity, as is also shown in his other positions on reform.

Constitutional Issues

On June 28, 1995, Sensenbrenner voted to amend the U.S. Constitution to give congress and states the power to ban flag burning, a form of political speech that some people only have the resources to use. Interestingly, the American Legion says the proper way to dispose of a ragged flag is, you guessed it, to burn it.

He also voted for the Communications Decency Act to restrict pornography on the Internet.

Both of these were principled votes, whether you agree with them or not. However, scholars claim both to be direct violations of the First Amendment.

For his using the very same constitution as the reason he opposes campaign limits, Sensenbrenner can turn easily when it supports a position he is pushing.


US Public Interest Group gives Sensenbrenner 30% acceptance

See (Note that the top screen scrolls through the issues Sensenbrenner was graded on)

Permanent Estate Tax

Incumbent voted IN FAVOR OF the Estate Tax Relief Act (i.e., eliminating the Paris Hilton tax), thus shifting taxes from the wealthy to the middle class.

Line Item Veto

Incumbent voted in favor of the line item veto (6/22/2006): Follow the dominoes and you'll see that the campaign bribes that went to congressmen to get the pork inserted in the first place, will just be duplicated for the president so the pork is not vetoed when signed. Unless, of course, you are already a political briber of the right persuasion, then it's a shoo-in. They say things will have to get much worse before they get better, and the line item veto will clearly make things much worse. It will give voters the false sense that things are being fixed when it is just increasing the cash flow in an already corrupt political system. It is a misconception that ‘bad' things will get vetoed and ‘good' things left in. It will be just the opposite. In Wisconsin we saw Governor Doyle veto 95% of the words in a bill and the remaining words transfer funding from road construction to schools. I prefer that particular end result but am appalled by the tactic. This not only violates the separation of powers doctrine but is also a terrible abuse of power. No, the real solution is to get private money out of the public electoral system altogether, and then the legislature will do the right thing in the first place and a line item veto would not be needed.

Project Vote-Smart Rating


Ratings by Interest Groups:

Votes by Category:





Project Vote-Smart Interest Group Ratings

Details on pgs. 36-37 at Supports the interest group x% of the time
1) NARAL Pro-Choice America 0%
2) National Right to Life Committee 100
3) National Taxpayers Union 76
4) Public Citizen's Congress Watch 23
5) U.S. Chamber of Commerce 77
6) AFL-CIO 27
7) Gun Owners of America 50
8) Fed. for American Immigration Reform 100
9) NAACP 22
10) National PTA 0
11) American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) 0
12) League of Conservation Voters 17
13) Alliance for Retired Americans 13
14) American Public Health Association 0
15) Disabled American Veterans 0
16) Eagle Forum 87
17) Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) 0



Thanks to Les and Jeanne Nakamoto of Grassroots NorthShore for contributions to this page.