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
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.
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.
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
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,
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
Spivak and Bice, Like Sensenbrenner, staffers enjoy global perks
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:
Sensenbrenner opposed an
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,
Note: Sensenbrenner's stock portfolio as
reported in 2003 is:
Sensenbrenner owns stock in:
Health Care –
Abbott Laboratories, General Electric, Merck, Pfizer, Pharmacia,
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
BP Amoco, ExxonMobile
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 -- OpenSecrets.org
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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:
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?
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
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
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
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
http://www.pirg.org/score2003/wisconsin.html (Note that the top
screen scrolls through the issues Sensenbrenner was graded on)
Permanent Estate Tax
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
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
REPRESENTATIVE F. JAMES
SENSENBRENNER JR. REPEATEDLY REFUSED TO PROVIDE ANY RESPONSES TO
CITIZENS ON ISSUES THROUGH THE 2004 NATIONAL POLITICAL AWARENESS TEST
Ratings by Interest Groups:
Votes by Category: