UPDATE: Thank you Reddit community for having me today. 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

UPDATE (staff): For the purposes of continuing dialogue next time, please take note of permalinks for parts of the conversation you would like continued. We frankly didn't anticipate the level of response we got, and we appreciate your interest. We look forward to continuing the conversation soon.

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.

http://garamendi.house.gov http://www.twitter.com/repgaramendi http://www.facebook.com/repgaramendi http://www.youtube.com/repgaramendi

UPDATE #1: A few people requested proof... http://twitter.com/RepGaramendi/status/42964877148561409

Comments: 2564 • Responses: 29  • Date: 

anexanhume1263 karma


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.

RepJohnGaramendi326 karma

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.

[deleted]161 karma

This. With >$3.5 billion in lobbying and ~$6 billion in campaign contributions, I find it hard to believe that no one owes any favors...

Zomgondo209 karma

"If you can't eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women and then vote against them, you have no business being up here." --Jesse Unruh, California politician

chriszuma63 karma

Jesse Unruh sounds like a badass.

RepJohnGaramendi151 karma

He was certainly an interesting person.

ocrow133 karma

Just gonna post this here for reference: John Garamendi's campaign donations: http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.php?cid=N00030856&cycle=2010

RepJohnGaramendi253 karma

No secrets. You have a right to know, and we have a right to know about secret corporate contributions. Citizens United is a threat to our democracy.

ProbablyJustArguing30 karma

And to expound upon this, do you think it's possible to do your job while continuously campaigning for re-election?

RepJohnGaramendi124 karma

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.

ap3lovr600 karma

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

RepJohnGaramendi217 karma

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.

Negative_Gravitas572 karma

When it comes to budget cutting, why is the trillion dollars being spent every year on defense and homeland security sacrosanct?

Why have the engineers of the financial crisis never been prosecuted? (Madoff doesn't count.)

And, by the way, thanks very much for doing this.

Edit: I changed "the military" to "defense" in the first question. The distinction generated quite a lot of steam--some of it very civil, some of it not so.

RepJohnGaramendi469 karma

It should not be sacrosanct. There is a lot of Pentagon spending that is wasteful and unnecessary. Every dollar we spend on unnecessary equipment, on fighting the war in Afghanistan, on maintaining bases where they aren’t necessary, is a dollar we can’t invest in job creation or in paying down the deficit.

Here's a curious example of Pentagon spending; As you know, IEDs are a major source of death and injury in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, the military decided that they need to develop a way to find IEDs. They set about to create an artificial dog's nose. After spending $22 million, they had not yet succeeded. I asked them, "Why don't you just get a dog?" The General answered, "Dogs get tired." I said, "Get two dogs."

We need to have a laserlike focus on Al Qaeda, and I don’t see how a large scale military presence in Afghanistan, essentially taking sides in their civil war, is keeping America safe. I’ve been asking the tough questions that need to be asked on the Armed Services Committee and will continue to do so. During the vote two weeks ago on the horrible Republican spending bill, I voted against most amendments that boosted funding for military equipment. It’s a start.

As for Wall Street, let’s be blunt. The most exploitative bankers have powerful allies, and there is a lot of secrecy in the big board rooms of America. It can be hard to distinguish between those who were simply wrong and those who actively profiteered knowing they were setting our economy up for a tailspin. This is further evidence of the need to remove corporate money from politics. Campaign finance reform should be a priority for all Americans who want transparency in government and on Wall Street.

ProbablyJustArguing145 karma

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

RepJohnGaramendi801 karma

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.

jpaape486 karma

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.

RepJohnGaramendi168 karma

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.

c0mb0b0wl110 karma

Based on your voting record it seems you are certainly opposed to the extensions:


In light of this, is there any talk amongst the minority in the house to change or repeal the extended provisions?

RepJohnGaramendi84 karma

There is strong sentiment among Democrats and some Republicans that some provisions of the PATRIOT Act go too far and change should occur.

InnOfAsians458 karma

Do you feel more obligated to the needs of your constituency, or to the agenda of your party? How do your personal beliefs factor in to your votes?

RepJohnGaramendi105 karma

My first duty as a Representative is to, well, represent my constituents in Washington. These days especially, that means fighting tooth and nail for policies that create good American jobs. I have the added advantage of believing that the Democratic Party generally has the better solutions to the major issues facing America today. It’s exciting to have a job where I can wake up every morning and ask myself, “How can I help my country today?” I am not often placed in the position of choosing between the interests of my constituents or the interests of my party because they are usually one and the same. But ultimately I represent the people of the 10th Congressional District.

eramos419 karma

How often do the outspoken opinions (e.g. letters or phone calls) sent by your constituents influence your votes and/or actions?

RepJohnGaramendi375 karma

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.

