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Source of graph (Financial Times):
A chronology and analysis of Tim Walberg’s absence from Congress’s rescue of the auto industry in December 2008. The excuses from Walberg’s office for that absence have been inconsistent. In subsequent years, Walberg has refused to tell the public his stance on that legislation. Every other Michigan Congress member voted in favor of the auto rescue.
After losing the 2008 election, for the duration of the term, Walberg never voted in the House or updated his government website. The auto rescue bill challenged Walberg’s claimed principles, as explored in the table below. Today, verging on another economic recession, we should know if our Representative has any principles left to uphold.
CHRONOLOGY & ANALYSIS OF WALBERG & THE AUTO RESCUE:
Friday, October 3, 2008 – Wall Street Bailout – Washington, DC
· Two months before the rescue of the auto industry, Congress passed the Wall Street bailout (H.R. 1424). Walberg campaigned proudly against that bill, based on his claimed principles. Walberg even publicly criticized of the Republican President, “I am extremely disappointed in President Bush” for pushing the bailout [exhibit below].
Webcap from Walberg’s campaign website, He Opposed Wall Street bailout & Criticized GOP President
Analysis: Walberg Used to Be Willing to Criticize a Republican President
· Walberg’s criticism of the Bush Administration stands in stark contrast to Walberg’s current praise of everything the Trump administration does, including the increasingly expensive farm bailouts which are a result of the administration’s own tariffs and trade wars. Hardline, free-market, economic conservatives have always opposed those things that Walberg now praises. In 2008, it was not a mark of distinction to oppose the Wall Street bailout, because the majority of House Republicans (108), and a lot of House Democrats (63) also opposed it. Six Michigan Congress Members, both Democrats and Republicans opposed it. The bill, with Senate Amendments ultimately passed the House (Yea: 263, Nay: 171), and then was signed into law by George W. Bush the same day.
Friday, October 31, 2008 – Walberg Ceased Updating Government Website
· When Walberg lost the 2008 election, he stopped posting any content on his official government webpage for the duration of the term [exhibit below]. So, there was never an update about the rescue of the auto industry. Prior to the election, the website was frequently updated with features, “Walberg Weekly Wrap Up”, News, a Blog, and more.
Walberg stopped all communication through his government webpage after he lost the 2008 election
Tuesday, November 4, 2008 – Election Day
· Walberg lost the election to Democratic candidate, Mark Schauer.
Thursday, November 20, 2008 – Congress Announced Special Session
· Announcement that Congress would return for a special session to rescue the auto industry in two and a half weeks:
Sunday, November 30, 2008 – Walberg’s Press Secretary Demoted
· Walberg’s Press Secretary, Matthew Lahr was demoted to Staff Assistant. Lahr then left Walberg’s office one week later [per House Statement of Disbursements].
Sunday, December 7, 2008 – Congress Returned for Auto Rescue – Washington, DC
· Walberg traveled to Washington, DC for the whole week that Congress was in special session for the auto rescue, but he did not participate [per House Statement of Disbursements, below].
House Statement of Disbursements shows the dates that Walberg traveled to DC & back
Analysis: Walberg Charged Government for Expenses Unrelated to His Duties
· According to House Ethics Rules, when Congress members travel for private matters, unrelated to their official House duties, those expenses cannot be charged to the government. So, if Walberg did not travel to DC in December 2008 for his House duties, those travel expenses were an ethical violation.
Same Day – Abrupt Staffer Departure – Washington, DC
· Walberg did not have a Press Secretary all through December 2008 [per House Statement of Disbursements, below]. Walberg’s Press Secretary, Matthew Lahr was demoted to Staff Assistant at the end of November, and then abruptly left on December 7th, which was the same day that Walberg flew back into DC. Lahr’s departure coincided with the start of a period of dysfunction and mismanaged public communications from Walberg’s office.
Walberg’s Press Secretary, Matthew Lahr was demoted & left right at the start of the auto rescue
Wednesday, December 10, 2008 – House Voted on Auto Rescue – Washington, DC
· Walberg was absent from all seven House votes this day, including the critical vote on the auto industry rescue bill (H.R. 7321). The split across the House of Representatives between support and opposition for saving the American auto industry (Yea: 237, Nay: 170) was very similar to vote for saving Wall Street banks (Yea: 263, Nay: 171). Michigan was unique though. The entire Michigan delegation, minus Walberg, supported it, even by those who opposed the Wall Street bailout [see table below].
Friday, December 12, 2008 – Walberg Returned to Michigan & Talked to Reporters
· Walberg traveled back to Michigan from DC [per House Statement of Disbursements]
Same Day - Article: MLive (Jackson) – by Bob Wheaton
· Walberg’s Chief of Staff, Joe Wicks told Bob Wheaton, a reporter for MLive (Jackson), that Walberg was absent from the vote due to shoulder surgery [exhibit below]. Then Walberg called Wheaton back, to revise his Chief of Staff’s earlier statement, to claim that it was a different type of surgery, but refused to specify. Walberg also told Wheaton that he would have voted to rescue the auto industry, without any note of misgivings.
