John Conyers' Life and Political Career
By Discover The Networks
Born in Detroit in May 1929, John Conyers, Jr. is a Democratic Member of Congress who represents the 14th District of Michigan, which includes roughly half of Detroit, most of Dearborn (with America's largest Arab-American community), and all of Hamtramck. This district, slightly redrawn since the 2000 Census, has an electorate that is 61 percent black. Conyers chairs the powerful House Judiciary Committee and sits on several subcommittees.
Conyers has been an Executive Board member of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Detroit chapter since 1964, and of the NAACP’s Detroit chapter since 1963. He is also amember of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. He was formerly a National Executive Board member of the National Lawyers Guild, and an Advisory Committee member of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. His official congressional website allows visitors, at the click of a mouse, to read its contents in Arabic.
Conyers was the first of five children born to a factory auto painter who became a leftwing organizer for the United Auto Workers (UAW), one of the first labor unions to organize black employees. Begun in 1935, the UAW was dedicated to class warfare by its parent coalition, the Congress of Industrial Organizations, which later merged into the AFL-CIO.
After high school, Conyers worked briefly at a Lincoln Motors factory, attended night school, and trained to be a civil engineer. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1951 and served a year in Korea as a Second Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers. After discharge in 1954, he attended Wayne State University where he became involved in politics -- narrowly winning election to the local Democratic Party's organizing committee. He earned a BA degree in 1957 and a doctorate in jurisprudence (at Wayne State) in 1958.
Conyers worked from 1959 to 1961 as a legislative assistant to Detroit congressman John Dingell, and from 1961 to 1964 as a politically appointed referee of the Michigan Workmen's Compensation Department.
In 1964 Conyers ran for Congress, winning the Democratic Primary by 44 votes and the general election in a Democrat-gerrymandered district by more than 110,000 votes. Since then, he has been re-elected every two years; he is the second most senior member of the House of Representatives.
Conyers belongs to the Progressive Caucus, and in 1969 he was one of 13 co-founders of the Congressional Black Caucus. His voting record, according to Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), tilts left between 90 and 100 percent of the time. In 2002 theNational Journal ranked him as the most "liberal" member of the House of Representatives. For an overview of Conyers' votes on a variety of key issues, click here.
In 1972 Conyers joined then-congressman Ron Dellums in co-sponsoring legislation to impose harsh economic sanctions against white-ruled apartheid South Africa.
In a June 1, 1979 New York Times opinion piece which he co-authored with Institute for Policy Studies co-founder Marcus Raskin, Conyers asserted that "government's responsibility is to revitalize the nation's economy through creative forms of public ownership"; i.e., socialism.
Conyers today is the most prominent lawmaker lobbying to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, the convicted murderer of a Philadelphia police officer.
Conyers has deliberately designed legislation to treat citizens of different skin colors differently. One such law requires police officers to keep statistics on the race of people they question or arrest in order to discourage "racial profiling" of minorities.
Conyers helped enact "hate crime" laws, which are applied unequally to whites and blacks, and which critics have described as punishing people for "thought crimes" and "politically incorrect" speech.
Conyers has authored a bill to study the economic harm suffered by descendants of slaves; his ultimate objective is to lay the groundwork for trillions of dollars in reparations to be given by U.S. taxpayers to black Americans.
Conyers describes as one of his "major accomplishments" the "Motor Voter Bill of 1993," which facilitates the voter registration of all who apply for a state driver's license or for welfare or other government benefits. That legislation also has contributed heavily to voter-registration fraud.
In the late 1990s Conyers co-sponsored, and persuaded many other members of the Progressive Caucus to sign, a letter pressing President Bill Clinton to "de-link" economic from military sanctions against Saddam Hussein. This letter, which was aimed at ending economic sanctions against the Iraqi dictator, supported Hussein's propaganda depicting American- and British-backed sanctions as the main cause of disease and infant death in Iraq.
Conyers also has long favored reducing or ending U.S. economic sanctions and travel restrictions against Fidel Castro’s Cuba, for whose Marxist regime Conyers in 1997 helped arrange an opportunity to lobby Congress in lawmaker offices on Capitol Hill. When Castro and his Soviet allies attempted to take over Central America during the 1980s, Conyers strongly supported the Nicaraguan Sandinista dictatorship backed by those Marxist powers. "There is more freedom and less brutality in revolutionary Nicaragua," wrote Conyers in a March 7, 1986 letter published in the New York Times, “than in Central American countries supported by the [Reagan] Administration." Conyers signed a fundraising letter for the organization Medical Aid to El Salvador, which channeled medical supplies to groups and regions controlled by Cuban-backed Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) terrorist guerrillas.
