Smile Politely

Tim Johnson Wins Re-Election… and Here is Where He Stands

Tim Johnson handily won a return to his seat in the next Congress. His seat always seems safe despite the fact that legions of Americans are expending more and more energy on suppressing gag reflexes whenever the name of Johnson’s party is mentioned.

Champaign-Urbana’s daily broadsheet has given the congressman a gushy endorsement. On the money front, Johnson has over $163,000 on hand, while a search of Federal Election Commission records on his challenger, Steve Cox, produces nothing. Johnson’s district is also suspiciously shaped with a tendril that snakes along the Indiana border, which leaves one to wonder if it isn’t horrendously gerrymandered.

Whoever was in charge of Johnson’s website seemed so assured of his victory that they didn’t even bother to list anything under the “issues” section.

Maybe Johnson deserved to win. But regardless, you, the voter, surely deserved to be informed about where your member of congress stands. So here are some things you may or may not know about Tim Johnson.

Johnson’s Moneymen

Johnson is well liked by AT&T, the American Association of Justice, and the Exelon Corporation, which have been major donors to his campaigns.

AT&T has been steadily trying to overcome regulatory barriers in hopes of wrapping its tentacles further around the telecommunications industry. The American Association of Justice has been vigorously fighting any efforts at tort reform. Exelon, which owns the largest fleet of nuclear power plants in the county, has been trying to ensure that nuclear energy is a big part of whatever energy reform efforts congress ends up pushing.

Construction interests are also supporters of Johnson. According to, Johnson has taken over $126,000 from construction interests. He’s also taken $98,000 from building trade unions.

Iraq War

Johnson cast a vote for the resolution giving President Bush the authority to wage war in Iraq. Since then he has supported funding the war and has opposed efforts to mandate a timetable for withdrawal. However, earlier this year Johnson released a statement opposing a build up of troops in Iraq. He also voted for a resolution banning permanent bases in Iraq and another that urged the Department of Defense to begin planning for a withdrawal of troops.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz thinks the war might cost a wad.

It’s also worth mentioning that in a 2006 Project Vote Smart questionnaire Johnson stated that he was against the creation of a Palestinian state. Maybe this issue isn’t related to this section. Maybe it is. Some important people seem to think so. Maybe the Palestinians can move to Iraq once we have things in order.

Agriculture, Energy and the Environment

Coming from a predominantly agricultural area, Johnson voted for the “Farm Bill,” a controversial measure that heavily subsidizes farmers. Some advocacy groups, such as Oxfam, have criticized it for contributing to world poverty since third-world farmers aren’t able to compete with their heavily subsidized American counterparts.

He also voted for a bill that props up price supports for some agricultural commodities and a multi-billion dollar effort for rural development.

Johnson is behind ethanol. He is also behind the government mandate that fuel producers blend it into their fuel, the subsidy they receive and the tariff keeping Brazilian ethanol out of the US market. Although, his party’s presidential nominee strongly differed.

Johnson has supported bills that clear the way for renewable fuels and voted for another bill that would cut tax break for oil companies. He’s also voted for bills that gave tax cuts to traditional energy companies when his Republican comrades ran the show in the House.

The Congressman has received the endorsement of the Sierra Club, which proclaimed, “We will need the support of Republicans like Johnson in 2009…” Johnson also isn’t in the “drill baby, drill” crowd, and wants to protect the Artic National Wildlife Refuge.

Johnson also voted for a bill that allowed the US to assist India in developing nuclear energy. The bill has been criticized for opening the door for more nuclear weapons proliferation in India.

Social Issues

Socials issues probably aren’t going to grant you decent medical insurance, land you a high-paying job or pay off your student loans, but people care about them. Campaigns for national office have hinged upon them, so it’s probably worth mentioning where Johnson stands on them.

Johnson voted for a bill that would allow religious organizations to receive federal funding. He’s voted for a bill outlawing human cloning and for a resolution that would put an amendment in the constitution banning same-sex marriage. But he’s voted for no legislation regarding cloned gay people. Probably because there’s been none sponsored. Maybe one day there will be.

Johnson voted for a bill that would ensure that women seeking an abortion are informed of the pain their unborn child will endure, and another that would criminalize the transportation of minors across state line to have the procedure performed.

The congressman probably (but you never know) won’t take your guns away. He voted to repeal portions of the D.C. firearm ban and to protect gun manufacturers from those pesky lawsuits.

He also voted against a bill to allow women more effective remedies in addressing unequal pay.

Health issues

The U.S. health care system is a twisted joke. This reporter won’t spout off the statistics here, you can google them yourself. In a questionnaire administered by Project Vote Smart in 2006, Johnson did not express support for a universal coverage plan for all Americans.

Johnson voted against the much-touted State Children’s’ Health Insurance Program reauthorization. The program helps a slew of families pay for insurance for their children. He also voted for another bill making it more difficult to import prescription drugs.

The Congressman has voted for a bill that would expand Medicare coverage and for a bill that would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate for lower drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries.

Your member of congress wields so much power. In theory, he speaks in one voice for all of us in Illinois’ 15th district. Your vote is so precious. This article is just a sliver of insight into what this man has done in our name and with our treasure.

Evidently, we got the representative we deserve.

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