Press Releases

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) applauded the House of Representatives for passing HR 2356, the landmark Shays-Meehan comprehensive campaign finance reform legislation, tonight by a vote of 240-189.

“The Shays-Meehan reform bill will eliminate the most egregious aspect of campaign financing — soft money,”  Smith said.  “Soft money contributions are the unlimited and unregulated amounts of money that are given to political parties and then funneled to candidates.  It’s a loophole that has allowed big contributors to avoid federal election law and public scrutiny.”

“Under current law, campaign spending can be hidden in ‘soft money,’” Smith explained. “For example, although a PAC can only contribute $5,000 per election to a candidate, it could contribute unlimited amounts of money to a state political party to use on behalf of that same candidate.  Soft money violates the spirit of the law, and it should be regulated like all political contributions.”

In addition to eliminating federal soft money, Shays-Meehan also limits the use of state party soft money contributions for federal candidates, regulates issue advocacy and strengthens the ability of the Federal Election Commission to ensure that election laws are obeyed.

“I am very proud to have been a co-sponsor of this important bipartisan, bicameral legislation.  This is something that we’ve been working towards for a long time, and after five years, this is the first time that campaign finance reform has passed both the House and the Senate,” Smith said.  “A strong coalition of Democrats and Republicans worked together to limit the influence of wealthy contributors in elections and give regular Americans a louder voice in their democracy, and I hope that President Bush will sign the bill without delay.”

As Congress prepares to respond to the Bush administration’s budget proposal, Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) has invited 9th District residents to participate in a workshop on balancing the federal budget.  The workshop will be held on Saturday, February 23 from 9:30a.m. to 12:00p.m. at Highline Community College in Des Moines. 

Participants will be divided into small groups and given information on the federal government’s income and expenses.  They will then face the daunting task of proposing a federal budget, based on their own established priorities.  Citizens will decide which programs to increase, freeze, or cut and whether or not we should raise, maintain, or cut taxes. 

“One of my goals is to bring government closer to the people,” Smith explained. “This exercise is a great way both for constituents to learn more about the choices their representatives struggle with in Congress and, even more importantly, for me to learn firsthand what their priorities and preferences are.”

This is the third year Smith has hosted a constituent budget workshop.

Members of the media are encouraged to attend and should RSVP separately from the general public by calling Katharine Lister at (202) 225-8901.

                WHAT:                9th District Budget Workshop with 
                                             Congressman Adam Smith

                WHEN:                Saturday, February 23, 2002
                                              9:30a.m. to 12:00p.m.

                WHERE:             Highline Community College, Building Two
                                             2400 South 240th Street, Des Moines

                CONTACT:        9th District residents should contact Congressman Smith’s
                                            Tacoma Office at (253) 593-6600.  Media should contact 
                                            Katharine Lister at (202) 225-8901.

Last week, Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) welcomed two new staffers to his Washington D.C. office.
     
Katy Andrew joins the Smith team as the new scheduler and office manager after finishing her bachelor’s degree in History at Washington State University.  A native of  Longview, WA, Ms. Andrew is no stranger to the office, as she interned for Smith in D.C. during the summer of 2000.  She replaces Smith’s scheduler of two years, Sara Szalay, who is moving to Denver to attend graduate school.

Taking over in the office as Communications Director is Katharine Lister.  After graduating from Yale University in 2000 with a degree in History of Art, Ms. Lister spent over a year with the Democratic Leadership Council and Progressive Policy Institute.

“I am pleased that both Katy and Katharine are joining our office,” Smith said. “Katy’s energy and commitment are outstanding, and Katharine’s experience with both New Democrat politics and policy make her a terrific spokesperson for my office.”

“While the President continues to do a good job on the war effort, I was disappointed by the lack of fiscal discipline in his speech tonight.  After eight years of prudent financial management and four years of budget surpluses, the White House is now predicting deficits for the next four years.  The only way we can reverse this pattern is through careful fiscal moderation and disciplined spending — making tough choices.  We have to make sure government lives within its means and I hope the President understands that.”

This week, Congress is poised to send President Bush a far-reaching education plan that would dramatically change how federal education dollars are spent.

Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith, a longtime proponent of more flexibility for local schools and results-based accountability, hailed the package as “the biggest change in federal education policy since the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” in the late 1960’s.

“For the first time, we will measure a school’s success and take real, meaningful action when the school is failing,” Smith said.  “It’s simply inexcusable that for so long, so many children - often low-income and minority children - have been wasting away in failing public schools.  We’ve got to change that - every child deserves the opportunity to succeed.”

The bill would require states to establish a minimum level of educational standards and monitor schools’ progress on meeting those standards.  Schools that fail to improve would be subject to additional assistance and action: after two years, schools would receive extra funding and federal assistance in developing a two-year improvement plan.  Students may transfer to another public school and can use federal funds for private tutoring or summer school programs.  If the two-year improvement plan fails to make the needed improvements, the school could have its staff and curriculum replaced or be converted into a charter school.

The legislation also allows school districts far more flexibility in determining how to spend federal funds.

“We used to have more than sixty federal education programs, and schools were required to spend each pot of money for a very narrow purpose,” said Smith.  “Now, schools are going to have much for flexibility and will be able to determine where they need to spend money and can move funds between programs more freely.  That’s critical if we want to have a school that adequately meets the needs of its students every year.”
Smith has been a longtime proponent of allowing greater local flexibility and results-based accountability in our public schools.  After extensive discussions with teachers, administrators, parents, and education experts, Smith introduced the Empowering Local Schools Act in January of 2000.  In 2001, he joined with fellow New Democrat Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) in introducing the Three R’s Act, which was very similar to the Empowering Local Schools Act.

Although the final education package does not exactly mirror these bills, it reflects many of the principles Smith has advanced in the education debate.

“I preferred to give states more flexibility in determining when to administer tests to students and to provide more funding based on a per-pupil and poverty formula instead of through grants,” explained Smith.  “However, this bill is an enormous step in the right direction, and I’m proud to support the bill.”

This legislation authorizes changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and funding levels.  However, Congress still needs to appropriate funds on an annual basis beginning next year.  Smith says the fight for improved public schools is not over.

“It’s been a priority to me that we not only ensure public schools have adequate funding, but that we spend the money in the right way,” noted Smith.  “We’re now making dramatic changes in how we send federal dollars to our local schools, and now Congress has to fulfill its end of the bargain with our local schools and ensure they have the resources to get the job done.  Turning around failing schools, requiring that all teachers be qualified in the subjects they teach, and assisting students with tutoring and summer school will all cost money. ”

The bill is expected to be passed by the Senate and House this week and be signed into law before Christmas.

For more background on Smith’s education bill and position on the federal role of education, please see the following press releases, speeches, and op/ed pieces:

www.house.gov/adamsmith/5-24-01.html
www.house.gov/adamsmith/1-22-01a.html
www.house.gov/adamsmith/1-18-00.html
www.house.gov/adamsmith/11-16-99.html
www.house.gov/adamsmith/Oped23.html
www.house.gov/adamsmith/oped22.html
www.house.gov/adamsmith/sp_6-23-99.html