Jon Tester on Government Reform

Democratic Jr Senator


Spotlight Act: no dark money in campaigns

Q: Campaign Finance: Require political ads to disclose their largest funders? Positon on Citizens United decision, allowing unlimited political donations from corporations & unions?

Matt Rosendale (R): No. Voted against state bill requiring independent groups to reveal how money they contribute to election campaigns is being used & where it's coming from. Supports Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling as protecting freedom of speech.

Jon Tester (D): Yes. Introduced Spotlight Act, requiring political nonprofits to disclose donors. "Dark money is a threat to our democracy. I will do everything I can to defend Montanans from this shadowy behavior." Opposed Citizens United ruling.

Source: 2018 CampusElect.org Issue Guide on Montana Senate race , Oct 9, 2018

Introduced bill to ensure Native American voting access

Q: Voting Rights: Support stricter voting rules even if they prevent some people from voting?

Matt Rosendale (R): Yes. Voted to repeal same-day voter registration. Require government-issued photo identification to vote.

Jon Tester (D): Unclear on photo ID. Introduced bill to ensure Native American voting access.

Source: 2018 CampusElect.org Issue Guide on Montana Senate race , Oct 9, 2018

Citizens United is scary for democracy

Early on in the debate, both candidates were asked several questions about outside spending and the relentless negative advertising voters have been subjected to this cycle. Rehberg attempted to steer the topic back toward one of his favorite talking points. "It's not about campaign spending," he said of the Senate race. "It's about government spending." This race has seen close to $20 million in spending by third party groups.

Tester, ever the opponent of Citizens United, acknowledged the problem in his closing statement. "We're back in 1912," he said, harkening back to the days of Montana's Copper Kings. "We've come back to a time when corporations can give unlimited amounts of money, secret money, and influence the political structure of this country. And that's scary for a democracy."

But Rehberg, who had no response when asked directly how much outside interests had spent in this race, doesn't seem to be too troubled by where that money is coming from.

Source: Missoula News on 2012 Montana Senate debate , Oct 22, 2012

Oppose Citizens United: limit corporate political spending

Tester was critical of the Citizens United Supreme Court case that has allowed corporations to have unfettered involvement in political spending. "We've seen tens of millions of dollars of secret money come into this state to define me as something I'm not," said Tester, who called for transparency about who contributes to political action committees.

Rehberg appeared to speak favorably of Citizens United, saying political free speech is the most important, but he added that he supports 100 percent transparency with campaign donations.

The problem, Tester pointed out, is that Citizens United doesn't require transparency in reporting political contributions.

Source: Daily Inter Lake on 2012 Montana Senate debates , Oct 14, 2012

Citizens United ruling puts democracy at risk

Jon Tester stated that the widely criticized Citizens United ruling puts democracy at risk by giving corporations more power than people. The Supreme Court ruling undid past restrictions on political spending by corporations and special interest groups.

The decision has been derided by many Montana politicians. Montana, 21 other states and the District of Columbia have asked the high court to rule that Citizens United doesn't apply to Montana's or other state laws regulating corporate campaign spending.

Rehberg said he supported the 2010 ruling, although he added that there should be full transparency on where campaign money is coming from. "There should be nothing more free than political free speech," he said.

Tester responded that "corporations are not people. Because of Citizens United, corporations have more rights when it comes to donations than people do," he said.

Source: The Republic on 2012 Montana Senate debates , Jun 17, 2012

Earmarks without transparency are wrong for democracy

Q: Which of the 34 Montana earmarks in the latest transportation bill qualify as unjustified pork?

TESTER: The current process of earmarking in the middle of the night, without transparency, is the wrong way for representative democracy to be working. Good projects, like this land-grant university, can stand up to the scrutiny of the light of day. Quite frankly, I don’t support earmarks, period.

If a project’s a good project, which includes probably most if not all of those 34 earmarks, they could withstand scrutiny in front of the entire Congress. I’m not for earmarks because they don’t pass public scrutiny with the transparency that our government and our forefathers set up.

