Random Human Stuff

Congressional Rep. John Garamendi takes questions on reddit, a social media network community.

by reddit:

California House member John Garamendi created a reddit account and took questions from Redditors. Here’s the message below along with some great Q&A:

Greetings Redditors, My name is John Garamendi, and I am a Member of Congress representing the 10th Congressional District in Northern California. Ask Me Anything. I will be back at 8 PM EST/5 PM PST today (Wednesday, March 2) to answer as many questions as I can get through. I previously served as California Lieutenant Governor, California Insurance Commissioner, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Interior Department under President Clinton, a state legislator, and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. Thank you Reddit community for having me today.

UPDATE: It was an honor to speak with you. I couldn’t answer all of your questions, but you can keep track of my work at my website (http://garamendi.house.gov), Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/repgaramendi ), and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/repgaramendi).

We will do this again soon. The upvoting format makes it easy to know what your priorities are. -John


Q anexanhume: John, I am curious as to whether or not you believe that it is possible to be a politician that reaches any major political office (say for instance, state legislator or large city mayor as the least important office) without owing either a person, political organization or corporation some sort of favor for reaching your office. Moreover, is it ever actually possible to vote on your principles consistently without the fear of losing reelection or angering someone who helped you get where you are? Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions.

A: Thank you for the question. It’s a good one. I believe I vote consistently with my principles. Obviously there are some political interests who align with me more than others, and that will be somewhat reflected in whom they choose to support. And like everyone, there are personal opinions about individuals that I sometimes keep to myself for the sake of congeniality and relationships. So the answer to your question is I honestly don’t think I “owe” any group my allegiance. I’ve been in public policy enough that I doubt there’s a single group left in America that has given me a 100% report card every year I’ve been in office. Ultimately, public policy is about choices and compromise. When I’m on the House floor, after all the debate is done, after all the deals have been struck, I’m left with a choice: Yes or No. This means I’ve voted for bills that had elements I didn’t like (I was disappointed the public option wasn’t in the Patient’s Bill of Rights for example) and voted against bills that had some good policy (I voted against tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires even though the bill contained an important extension of assistance for people looking for work). It’s clichéd at this point, but we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

And to expound upon this, do you think it’s possible to do your job while continuously campaigning for re-election? If you’re doing a good job representing your district and taking the time to be in the district working with your constituents, re-elections are much easier.

Q: eramos: How often do the outspoken opinions (e.g. letters or phone calls) sent by your constituents influence your votes and/or actions?
A: We keep a tally of every phone call, letter, and e-mail from constituents. When they are reaching out to us about legislation I am undecided on, I keep a very close eye on the sentiment of the district. Constituent outreach is especially important to us when it comes to signing onto letters or cosponsoring bills. Every year there are thousands of bills and letters circulated in the House, and it’s just not practical for me to closely follow every single one. I’m much more likely to sign onto a bill or letter if my staff tells me there has been a lot of constituent interest.
reply VsAcesoVer:


Q ProbablyJustArguing: And why do we spend six times as much on prisons as we do on education?

A: Because too many people think prisons will solve our social and criminal problems, when in fact an expenditure on education and jobs is a far better solution.

Q SheStillMay: What is your position regarding net neutrality? (Additional question:) To expand on the question, could you explain in your words what you believe net neutrality to be?

A: Net Neutrality is the non-discrimination of Internet content by Internet Service Providers (ISP).

No corporation or government should determine who has access to the Internet or control the flow of information. This is an economic imperative too. We’re already falling behind countries like South Korea and Japan when it comes to broadband penetration and speed. Job creation depends on innovation and innovation increasingly depends on bandwidth.

Q ap3lovr: What is the worst thing you have seen a Lobbyist do?

A: In 36 years, I’ve seen it all. Good lobbyists who come with facts and figures and a sincere belief in their issue. And I’ve seen lobbyists come with a pack of lies in one hand and a check in the other. I sent that lobbyist down the road disappointed.

reply myweedishairy The sad thing is, he probably wouldn’t have come in there with that routine unless it worked on other politicians.

Q corybantic: What made you think to bring an AMA here? Do you read reddit? Did a staff person suggest it?

