Saturday, June 17, 2006

Meet the Butt of the Joke: Lynn Westmoreland, Congressman From Georgia's 8th District


A profile of Westmoreland's constituents (Georgia's district 8, south of Atlanta, but due to redistricting, in the 2006 election Westmoreland is running in district 3) reveals them to be remarkably similar to the national average in many areas - White, Christian, suburbanites.

The question is, however, are Westmoreland's supporters voting in their best interests when they keep him in office?
Unless Westmoreland's constituents like paying $3+/gallon of gas, his voting record isn't supportive of their best interests:

Westmoreland voted against cracking down on the oil and gas industries price gouging.

Westmoreland voted for the GOP energy bill that gave billions to oil, gas and nuclear industries.

Big oil and gas industries have given Westmoreland $22,000.

Big drug interests have given $2,000 to Westmoreland over the Representative's career.

Westmoreland received $9,000 from House Majority Leader John Boehner's "Freedom Project" PAC.

Westmoreland received $5,967 from GOP Whip Roy Blunt's "Rely on Your Beliefs" PAC.

Westmoreland has taken $15,000 from Tom DeLay's ARMPAC.
- Voted to weaken House ethics rules when DeLay proposed doing so as GOP Majority Leader.
- Voted with Tom DeLay 93% of the time (through 3/31/2006)

Westmoreland voted with President Bush 90% of the time.

Westmoreland voted the GOP party line 98% of the time.

Westmoreland voted to continue awarding contracts to Halliburton even if the Pentagon's own audit processes found that more than $100 million of their contractor's costs in Iraq were unreasonable.

Westmoreland opposed expanding access to the military's TRICARE health insurance program to thousands of Reservist and National Guard members, even though 20 percent of all Reservists do not have health insurance, and 40 percent of Reservists aged 19 to 35 lack health coverage.

1,861 water systems in 29 states have been contaminated with MTBE, exposing as many as 45 million Americans to this potential carcinogen, but Westmoreland voted to protect the companies responsible from lawsuits by communities that need their help to clean up these systems.

Westmoreland voted against bipartisan reform of the Endangered Species Act.

Westmoreland voted for a massive sell off of public lands to mining interests.

While tuition costs are rising for ordinary Americans, Westmoreland voted to cut Federal student aid by $12.7 billion -- the biggest such cuts in history.

Westmoreland sided with social conservatives against patients with debilitating diseases and voted against expanding Federal funding of stem cell research.

Wikipedia's biography of Lynn Westmoreland:
Prior to his election to the United States Congress, Westmoreland owned a construction company and worked as a real estate developer. He also served in the Georgia House of Representatives beginning in 1993 and began serving as the House Republican Leader in 2001, until he resigned from that position to pursue his Congressional campaign in late 2003. He continued to serve in the Georgia House until his election to the U.S. House in 2004.

Westmoreland was the top vote-getter in his Republican primary election in 2004, but faced fellow Republican Dylan Glenn in a runoff. Westmoreland received 55.5% of the vote in the runoff, before going on to receive 75.6% of the vote in the general election against Democrat Silvia Delamar.

Westmoreland is a fiscal hawk concerned with taxes and government regulation.

Westmoreland likes to claim that he's a fiscal hawk, but the fact is that he has joined all other Republicans in Congress in blocking oversight and investigations into the billions of taxpayer dollars appropriated for the war in Iraq, but unaccounted for.
During his time as the Republican Leader in the Georgia House, he led the fight against redistricting by the Democratic majority in 2001, and then was instrumental in the re-redistricting that took place in Georgia in 2005 after Republicans won control of the Georgia legislature in the 2004 elections.

In 2005, Westmoreland received criticism for spreading a memo to fellow House members which consisted of auto-industry talking points, verbatim, even using the same font as the auto-industry document. An aide defended him, saying, "such behavior is standard practice."

During his first term in the 109th Congress, Westmoreland was appointed to the U.S. House Committee on Small Business, U.S. House Committee on Government Reform, and the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Westmoreland has sponsored a bill that the ten commandments could be displayed in courthouses in a historical setting, although when asked to name them by Stephen Colbert, he could only name three.

Westmoreland has also sponsored this legislation:
H.AMDT.664 (A029)
Amends: H.R.4437

Sponsor: Rep Westmoreland, Lynn A. [GA-8] (offered 12/16/2005)
Amendment sets caps on employer sanctions penalties; provides an exemption from penalties for initial good-faith violations; and provides a safe harbor for contractors whose subcontractors employ illegal aliens.

