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 has an electorate that is 61 percent black. Conyers chairs the powerful House Judiciary Committee and sits on several subcommittees.
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 the National 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.
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 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 1980s Conyers strongly supported the Nicaraguan Sandinista dictatorship, writing in a March 7, 1986 letter published in the New York Times: backed by those Marxist powers. "There is more freedom and less brutality in revolutionary Nicaragua than in Central American countries supported by the [Reagan] Administration."
Conyers 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.
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.
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 to a 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 and Amy 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 May 2005 Conyers became a regular contributor to Arianna Huffington's Huffington Post. He also frequently posts at the Daily Kos and Democratic Underground.
Conyers is a longtime ally of ACORN. In the fall of 2008, he said that ACORN was “a long-standing and well-regarded organization that fights for the poor and working class.” ACORN gave Conyers a 100 percent rating on its 2006 legislative scorecard, and in the summer of 2008 the congressman received enthusiastic applause as he addressed the group’s national convention in Detroit and denounced U.S. corporations as “capitalist predators.”
In June 2009, Conyers' wife Monica, a Detroit City Council member, pleaded guilty to felony bribery charges.
In a July 2009 speech at a National Press Club luncheon, Conyers suggested that it was unimportant whether or not legislators read the 2,000-page health-care bill that was then being debated by Congress. Said Conyers: “I love these members [of Congress], they get up and say, ‘Read the bill.’ What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?”
In March 2010, during the debate over health-care reform legislation, a media interviewer asked Conyers the following question: “The individual mandate in the bill requires individuals to purchase health insurance. The Congressional Budget Office [CBO] has said that never before in the history of the United States has the federal government required any one to purchase any good or service. What part of the Constitution do you think gives Congress the authority to mandate individuals to purchase health insurance?” To this, Conyers replied:
“Under several clauses, the good and welfare clause and a couple others. All the scholars, the constitutional scholars that I know -- I’m chairman of the Judiciary Committee, as you know -- they all say that there’s nothing unconstitutional in this bill and if there were, I would have tried to correct it if I thought there were.”
The U.S. Constitution does not contain anything called a "good and welfare" clause.
In March 2013 Conyers spoke about America's national debt and said: “Let me let you understand, first of all, that the debt is not endangering us a bit -- not at all. Our economists say we’re in debt but it’s not endangering everything. As a matter of fact, there are economists that say some debt is not a bad idea at all. So all those ideas about the ceiling falling, the walls caving in because of that, you can sleep more comfortably in your bed at night when you realize that we don’t think there’s a problem.”
On October 21, 2013, Conyers stated that the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act of 2010 (Obamacare) was "a very small and modest bill," and that Congressional Democrats were already contemplating ways to pass "universal healthcare for everybody, single payer." "That's what the new direction is," said Conyers.
John 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 a member 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.
Conyers has longstanding, close ties to the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). In March 1982, he was a special guest at the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee/New American Movement Unity Convention held in Detroit, an event that resulted in the formation of DSA. In 2003 he was a keynote speaker at the DSA national conference in Detroit. And in 2005, the DSA publication Democratic Left called Conyers "a key D.S.A. ally in Congress."