JONES: Incumbents always put something in the transportation bill so they can brag about all the money they brought to the state. None of the 34 are qualified.

BURNS: I’m proud about what I brought back to Montana. That money’s going to be spent somewhere in America, and I want Montana to get her share.

Source: 2006 Montana 3-way Senate Debate at MSU , Oct 9, 2006

K-Street cronies control Congressional spending decisions

Q: How would you reduce the federal deficit?

A: I’d start with no-bid contracts in Iraq. That’s kind of wild. Then negotiations for Medicare Part D prescription drugs--I negotiate when I go to buy a pickup truck, so we ought to be negotiating-- but that’s what happens when you have big pharmaceutical companies writing legislation. It’s time that we spend the money wiser, that we prioritize better, and start looking out for middle class folks. But that’s not the people who have control- the cronies on K-Street that buy votes have more control than the folks that elect us. You need to have people back there in Washington who have experience balancing a checkbook and setting priorities. I have balanced a checkbook in the private sector and in the public sector. My opponent has not been able to do that.

Source: 2006 Montana 3-way Senate Debate at MSU , Oct 9, 2006

End policymaking for those with the biggest campaign checks

Tester accused members of the Republican-dominated Congress of making policies “for those who write the biggest campaign checks.” Lest anyone miss the reference, Tester reiterated a fact that Democrats have used since last fall to spearhead their attack on Burns: that the senator accepted more money, about $150,000, from convicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates than any other member of Congress. “He sold us out,” Tester said.
Source: Scot Miller in Great Falls Tribune , Aug 3, 2006

End the “pay-to-play” culture of Washington

Ethics changes proposed by Democrats & Republicans in Washington this week “are just not enough to change the ‘pay-to-play’ culture of Washington,” says Jon Tester, who announced his plans to fight for-and abide by-far-stricter ethics standards. “In the light of the Republican corruption scandals that Conrad Burns’ relationship with Jack Abramoff have highlighted, Washington politicians of all stripes are scrambling to get behind anything they can call reform,” Tester said. “But the proposals I have seen are just not enough to change the ‘pay-to-play’ culture of Washington.

“I’m all for strengthening rules, but it’s even more important to change the culture of corruption. We need to let Washington know now that the ‘For Sale’ sign has to come down, and Conrad Burns’ days of ‘pay-to-play’ are ending,” Tester said. “But judging by how some of the so-called reforms are already meeting resistance from Washington insiders-senators and lobbyists-I’m not going to hold my breath.”

Source: Press release, “Ethics reforms” , Jan 19, 2006

Ban lobbyist gifts, and more, starting with my own campaign

What Montanans expect and deserve is a senator who can be counted on to bring Montana’s values to Washington rather than abandoning those values once he gets there. I’m announcing the rules I will live and work by, regardless of whether any of these other measures are passed. And I pledge this-I’ll get tougher on ethics issues as time goes by, no matter who stands against me.
Source: Press release, “Ethics reforms” , Jan 19, 2006

Voted YES on Congressional pay raise.

Congressional Summary:
    Makes appropriations to the Senate for FY2010 for:
  1. expense allowances;
  2. representation allowances for the Majority and Minority Leaders;
  3. salaries of specified officers, employees, and committees (including the Committee on Appropriations);
  4. agency contributions for employee benefits;
  5. inquiries and investigations;
  6. the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control;
  7. the Offices of the Secretary and of the Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate;
  8. miscellaneous items;
  9. the Senators' Official Personnel and Office Expense Account; and
  10. official mail costs.
Amends the Legislative Branch Appropriation Act of 1968 to increase by $50,000 the gross compensation paid all employees in the office of a Senator. Increases by $96,000 per year the aggregate amount authorized for the offices of the Majority and Minority Whip.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D, FL-20): We, as Members of Congress, have responsibility not just for the institution, but for the staff that work for this institution, and to preserve the facilities that help support this institution. We have endeavored to do that responsibly, and I believe we have accomplished that goal.

Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. SCALISE (R, LA-1): It's a sad day when someone attempts to cut spending in a bill that grows government by the size of 7%, and it's not allowed to be debated on this House floor. Some of their Members actually used the term "nonsense" and "foolishness" when describing our amendments to cut spending; they call that a delaying tactic. Well, I think Americans all across this country want more of those types of delaying tactics to slow down this runaway train of massive Federal spending. Every dollar we spend from today all the way through the end of this year is borrowed money. We don't have that money. We need to control what we're spending.

Reference: Legislative Branch Appropriations Act; Bill HR2918&S1294 ; vote number 2009-S217 on Jul 6, 2009

Voted YES on providing a US House seat for the District of Columbia.

Congressional Summary:

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Sen. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT): I am cosponsoring the legislation to provide a House seat for DC and an additional House seat for Utah. Representation and suffrage are so central to the American system of self-government that America's founders warned that limiting suffrage would risk another revolution and could prevent ratification of the Constitution. The Supreme Court held in 1820 that Congress' legislative authority over DC allows taxation of DC. Do opponents of giving DC a House seat believe that DC is suitable for taxation but not for representation?

Opponent's argument to vote No:Sen. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): I make a constitutional point of order against this bill on the grounds that it violates article I, section 2, of the Constitution. I appreciate the frustration felt by the residents of DC at the absence of a vote in Congress. According to many experts, DC is not a State, so therefore is not entitled to that representation. Also, one has to raise the obvious question: If DC is entitled to a Representative, why isn't Puerto Rico, which would probably entail 9 or 10 Members of Congress? [With regards to the seat for Utah], this is obviously partisan horse-trading.

Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act; Bill S.160 ; vote number 2009-S073 on Feb 26, 2009

Voted YES on granting the District of Columbia a seat in Congress.

Cloture vote on the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act:[Washington DC currently has a "delegate" to the US House, whose vote does not count. Utah had complained that the 2000 census did not count many Utahns on Mormon missions abroad].

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. BYRD: In 1978, I voted for H.J. Res. 554, that proposed amending the Constitution to provide for representation of D.C. [That amendment passed the Senate but was not ratified by the States]. While I recognize that others believe that the Constitution authorizes the Congress to "exercise exclusive legislation" over D.C., the historical intent of the Founders on this point is unclear. I oppose S.1257, because I doubt that our Nation's Founding Fathers ever intended that the Congress should be able to change the text of the Constitution by passing a simple bill.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. HATCH. There are conservative and liberal advocates on both sides of this issue,and think most people know Utah was not treated fairly after the last census. For those who are so sure this is unconstitutional, [we include an] expedited provision that will get us to the Supreme Court to make an appropriate decision. It will never pass as a constitutional amendment. There are 600,000 people in D.C., never contemplated by the Founders of this country to be without the right to vote. They are the only people in this country who do not have a right to vote for their own representative in the House. This bill would remedy that situation.

Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act; Bill S. 1257 ; vote number 2007-339 on Sep 18, 2007

Voted NO on requiring photo ID to vote in federal elections.

Vote on Dole Amdt. S.2350, amending SP2350 (via the College Cost Reduction Act): To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require individuals voting in person to present photo identification.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. DOLE. I am proposing a commonsense measure to uphold the integrity of Federal elections. My amendment to require voters to show photo identification at the polls would go a long way in minimizing potential for voter fraud. When a fraudulent vote is cast and counted, the vote of a legitimate voter is cancelled. This is wrong, and my amendment would help ensure that one of the hallmarks of our democracy, our free and fair elections, is protected. Opinion polls repeatedly confirm that Americans overwhelmingly support this initiative.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. FEINSTEIN. If one would want to suppress the vote in the 2008 election, one would vote for this because this measure goes into effect January 1, 2008. It provides that everybody who votes essentially would have to have a photo ID. If you want to suppress the minority vote, the elderly vote, the poor vote, this is exactly the way to do it. Many of these people do not have driver's licenses. This amendment would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to actually carry out. It goes into effect--surprise--January 1, 2008 [to affect the presidential election]. I urge a "no" vote.