An amendment numbered 15 printed in House Report 109-350 to set caps on the monetary penalties set forth in Title VII of the bill for hiring or employing unauthorized aliens of $7,500 for first time offenses, $15,000 for second offenses, and $40,000 for all subsequent offenses; Provides an exemption from penalty for initial good faith violations; and provides a safe harbor for contractors if their subcontractor employees an unauthorized alien (provided the contractor did not know the employee was an unauthorized alien).

12/16/2005 8:01pm:
Amendment (A029) offered by Mr. Westmoreland. (consideration: CR H11976-11978, H11987-11988; text: CR H11976)
12/16/2005 9:36pm:
On agreeing to the Westmoreland amendment (A029) Agreed to by recorded vote: 247 - 170, 1 Present (Roll no. 657).

What is in some of his constituents' and biggest contributors' best interests (real estate developers) is clearly in opposition to what voters in his district (and all over the country) are clamouring for: Secure borders, tougher laws and enforcement of existing laws barring illegal immigration, heavy employer sanctions for hiring illegal, undocumented workers.

Westmoreland was one of only 11 congressmen, all Republicans, to vote against the emergency aid package for victims of Hurricane Katrina (HR 3673).

More recently, Westmoreland led a group of about 20 Southern Republicans to stall House leadership plans to renew key provisions of the Voting Rights Act that are expiring which they believe are no longer needed or impose a financial burden on states, or the:
....provision that requires states with a history of discrimination to get approval from the U.S. Department of Justice or a federal court before making election changes. Known as pre-clearance, it applies to 16 states, including Mississippi and most other Southern states.

One congressman in this gang, Roger Wicker, said he would:
...prefer federal judges approve electoral changes. "It does seem that in 2006, we should be able to have enough confidence in federal judges everywhere."

One amendment from Westmoreland would require an updated review of voting participation rates in states.

"Judge us on what we're doing today, not on what we did in 1964," said Brian Robinson, a spokesman for Westmoreland.

It sounds like they've got some major voter disenfranchisement plans up their sleeves. Georgia State Rep. Tyrone Brooks and president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials and Charles Steele, national president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a former Alabama state senator wrote:
Much progress has indeed been made in minority voting rights and office holding in our state, and in the South, but it has been made in large measure because of the existence of Section 5 and the other provisions of the VRA. Had there been no federal intervention in the voting and redistricting process, it is unlikely that most Southern states would have ceased their practices of denying and diluting the black vote.

Obtaining federal approval of changes to voting procedures is critical because it prevents discrimination before it happens, ensuring that minorities are able to exercise their right to vote. U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) and others would like to see Georgia exempted from Section 5. However, without these protections, it is likely that new barriers to voting would wipe out the advances of the past few decades.

Discrimination in voting is still persistent in Georgia and the rest of the states covered under these provisions. Since the VRA was last renewed in 1982, Georgia has received 83 objections from the Department of Justice to changes in voting procedures --- many within the past five years. This is the fourth highest number in the country. In addition, the Georgia Legislature has now twice passed the infamous Georgia photo ID law, which Department of Justice lawyers and a federal judge stated was likely to discriminate against black voters.

The VRA is one of the most effective civil rights laws ever passed. It outlawed literacy tests, language hurdles and other discriminatory barriers that have been used to prevent minorities from voting. The provisions that must be renewed include Section 5, which requires jurisdictions with a history of discrimination in voting to get federal approval of any new voting practices or procedures; Section 203, which ensures that American citizens with limited English proficiency get the help they need at the polls; and Sections 6-9, which authorize the attorney general to appoint federal election observers where there is evidence of attempts to intimidate minority voters.

Oh yeah, they're up to something.

We should treat laws like the Voting Rights Act as we treat viruses that we store at the CDC (like smallpox) - when there hasn't been an outbreak anywhere in the world for 100 years, THEN we can destroy the stored sample.
Some Republicans also take issue with plans to vote on the measure without allowing amendments and limiting debate.

"We're going to fight tooth and nail to keep the bill from coming to the floor under suspension...We don't want to wage an insurgency over this. We want people to listen to us."

But supporters say the provisions still are needed and that the measure that took months to negotiate should be voted on intact.

Mike McGraw, a "new Democrat" (conservative), is running against Westmoreland. He's the only Democratic candidate that I know of who has taken Newt Gingrich's suggestion and is running on the campaign slogan "Had Enough?"

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