Media report Palin's claim that Obama has not "authored ... a single major law or reform" without noting laws he has passed

››› ››› LAUREN AUERBACH

Numerous print media outlets uncritically reported Gov. Sarah Palin's claim that Sen. Barack Obama "is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform -- not even in the state senate," without noting that Obama has played key roles in the passage of reform legislation at both the federal and state levels, including a bill that McCain co-sponsored and thanked Obama for his work on.

In reporting on Gov. Sarah Palin's September 3 speech at the Republican National Convention, numerous print media, including the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Time magazine, the Dallas Morning News, Reuters, and an article and a column by Debra Saunders in the San Francisco Chronicle, uncritically reported Palin's claim that Sen. Barack Obama "is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform -- not even in the state senate," without noting that Obama has played key roles in the passage of reform legislation at both the federal and state levels. For example, Sen. John McCain, a co-sponsor of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, thanked Obama for his work on the bill.

Obama was a lead co-sponsor of that bill (S.2590), which sought to "require full disclosure of all entities and organizations receiving Federal funds" -- an amount that approximately totals $1 trillion in federal grants, contracts, earmarks and loans. While signing the bill into law on September 26, 2006, Bush recognized Obama as a sponsor of the legislation, saying, "I want to thank the bill sponsors, Tom Coburn from Oklahoma, Tom Carper from Delaware, and Barack Obama from Illinois." Moreover, in a press release upon Senate passage of the bill, the bill's primary sponsor, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), referred to the legislation as the "Coburn-Obama Bill." In media reports, the bill has also been referred to as the "Coburn-Obama" legislation or bill.

At the state level, Obama was a co-sponsor of a 1998 Illinois ethics law outlawing political fundraising on Illinois state property and barring lobbyists from giving gifts to state legislators. Obama biographer David Mendell wrote about Obama's work on the bill in his book Obama From Promise to Power:

Working the bill was an eye-opening experience for the freshman senator. It was a tough assignment for a new lawmaker, since he was essentially sponsoring legislation that would strip away long-held privileges and perks from his colleagues. In one private session, a close colleague angrily denounced the bill, saying it impinged on lawmakers' inherent rights. But Obama worked the issue deliberately and delicately, and the measure passed the senate by an overwhelming 52-4 vote. "This sets the standard for us, and communicates to a public that is increasingly cynical about Springfield and the General Assembly that we in fact are willing to do the right thing," Obama told reporters immediately after the bill's passage. The bill was not a watershed event anywhere but Illinois. It essentially lifted Illinois, a state with a deep history of illicit, pay-to-play politics, into the modern world when it came to ethics restrictions. [Page 124]

Obama was also the sponsor of the "Democratic Republic of Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2005" (S.2125), signed into law by President Bush on December 22, 2006. Obama worked with Republican Sen. Richard Lugar (IN) to produce the "Lugar-Obama proliferation and threat reduction initiative," which President Bush signed into law on January 11, 2007. The initiative, according to Obama's Senate website, "expands U.S. cooperation to destroy conventional weapons. It also expands the State Department's ability to detect and interdict weapons and materials of mass destruction."

Obama also introduced a bill in the Illinois senate requiring police departments to videotape interrogations of murder suspects within interrogation rooms. The bill was signed into law in 2003. A May 9, 2003, Chicago Daily Herald article reported on Obama's involvement in the bill:

[Gov. Rod] Blagojevich's indication Thursday that he supports the plan is a turnaround from his previous position. The governor previously said he opposed videotaping interrogations but supported taping of confessions.

Blagojevich said he'd changed his mind after being satisfied that Obama had ironed out "some of the practical challenges that deal with the issue of videotaping interrogations."

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