The Truth About Nancy Pelosi
San Francisco's one current representative in Congress is Nancy Pelosi. Some view her positively, and she can talk the talk when in the right company. But she doesn't walk the walk on the biggest issues. In many ways, she's simply out of step with San Francisco.
Consider the Iraq War and the Patriot Act – issues on which the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and her constituents are on the record. On both issues, she's voted against the stated views of the people she represents. We live in a democracy, and she should expect to be held accountable for such votes.
1. WAR on Iraq
- March 20, 2003 - The day after the war on Iraq was launched, as thousands upon thousands of her constituents were marching in the streets of San Francisco protesting the unilateral invasion, Pelosi was in Congress condemning the demonstrators. She voted that very day for a resolution declaring "unequivocal support and appreciation to the president...for his firm leadership and decisive action." And she used her leadership position in Congress to urge others to sign on to the resolution.
- November 2, 2004 - In a referendum put to Pelosi's constituents, 63% voted in favor of the statement, "The federal government should take immediate steps to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq and bring our troops safely home now." This number, 63%, is surely low, as the entire city of San Francisco voted on it, while Pelosi only represents the city's more progressive eastern half.
- January 12, 2005 - Two months after the November referendum, Bay Area Congressional Representatives Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee, Pete Stark, and Sam Farr joined Democratic colleagues from across the country in signing a letter to President Bush calling for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Pelosi conspicuously refused to sign on.
- November 17, 2005 - Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) made a brave, groundbreaking call for immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Pelosi stood up and said, "Representative Murtha speaks for himself." And just one day later, on Nov. 18, 2006, she voted against immediate withdrawal from Iraq. She used her leadership position as House Democratic Leader to encourage others to oppose Murtha. Doing so helped to kill the momentum building at that time to force a timetable for troop withdrawals.
- November 30, 2005 - Two weeks later (interestingly, just after local San Francisco Green Medea Benjamin spoke about possibly running against Pelosi), Pelosi reversed course and said she supported Murtha's call for immediate withdrawal. Still, she took no action and refused to use her leadership position to call for a 'party caucus position,' which would have put the majority of the Democratic Party on record against the war and shifted the national debate about the war. Indeed, at a point when two thirds of Americans had acknowledged that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, and when a majority of Americans began saying that the time had come to start rectifying that mistake by bringing the troops home, Pelosi's actions stalled the national debate and weakened the Democratic Party's stance.
- Pelosi has voted again and again to approve ever-increasing military spending. Year after year, she is a reliable ally of the military when they invariably request more. Of specific note, in 2002, she voted for a bill that allocated billions of new money for the development of new "low-yield," "usable" nuclear weapons. In 2003, she voted in favor of a bill that exempted the military from the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
2. PATRIOT ACT
Despite the opposition of San Franciscans, Pelosi did not join – let alone lead – the 66 legislators who opposed this Orwellian legislation. No, she voted for the Patriot Act, which gives enormous, unwarranted power to the executive branch, unchecked by meaningful judicial review. This new authority has been used against American citizens in routine criminal investigations unrelated to terrorism, against immigrants within our borders legally, and against those whose First Amendment activities are deemed by the Attorney General to be threats to national security. Again, she used her powerful leadership position in Congress to urge other representatives to vote with her.
- See Pelosi's own words on her promise to "stand shoulder to shoulder with the President" on this and other erosions of civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism.
3. NSA WIRETAPPING
- Pelosi was one of very few legislators who learned about Bush's authorization of secret warrant-less wiretapping of U.S. citizens. She chose to go along with Bush's wishes and to say nothing for six months about this clear violation of the Constitution.
"I was advised of President Bush's decision to provide [wiretapping] authority to the National Security Agency...and I have been provided with updates on several occasions," she acknowledged.
- Pelosi voted for NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) and supported it throughout its tortuous path into law. She has supported, and continues to support, other similar laws that entrench and exacerbate the most exploitative types of globalization, and generally refuses to insist on environmental or labor clauses in these bills to mitigate their worst effects. While she finally did vote against CAFTA (the Central American Free Trade Agreement) during the highly contentious vote last July, she chose not to use her leadership position to convince others to follow her lead, effectively assuring its passage. CAFTA passed 217-215, with 15 Democrats voting for it.
5. NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND
- Pelosi voted for this bill, another counter-intuitively named Bush law. In addition to, according to the latest Harvard study, accomplishing the opposite of its stated goal – bringing minority achievment up to national levels – this school 'reform' withholds federal money from any school which does not provide military recruiters not only with access to facilities, but also with contact information for every student. This bill also withholds federal money from any school district that prevents or denies students from participating in constitutionally protected prayer in public schools, and also withholds federal money to any school district that denies Boy Scouts the use of school facilities but allows other youth groups to use those same facilities.
6. Tax Cuts for the Wealthy
- Pelosi has voted to support Bush's call for raising the debt ceiling to finance further military expenditures and saddle future generations with even higher debt payments. She also opposed a call from progressives to examine the effect of the 1.35 trillion dollar 2001 tax cut on the budget before voting on this bill to go further into debt.
- She opposed an effort by progressives to raise the issue of corporate corruption during 2002, as Republicans were making a concerted attempt to make permanent the various temporary provisions in the $1.35 trillion Bush tax cut of 2001.