In 2001 the United States withdrew most of its diplomatic participation in the United Nations' World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa after it became clear that the gathering would give prominence not only to anti-American, but also to anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, leaders. Despite this, Conyers and six other congressional Democrats attended and lent their prestige to the event.
In May 2002 Conyers was one of 17 House Democrats who voted against a Resolution (HR 392) expressing support for Israel as it faced terrorist attacks that had killed more than 600 civilians, including several Americans. The resolution stated that "the United States and Israel are now engaged in a common struggle against terrorism."
In January 2003 Conyers was the only member of Congress to speak before, and lend his prestige to, an anti-war rally organized by the Marxist-Leninist, pro-North Korean front group International A.N.S.W.E.R.
Two months later, Conyers privately convened and invited other members of Congress toa gathering that featured Ramsey Clark and more than two-dozen leftist attorneys and legal scholars; the purpose of the meeting was to discuss how to impeach President George W. Bush as a way to prevent military action against Saddam Hussein. Two decades earlier, Conyers had likewise proposed impeaching President Ronald Reagan.
In May 2005, Conyers published What Went Wrong In Ohio: The Conyers Report on the 2004 Presidential Election. Citing statistical incongruities between exit-poll results and actual votes registered, and alleging that many of the state’s electronic voting machines were faulty, this screed cast doubt on the legitimacy of George W. Bush’s electoral victory. Conyers was one of 31 House members who held that Ohio’s electoral votes should not be counted in the final tally.
On June 16, 2005, Conyers scheduled a media event to deliver to the Bush White House what he described as "over 540,000 signatures from Americans demanding a response from the Administration to the charges [that the U.S. and Britain tampered with intelligence reports about Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs] set forth" in the so-called Downing Street Memo. Conyers publicized his efforts via a carefully orchestrated schedule of pre-arranged interviews with such media outlets as CNN, National Public Radio, and Air America Radio (most notably on programs hosted by Al Franken andAmy Goodman). Conyers also acknowledged the strong support his signature campaign had received from such weblogs as Raw Story, BradBlog, DailyKos,Democratic Underground, Progressive Democrats of America, and Moveon.org. (In August 2006 Conyers would release a report -- titled The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retributions and Cover-ups in the Iraq War -- reiterating charges that intelligence had been manipulated so as to justify the invasion of Iraq.)
In May 2005 Conyers became a regular contributor to Arianna Huffington's Huffington Post. He also frequently posts at Daily Kos and Democratic Underground.
In December 2004 Conyers invited the organization headed by Lyndon LaRouche -- a former Socialist Workers Party (SWP) organizer and a follower of Leon Trotsky -- to testify about alleged Republican-orchestrated voter-suppression campaigns before an unofficial panel he chaired. Three months later Conyers spoke at a Detroit event held by LaRouche. When reporters began asking about the congressman's links to the controversial Larouche, Conyers’ staff claimed no knowledge of who and what LaRouche was. Confronted with several of LaRouche's disparaging statements about Jews, a member of Conyers' staff eventually told one journalist:
"After finding your post, we went to your suggested links and pulled up the LaRouche quotes that were, to say the least, antisemitic and racist. We brought them to Mr. Conyers’ attention. He was shocked and surprised…. He unequivocally condemns these statements, and he will not speak before any group he knows to be associated with LaRouche unless they renounce these views. If he knew about these sickening quotes, he would not have spoken before the group."
In October 2006 Conyers spoke at a World Can't Wait rally in Detroit, where he declaredthat it was time “to end the George Bush regime in the United States of America,” a “regime” that undoubtedly “knew what I knew … [that] we didn't need a preemptive strike [against Iraq] because they [the Iraqis] had no weapons of mass destruction, they had nothing.”
Among Conyers' largest campaign contributors is the American Association for Justice(formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America). Other big donors include organized labor unions, which provide nearly 37 percent of his Political Action Committee (PAC) contributions.