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Dick Gephardt. Few seem to have any idea of what he stands for. Currently, he seems to be a leftist populist. This is after being one of the most conservative Democrats. He used to support an amendment to the constitution to ban abortions. Following this, he created the moderate to conservative Democratic Leadership Council, which has tried to drive the leftist wing from the Democratic party. Much like any empowered Democrat, Gephardt publicly supports campaign finance reform...as he does his best to work behind the scenes to kill it. 

Flip-Flop: His Views


Dick Gephardt's views have changed over the course of time more than perhaps anyone else in Congress. He's been a conservative, a liberal, a populist, and a centrist at various points in his career. After serving as a city councilman in St. Louis for a few years, Gephardt was elected to the House of Representatives in 1976. He won as a fairly conservative pro-life Democrat who was willing to go against his party by supporting defense issues and conservative economics. He voted for the Reagan tax plan in 1981 which led to huge problems later (it anticipated a budget surplus that never emerged...thus ballooning the deficit and any number of other problems). The tax cuts of 1981 also heavily favored the wealthy. He also voted for the Reagan tax cuts of 1986. In these "formative years", Gephardt voted to create the B-1 bomber, voted against federal funding for battered women shelters, and voted against increases in the minimum wage. In addition to voting for these issues, Gephardt was also at the front of the pro-life movement. He sponsored a constitutional amendment to ban abortion. In addition, he also supported school prayer and opposed extending the time period provided for ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. On some of these, it has been remarked that he was actually to the RIGHT of Reagan. He's said that Reagan was "a disappointment to those in the Congress who represent constituencies for whom . . . social issues represent the government's resolve to reverse the misguided social trends of the '60s and '70s.'". This sounds more characteristic of someone like, say, Newt Gingrich than the populist Gephardt that we know today.

In addition to his views and votes, Gephardt was also a major pusher of the "destroy the liberals" movement that arose during Reagan's tenure. He helped create the now dominant Democratic Leadership Council. Essentially, this is a legislative organization that encourages Democrats to take more corporate money and ignore more of their traditional base (ie.minorities, the poor, etc). It's largely responsible for the recent shift to the right of the Democratic party under individuals such as Clinton.  Then there was the fact that Gephardt,  early in his career as a representative, spoke to the infamous Council of Conservative Citizens. Essentially, the CCC is a racist organization. A good deal of information has already been written about them on other pages within this website (please see either the Bob Barr page or Trent Lott). Gephardt's involvement with the CCC is far enough back that I'm having difficulty acquiring information on it. If anyone knows anything about his speech that he gave to them, I'd appreciate it if you emailed me.

As most readers of this page should know, these views hardly represent the "new" Gephardt. Gephardt abandoned his conservativeness when he decided to run for President in 1988. He knew that, in order to win, he had to appeal to the Democrats more traditional bases of support. This include women voters, minorities, and labor unions. Enter the beginnings of Gephardt the populist. Gephardt quickly abandoned his views on abortion and began speaking in favor of labor unions. The public wasn't impressed with his sudden change and he soon dropped out. Since then, he has fashioned himself into one of the most leftist representatives. This seems to be largely in order to set himself and other Democrats off against the religious right wing of the Republican Party.

Flip-Flop: Campaign Finance Reform


It's interesting how power affects people. Before 1994, when the Democrats held the majority, Gephardt quietly, but strongly, opposed any sort of campaign finance reform. This is because the current system promotes the incumbents (incumbents win approximately 90% of seats in Congress).When Democrats held a strong majority in both the Senate and the House, campaign finance reform was likely to hurt the Democrats. As such, Gephardt then had no interest in concepts such as fairness. It didn't help that Gephardt is one of the Democratic party's biggest fundraisers. It's only recently that Gephardt has begun to change his views on campaign finance reform...he now seems to support it, although rather hesitantly.

Dick Gephardt has always been one of the strongest Democratic fundraisers. In 1994, he raised over 200 times as much money as his challenger. His challenger, Deborah Lynn Wheelehan, raised about $13,000. He raised over $2 million. Having this much extra money obviously gives individual legislators a lot of power. They can give it to other legislator's campaigns, to their own fundraising organizations (such as the Democratic Leadership Council), etc. This makes legislators disinterested in reforming the system so that they can't raise as much money and, as such, be as powerful as they are today. Another reason that Gephardt had been opposed to campaign finance reform is that most campaign finance reform bills either eliminate PACs or strongly restrict their influence in government. Dick Gephardt has been one of the biggest recipients of PAC donations over the course of his career. Due to this, he does not support banning or restricting their influence
 