7. PRESIDIO Privatization
- Not only has this been bad for San Francisco, but it's providing a precedent for efforts to privatize other national parks around the country. The SF Guardian reported:
It's been just over 10 years since Congress passed Rep. Nancy Pelosi's Presidio Trust legislation, effectively creating the first privatized national park in the United States. The results are pretty clear: Just cruise through the Presidio and check out the gigantic new office complex George Lucas has built. In fact, the private business interests that were given control of the park in 1995 now oversee more than 80 percent of the 1,408-acre parcel. The goal of the privatizers: raise enough money from development, leases, and other real estate deals to pay the entire cost of running the park by 2013. That's what Pelosi's legislation requires.
It's a terrible disaster for San Francisco. And at the time we warned it would set a terrible precedent for the nation: Once you turn the national parks over to private interests and require the parks to pay for themselves, you'll get the equivalent of Nike Corp. putting logos on the Grand Canyon and casinos demanding concessions at Yosemite.
Guess what? Just as we had feared and warned, the Republicans have discovered Pelosi's lovely precedent, and are looking at ways to privatize 350 million acres of public land. A rider by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Tracy) that would have allowed big corporations to take over public parcels for almost nothing nearly snuck into a 2005 budget bill. And earlier this year, Rep. Mark Souder, an Indiana Republican, introduced a bill that would in many ways mirror Pelosi's model for the entire national park system, by cutting back on park funding and requiring the parks to find corporate sponsors to make up the difference.
This is a gigantic leap from the philosophy behind the formation of the national park system a century ago. National parks aren't supposed to be revenue generators. They're supposed to be publicly supported and publicly controlled places where the public can enjoy the natural world.
For years, the right wing of the Republican party has been trying to undo that social contract: When Ronald Reagan was president, his interior secretary, James Watt, proposed letting Disney take over the Grand Canyon � but the idea was so roundly dismissed as lunacy that it never went very far.
In fact, nobody really took it seriously until a San Francisco Democrat, a woman who is now the highest-ranking Democratic politician in Washington, decided to give it liberal credibility
8. GAY MARRIAGE
- Pelosi refused to support gay marriage and kept silent for over a month after gay marriages began in San Francisco. Then, when it was safe, once the California Supreme Court had halted the marriages, she emerged and said that she had in fact supported gay marriage all along.
9. GMO Foods
- She voted against progressives, and supported Bush in his challenge on rules for export/import of genetically-modified foods to Europe.
10. PUBLIC POWER
- She has repeatedly taken no position on the huge grassroots efforts to bring public power to San Francisco. A 'no position' from San Francisco's primary representative in D.C. has effectively robbed San Francisco of leadership on implementation of the federal Raker Act's mandate on public power for San Francisco.
11. Renewable Energy
- Pelosi has a surprisingly poor record on this.
- Voted against increasing funding for renewable energy on June 25, 2004
- Voted against allocating $52 million from fossil fuel to renewables on June 21, 2001
12. Sentencing Guidelines
Pelosi voted against progressives and supported an amendment that severely limits judges' discretion – specifically their ability to departure downward when sentencing offenders under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. This amendment forces judges to ignore extenuating circumstance and limits their flexibility when handing down sentences. It also requires the Department of Justice to develop a black list of judges who use downward departures in these types of cases.
13. 'Rave' Parties
- On April 10, 2003, Pelosi voted to effectively ban the popular dance parties called 'raves'. The RAVE Act (Reducing America's Vulnerability to Ecstacy Act) gives federal prosecutors new powers to shut down community events and punish business owners for hosting and promoting them, potentially subjecting innocent business-owners to enormous fines and imprisonment if customers sell or use drugs on premises or at their events – even if they were not involved in the offenses in any way. According to the Electronic Music Defense & Education Fund: "Punishing innocent businessmen and women for the crimes of their customers is unprecedented in U.S. history."
Despite receiving the Cesar Chavez Award from the United Farmworkers Union, Pelosi and her husband own a $25 million vineyard which is a non-union shop.
The Pelosis are also partners in a restaurant chain called Piatti, which has 900 employees. The chain is also a non-union shop.
15. Personal Finances
While the details of a candidate's personal life shouldn't generally be considered when analyzing that candidate's suitability for public office, Pelosi's status as a multi-millionaire property tycoon is germane in analyzing her above policy decisions. Under law, she has declared she owns with her husband two vineyards in St. Helena and Rutherford, Calif., worth from $6-26 million. The Pelosis also own six California properties worth from $3-11 million. There are many more millions of dollars worth of real estate and stock owned solely by her husband Paul, but she hasn't yet had to specify exactly how much and has only given ballpark figures. Of note, in their portfolio is part ownership of the luxurious CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin, CA, which they were granted a permit to build in 1996 only if they created natural habitats for several local endangered species. To date, these habitats still have not been built. The golf course has also been cited for polluting groundwater. They have hired lobbyists to fight the regulations.
- Her status as fabulously wealthy may explain why she has voted at times with Bush on tax cuts and wars that benefit only this nation's extremely wealthy and powerful.
Nancy's Own Words
"Yes, I would support the President."
When asked, before Bush launched the war, whether she would support him if he were to decide to attack Iraq "unilaterally or with [just] the British and the Turks, and without UN approval."
"We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the President."
When asked about her personal position, and the position she takes as House Democratic Leader, on President Bush's various measures reducing civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism.
"We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the President in the fight against terrorism."
Later, in the same interview, when asked about the waning sense of threat from Al Qaeda.
Source: David Corn, The Nation, 11/20/2002.