In his January 17 column for The Hill, Fox News analyst Dick Morris attacked presumptive presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), claiming that Obama "made his first misstep a few days ago when he joined only a handful of Democrats in opposing a Senate reform banning the increasingly widespread practice of legislators hiring their family members on their campaign or PAC [political action committee] payrolls." Morris was apparently referring to a proposed amendment by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) to the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007 that Morris claimed Obama voted against. In fact, on January 10, Obama voted against a motion to table -- or postpone consideration of and effectively kill -- the amendment.
As of January 16, the vote to table Vitter's amendment has been the only Senate roll-call vote during the 110th Congress on the issue of legislators hiring family members to their campaign committees or PACs.
Presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) made his first misstep a few days ago when he joined only a handful of Democrats in opposing a Senate reform banning the increasingly widespread practice of legislators hiring their family members on their campaign or PAC payrolls. Obama has not heard the last of this vote. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who opposes wives cashing in on their husbands' positions, voted righteously in favor of the reform and will probably use the Illinois senator's vote against him in the presidential primaries.
Obama's inexplicable pro-nepotism vote may have been cast in sympathy with Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), whose hiring of his wife, Sandi, to work on his campaign prompted an FEC ruling allowing the practice. Jackson might be afraid that the Senate action will catalyze a similar reform in the House, which could cut way back on his disposable family income.
But whatever the reason for his vote, Obama has screwed up. The public will not take kindly to a senator who pledged to clean up the political process voting to allow wives to be hired with special-interest campaign funds.
But, as the weblog Obamarama, authored by former Media Matters for America staffer Jeremy Cluchey, noted in a January 17 entry, Morris' claim "is, put quite simply, wrong":
The roll call on the vote shows that Sen. Obama voted Nay - against tabling the amendment, or essentially in support of debating it. He was in the minority, and the amendment was tabled, meaning it will not be able to be considered for addition to the ethics bill.
The motion to table the amendment passed 54-41, with 17 Republicans joining 35 Democrats and two Independents in voting to table the amendment, while 30 Republicans and 11 Democrats -- including Obama -- voted against the motion.