Budweiser: King of Beers...and of Gephardt.
Dick Gephardt, unsurprisingly for such a powerful legislator, has also behaved like most representatives when it comes to campaign finance donations. The donors that are the biggest to Gephardt's campaign are also those that he frequently does favors for. As detailed in the Buying of Congress  (an excellent book put out by the Center for Public Integrity), Gephardt repeatedly acts in the interests of his big contributors. Before 1996, the tobacco industry used to be one of Gephardt's biggest supporters (Gephardt no longer takes donations from the industry). When Clinton was attempting to place mild restrictions on the tobacco industry in 1995, Gephardt lobbied against the Clinton Administration's new restrictions on tobacco. He instead tried to suggest the tobacco companies do things voluntarily. Much more alarming is Gephardt's relationship with his number one contributor, Anheuser-Busch. In 1993, Clinton tried to raise the "sin tax" on alcohol and tobacco products. Gephardt met with Clinton on Air Force One shortly thereafter and expressed his reluctance to support the sin tax on alcohol. Gephardt also obtained an invitation to an economic summit for August Busch III, the owner of Anheuser Busch. Shortly thereafter, Clinton, with Busch standing near him, announced that only tobacco would be part of the increase on sin tax.

Along the lines of other shady donations, Gephardt has also taken donations from the Lippo group. This is the same group that appears to have helped funnel corporate money from Chinese companies to Clinton's presidential race. Johnny Chuang, who's been repeatedly grilled by a House subcommittee in regards to his donations to Clinton, donated $6,000 to Gephardt. This is in addition to another $14,000 that Gephardt received from other members of the group. After this was noted by the press, Gephardt and a few other congressmen in similar predicaments returned the money from the Lippo group.

Miscellaneous Issues


Home...Tax evasion? By claiming that his property in North Carolina was a second home and not a rental unit, Gephardt appears to have managed to skirt the capital gains tax. Through somewhat complicated legal maneuvering, Gephardt, in 1991, avoided paying $17,000 in capital gains taxes. Though this appeared to be a serious issue, it was not taken up by the House Ethics Committee.

Repeated Pay Raises: Its fairly well known that Gephardt is frequently one of the main forces behind congressional pay raises. Gephardt, Gingrich, and Rep. Jim Kolbe all conspired with each other in 1996 to quietly arrange a pay raise for Congress. It worked. In 1989, in anther case, a strange series of bizarre events surrounded this pay hike. Evidently in order to prevent public outcry, as this pay raise rose their wages by a full 40%, the legislation for the raise was proposed one day and enacted into law the next day. In some legislator's minds, this was seen as some sort of congressional reform act similar to campaign finance reform. One representative remarked that it removed the stigma of Jim Wright's resignation. However, the strangest comment belonged to Dick Gephardt. The day before the house passed its pay raise, Lech Walesa, the polish electrician who led labor's revolt against the Soviet Union's system in Poland, gave a powerful speech in Poland. Dick Gephardt had this to say in relation ''We heard a hero yesterday who talked about courage. Today is the day for us to be leaders to do what's right for this institution." Somehow, Gephardt seems to have equated giving himself a huge payraise with an individual who fought against an oppressive dicatatorship or 10 years. As a sidenote, the leaders of the party signed what amounted to a mutual nonaggression pact in regards to this issue. They agreed that no one running against an incumbent would make the incumbent's vote for a pay raise an issue.

As a side note to the above, I'd like to note that the recent passage of the presidential pay raise was not simply for the president. It doubled the president's pay from about $200,000 to $400,000. While its true that the president hadn't received a raise since Nixon era, its also true that the president's salary acts as a cap for representatives and Supreme Court Justices. Essentially, no representative or other official's pay can exceed the presidents. Legislators have been giving themselves raises recently and seem to becoming concerned that they may run out of space within which to give themselves raises. Thus the passage of a presidential pay raise.
 


Gephardt Links


Jim Stonebraker: A Republican from the St. Louis area maintains an information site on Dick Gephardt. The site is very biased and incoherently rambles on about socialists in the democratic party and the homosexual agenda. However, it's a comprehensive anti-Gephardt page.

Dump Dick is an page run by the Taxpayers for Accountable Government. It's less factual than Stonebraker.

The Nation wrote an article a few years back on Gephardt's continual flipflops.

Mother Jones has written a few quality pieces on Gephardt. "See Dick Fundraise"  discusses Gephardt's behind the scenes killing of campaign finance reform. "Chameleon" is an overview of Gephardt's political career. "The Tobacco Election" deals slightly with Gephardt...and how he used to be pro-tobacco.

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