SheStillMay346 karma

What is your position regarding net neutrality?

RepJohnGaramendi385 karma

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.

flaarg218 karma

To expand on the question, could you explain in your words what you believe net neutrality to be?

RepJohnGaramendi258 karma

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

fireinthesky7323 karma

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?

RepJohnGaramendi224 karma

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.

QuesoBadger48 karma

Also, Dave Obey: Best Congressman Ever?

RepJohnGaramendi71 karma

You got that right.

IMadeYourDrink317 karma

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?

RepJohnGaramendi237 karma

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).

ohyeathatsright60 karma

Does the recent ruling against corporations right to "personal" privacy from FOIA requests, FCC vs. AT&T, impact the seemingly contradictory ruling on Citizens United? Has this caused some legislators to revisit their opinions of corporate person-hood?

RepJohnGaramendi64 karma

This is a one day old decision. I've not had time to think about how this relates to Citizens United, but I'd be delighted if you could respond with your thoughts.

corybantic302 karma

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

RepJohnGaramendi311 karma

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.

Jaklcide268 karma

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

RepJohnGaramendi172 karma

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.

dannyboi965255 karma


RepJohnGaramendi95 karma

As for this Democrat, I voted to limit the PATRIOT Act, against the Afghan War, against the tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, and against the Republican Continuing Resolution which would gut environmental and health laws and destroy at least 700,000 jobs.

Dhoc229 karma

What issues do you feel recently have been important but have not gained attention from the media?

RepJohnGaramendi292 karma

Good question. Over the past 40 years, through effective lobbying. We have seen a major shift in this country's distribution of wealth, The wealthiest Americans’ share of the economic pie has ballooned at the expense of working and middle class Americans. For example, the top 0.1 percent of Americans have seen their slice of the economic pie grow from 2.7 percent to 12.3 percent of income since the 1970s while the middle class has seen virtually no improvement. Income for the top 1 percent has increased from around 8 percent to more than 18 percent. One more: in 1965, the average CEO of a large corporation in America made 24 times the earnings of their workers. By 2007, average CEO salary was rising close to 300 times the average worker's salary. This is all in Jacob Hacker's Winner Takes All Politics, a book I highly recommend.

I don’t think the media does a good enough job highlighting the real struggles of Americans who just can’t make it in America.

There is economic class warfare in this country, and the rich are winning. That’s just a fact, and it should be reported as such.

Yserbius223 karma

  • What part of being in Congress do you find completely insufferable?
  • What part do you love?

RepJohnGaramendi94 karma

As for what I find insufferable, may I use a more civil word: tedious. When the Republicans take the floor for their one hour special order every evening and make the most ludicrous (is this an uncivil word?) arguments.

RepJohnGaramendi54 karma

I love the issues, and I accept the process. The most critical issues facing our country and world are being debated in Congress every day. It's a great honor and privilage to be here and participate in making these crucial decisions that will impact every life on this planet. The process is not easy nor is it pretty, but it is our democracy and all of us must pay attention and hold members of Congress accountable.

kleinbl00144 karma

Why hasn't a livable minimum wage been a campaign issue since, like, the depression?

stonedalone83 karma

Economic analysis generally indicates that the minimum wage doesn't have its intended effects and generally just benefits high school and college students who aren't providing for a family. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is generally better at supplementing a poor working family's income.

RepJohnGaramendi30 karma

They are both important and you made a good point about the benefit of the EITC. One problem with the EITC is that many individuals and families do not take advantage of it, so we should all work to get the information out.

RepJohnGaramendi55 karma

The Democratic 111th Congress increased the federal minimum wage in 2010- the first time in over a decade, despite years of inflation. It's still not a livable wage, but it's sure better.

jmmL136 karma

From looking at your wikipedia page you served in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia. What was it like at the time? How tense was the situation with Eritrea? Any cool stories or memories?

Forgive me if this seems "off-topic".

RepJohnGaramendi75 karma

March 1st was the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. Together with three other Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, we spoke on the floor of the House about the value of the Peace Corps and our personal experiences. This will be on our website (http://garamendi.house.gov) and YouTube page (http://www.youtube.com/repgaramendi) on Thursday. I hope you'll take the time to view it.

shadowguise122 karma

No offense, but proof? Or at least get the mods to star this.

puma9thchild43 karma

Just to confirm...you mean Wednesday right?

RepJohnGaramendi68 karma

FROM STAFF: Thank you for the heads up. Corrected.

el_tigre_negro38 karma

Do you guys need any summer interns? I'm from California's 10th and I'm in DC for school.

RepJohnGaramendi54 karma

FROM STAFF: Thank you for your interest. Please call our DC office at 202-225-1880 during business hours. We have not started filling summer internships yet but will soon enough.