In light of the recent leaks regarding the NSA’s PRISM program and its seizure of Verizon phone records, this video at the Huffington Post has been making the rounds on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit.
The video portrays then-Senator Russ Feingold predicting in 2001 the extent to which the PATRIOT Act would authorize the federal government to snoop into people’s private lives. Feingold later lost his seat in the Senate in his 2010 race against Tea Party-favorite Ron Johnson – who voted in favor of reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act in 2011.
What makes the video so notable is that Feingold was the only Senator to vote against the act at the time (later reauthorizations received more resistance). This wasn’t the case in the House, where 66 Representatives voted ‘Nay’ in 2001.
Of these 66, the vast majority are still in office. A handful of that group have passed away or retired from public office, but most have stayed in office or gone on to become Senators or Governors for their respective states. Only eight have gone on to lose elections in the years since.
Georgia’s Cynthia McKinney was booted out of office twice. In 2002 she lost in the Democratic primaries after speaking in favor of Arab causes and claiming that President Bush had prior knowledge of the 9/11 terrorist attacks (her father making anti-Semitic remarks on television certainly didn’t do her any favors either). Despite being re-elected in 2004, McKinney lost in a 2006 primary election due to striking a Capitol Hill Police Officer earlier that year for stopping her and asking for identification.
Pro-Israel opposition also led to the defeat of Alabama’s Earl Hilliard in 2002. In 1997, Hilliard had made a trip to Libya and voted against a House resolution condemning Palestinian suicide bombing. Four years later, he voted against a bill increasing military support to Israel and criminalizing Palestinian politicians. These factors led to national Jewish organizations backing Hilliard’s opponent, Artur Davis, who took up the issue, stating: “My opponent, Earl Hilliard, has not been a strong supporter of Israel. I have been a very strong supporter of Israel, and if I am elected, Israel will have a friend.”
Two of the Representatives who voted against the PATRIOT Act and lost primaries against popular Democrats due to redistricting. Michigan’s Lynn Rivers found herself running against John Dingell, who had also been a ‘Nay’ on the surveillance law. Dingell won the primary with an overwhelming 64 percent of the vote. Ohio’s Dennis Kucinich was forced to run against incumbent Marcy Kaptur (who had voted in favor of the PATRIOT Act) in 2012 due to his district being eliminated after the 2010 election cycle and lost by a whopping 24 points.
West Virginia’s Alan Mollohan lost his 2010 primary due to his district moving to the right. His opponent, Mike Oliverio, was a conservative Democrat who ran on a platform of aiming to reduce the national debt, being pro-life, and opposing gay marriage. Oliverio won 56% of the vote in the primary and then went on to lose the general election to Republican David McKinley.
Virginia’s Rick Boucher also fell victim to an Appalachian district moving to the right in 2010. Unchallenged by another Democrat in the primaries, he went on to face competition from Republican Morgan Griffith. Griffith brought down Boucher by tying him to President Obama and Nancy Pelosi, running ads with claims like “Obama loves Rick Boucher.” Griffith won the seat with 51.3% of the vote.
Minnesota’s Jim Oberstar faced Tea Party newcomer Chip Cravaack in 2010. Cravaack attacked Oberstar for voting in favor of health care reform, earmarking funding for local infrastructure products, and for voting in favor of cap and trade legislation. Cravaack’s victory was extremely close – 48% to 47%.
California’s Pete Stark faced a rather peculiar situation last year’s election. Under California’s new “nonpartisan blanket” primary system, anyone – regardless of party affiliation – can participate in the primary. The two candidates with the most votes go on to the general election. For Stark, this meant running against fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell. Stark had a higher percentage of the vote in the primary but lost the general election 53% to 47%.