Reference: Dole Amendment to the Help America Vote Act; Bill S.2350, amending SP2350 ; vote number 2007-269 on Jul 19, 2007

Require Internet disclosure of all earmarks.

Tester signed H.R.5258& S.3335

    The website shall be comprised of a database including the following information, in searchable format, for each earmark:
  1. The fiscal year in which the item would be funded.
  2. The number of the bill or joint resolution for which the request is made, if available.
  3. The amount of the initial request made by the Member of Congress.
  4. The amount approved by the committee of jurisdiction.
  5. The amount carried in the bill or joint resolution (or accompanying report) as passed.
  6. The name of the department or agency, and the account or program, through which the item will be funded.
  7. The name and the State or district of the Member of Congress who made the request.
  8. The name and address of the intended recipient.
  9. The type of organization (public, private nonprofit, or private for profit entity) of the intended recipient.
  10. The project name, description, and estimated completion date.
  11. A justification of the benefit to taxpayers.
  12. Whether the request is for a continuing project and if so, when funds were first appropriated for such project.
  13. A description, if applicable, of all non-Federal sources of funding.
  14. Its current status in the legislative process
Source: Earmark Transparency Act 10-HR5258 on May 11, 2010

Matching fund for small donors, with debate requirements.

Tester sponsored Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act

Congressional Summary:Fair Elections Now Act--Amends 1971 FECA with respect to:

Statement of support for corresponding Senate bill: (Sunlight Foundation) Now we bring you the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, a bill that should probably be the least controversial of all. S. 375 would simply require senators and Senate candidates to file their public campaign finance disclosure reports electronically with the Federal Election Commission, the way House candidates and presidential candidates have been filing for over a decade. A version of the bill has been introduced during every congress starting in 2003 (!) yet it has been blocked repeatedly, a victim of political football.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., has introduced the most recent version, which would ensure that paper Senate campaign finance reports are a thing of the past. But even with 50 bipartisan cosponsors, the bill faces an uphill battle. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, has repeatedly prevented the bill from coming to the Senate floor. We won't be deterred--as long as McConnell continues to block the bill, we'll continue to highlight that his intransigence results in delayed disclosure of vital, public campaign finance information, not to mention wasting $500,000 in taxpayer money annually. Eventually, we'll win.

Source: S375/H.R.269 14_S375 on Feb 25, 2013

Public financing of federal campaigns by voter vouchers.

Tester sponsored H.R.20 & S.366

Congressional Summary:<

Supporters reasons for voting YEA:Rep. Sarbanes: Big money warps Congress' priorities and erodes the public's trust in government. This bold new legislation returns voice and power back to the American people:

  1. Empower everyday citizens to fuel Congressional campaigns by providing a My Voice Tax Credit.
  2. Amplify the voices of everyday Americans through a 6-to-1 match.
  3. Prevent Super PACs from drowning out small donor-backed candidates.

Opponents reasons for voting NAY:(Bill Moyers, Feb. 19, 2015): This citizen engagement strategy, particularly when used to court small donors, is not without its critics. Small donors, at least in the current system, often tend to be political ideologues. That trend leaves many asking: won't moving to small donors just empower extremists? Sarbanes counters, if Congress changes the political fundraising rules, they will also change the calculus for "the rational small donor who right now isn't going to give $25 because they've figured out that it's not going to matter." The prospect of a 6-to-1 match might very well impact how those less ideologically extreme potential donors think about political giving.

Source: Government By the People Act 15_S366 on Feb 4, 2015

CC:Oppose strict Constitutionalist judges.

Tester opposes the CC survey question on judicial constitutionalism

The Christian Coalition Voter Guide inferred whether candidates agree or disagree with the statement, 'Appointing Judges Who Will Adhere to a Strict Interpretation of the Constitution' Christian Coalition's self-description: "Christian Voter Guide is a clearing-house for traditional, pro-family voter guides. We do not create voter guides, nor do we interview or endorse candidates."

Source: Christian Coalition Surve 18CC-1a on Jul 1, 2018

Sponsored bill for election holiday & easier voting access.

Tester co-sponsored For the People Act of 2019