A: One of my staff is addicted to Reddit, and he keeps me up to date with all the profound and logical arguments found on these pages. I’ve trained him not to share the foolish ones with me. But he does from time to time bring a hillarious piece forward.

Q Jaklcide: What are your current thoughts on the Wikileaks and Bradley Manning scandal?

A: As someone with access to classified information, I know firsthand that the American government can and should be more open. And I’ve been disturbed by the involvement of some private corporations seeking to sabotage journalists sympathetic to WikiLeaks. That said, many of the WikiLeaks documents threaten American national security and put American agents and informants at risk. I’m also concerned that this makes it more difficult for our diplomatic corps to have frank and open conversations with representatives from other countries. Long ago, I learned to not write it unless I wanted to see it on the front page of the New York Times. That’s good advice for anyone that uses the Internet. As to Private Manning, he deserves a fair and immediate trial. In the meantime, his incarceration must be humane and safe.

Q fireinthesky7: What are your thoughts on the situation in Wisconsin re: collective bargaining, the budget, and the ongoing protests? And I know you probably can’t truthfully answer this, but how often do you tune out boring congressional talk by browsing Reddit?

A: Bravo for the men and women in Wisconsin fighting to preserve a fundamental right to join a union and bargain collectively. Every American worker should have the right to collectively bargain. I believe that the more working men and women in this country have the ability to negotiate over wages, benefits, and working conditions, the better off all American workers are – union or not. Management has a seat at the negotiating table. It is only fair that employees have a seat there as well.

By fighting for fair wages and benefits, unions helped create America’s middle class. Their effort for safe working conditions have saved countless lives at factories, mines, and other worksites. I am reminded of the bumper sticker that reads “The labor movement by the folks who brought you the weekend.” Governor Walker’s union-busting drive is pure politics, designed to crush organizations that tend to support Democrats while simultaneously strengthening the power of Republican donors. That’s just the reality. Public sector workers play a vital role in communities across the country. They teach our children, prevent our houses from burning down, and keep our streets safe. Public sector workers implement new financial regulatory laws to prevent another collapse of the financial sector. They build the roads and bridges our country’s infrastructure desperately needs. They perform crucial scientific research that leads to vaccines and new job-creating industries. Government workers and funding led to the internet, Google, and the mapping of the human genome. Like you, I tune out “boring congressional talk”, but I’ve learned that a lot on Reddit is far from boring. My staff prepares a daily reading packet for me, stories they think I should read or  would find interesting. And yes, many of those stories have come from Reddit (I also browse periodically, skipping anything boring). This community is a great distiller of what’s important.
Q IMadeYourDrink: Would you mind explaining your thoughts on Citizens United, and corporate personhood in general? Do you have any ideas on how to make individuals, not corporations more widely heard in elections?

A: This Supreme Court decision will go down as one of the worst in American history. It creates a fundamental threat to our democracy by allowing unregulated secret campaign contributions in any amount. I find it hypocritical that throughout the past two decades, the Republican Party’s stated policy on campaign finance reform was full and immediate disclosure of contributors. With the Supreme Court decision, they switched their policy and opposed every bill that would require disclosure (see: The DISCLOSE Act).

reply porkbyproduct: I’m a Republican and even I agree with you on this one.

Q: jpaape How do you feel about the extension of the Patriot Act? Edit: I would also like to hear your opinion on whether you believe that citizens should have the right to defend themselves against the police by means of audio or video recording.

A:  Our civil rights as protected in the Bill of Rights and later amendments are fundamental to this nation’s future. i am concerned about the abergation of rights in the Patriot Act. Therefore, earlier this year, I voted to let parts of the PATRIOT Act expire because I thought those provisions were an unnecessary abridgment of civil liberties. The PATRIOT Act was a 342 page sweeping change in our laws. Some provisions are good policy. Many are not. If there are specific provisions you are curious about, I’d be happy to delve into them. I do not see a problem in filming police activities and as any protestor knows, police film protestors.

There’s a bunch of more questions that the House Rep. answered. It’s great to see a social network community like reddit become popular amongst politicians. It’s refreshing to see politicians taking the initiative to reach out to voters. If only others would follow suit so issues could really be discussed.