Analysis: On the Mixed Up Excuses from Walberg’s Office
· Why would Joe Wicks, the highest-level staffer in Walberg’s office, tell a news reporter specific and candid medical information about Walberg having shoulder surgery, if he did not know what type of surgery it was, nor have Walberg’s consent to disclose that?
· A year and a half prior, April 2007, Walberg did have some surgery that required his arm to recover in a sling for a few weeks [exhibit below]. It seemed to be a recurring ailment. In October 2017, I attended a coffee hour where Walberg’s same arm was in a sling.
In 2007 and 2017, Walberg had some surgery that required weeks of recovery for his arm in a sling
Same Day – Article: Jackson Citizen Patriot – by Chris Gautz
· Walberg told reporter, Chris Gautz that he would have, “reluctantly” voted for the auto rescue [exhibit below]. No such misgivings were noted in Bob Wheaton’s article from the same day. In 2010, Gautz reported a follow-up about Walberg’s refusal to state a position on the bill.
Analysis: Walberg’s “long-planned” Neglect of Constituents
· The description of the surgery as “long-planned” was new to that article. The special session was announced two and a half weeks prior, during a time that Walberg still had a Press Secretary. So, Walberg had weeks in order to plan and keep constituents informed about his absence, and about his stance on that vote that was so vital to Michiganders.
December 13, 2008 – Editorial: Lansing State Journal
· The Lansing State Journal’s Editorial Board said, “Shame on Walberg” for skipping the vote on the auto industry recovery plan [exhibit below]. This was the day after Walberg’s office had been in touch with other individual reporters. Clearly Walberg’s office had not communicated with The Lansing State Journal at that point.
This LSJ editorial would not have occurred if Walberg’s office issued a press release about his absence
December 17, 2008 – Article: Ann Arbor News
· Walberg told Ann Arbor News reporter, Sonia L. Gottfried that he was in a Maryland hospital during the vote, and then recovered from that non-specific surgery at staffer’s home over the next two days [exhibit below].
Analysis: Walberg Freeloads in Home of Subordinate and our Government Office
· From 2008 FEC receipts, we can see that Walberg’s Chief of Staff and two-time Campaign Manager, Joe Wicks lived in a two-story home, with 7 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms in Springfield, Virginia, 14 miles from the Capitol [property specs: Zillow.com]. Joe Wicks was the first staffer to comment to reporters about Walberg having ‘shoulder surgery’, so Walberg was probably staying at Wicks’ house at the time.
· For 12 years, Walberg has used our Capitol office as a makeshift free lodging, when not crashing at the home of a subordinate staffer. Walberg used to brag about living out of our Capitol office, until exposés reported that it was mostly male Tea Party Republicans who turned their government offices into dormitories, which Congress members never did until the 1990’s. Those same Tea Partiers also opposed calls for a public accounting of the members who did that, and the associated costs to taxpayers. Walberg no longer brags about it, so I asked him about it at a town hall on January 31, 2020, and Walberg complained that construction noise at the office building makes it hard to sleep, and said, “They should’a paid me!”, overlooking the fact that we already do pay him:
Video (37:05 mark):
May 24, 2010 – Republican Women’s Candidate Forum – Hillsdale, MI
Submitted Question: “When was the last time you voted in Congress, the month and year please?”
Walberg: “December 2008. But, I remember November 2008, calling the key vote, the last key vote of my career, was against the financial bailout. That was a tough vote, when your President comes and says, ‘the world is gonna fall apart unless you support this’. And you realize that isn’t true. That’s not how our system of government works. That’s not how our financial system works. That’s not we work. And to do the bailout that that entailed, was the wrong vote. And I remember voting solidly against that vote, and I think it’s been proved to this day that that was the right vote to have taken for this country, for its citizens, and even for the financial institutions.”
“You know, sometimes you have to develop a philosophy that’s solid, that’s tested and true when you go into political office because the pressures that come, not only from the President, but from a electorate as well. When sometimes you have to say, ‘Listen, I will support my electorate in every single case, in majority, unless they ask me to do something that violates my conscience or my Constitution.’ And that’s where principle comes in. And I’m afraid in shifting times with Mark Schauer and others, their votes are for sale to who will bring them back into elective office…” [see video for full response]
“I went into Congress for my two-year stint in tough times, and I look forward to going back with experience in knowing how to go through those tough times, with clear principles that work. As opposed to fresh new ideas. I mean, how do you like all this hopey-changey now [quoting Sarah Palin, February 6, 2010, Tea Party Convention - Nashville, TN] with the fresh, new ideas of our President?”
Analysis: Walberg Lied to Women’s Group and then Bragged About His Principles
· Her innocent, kindhearted question smacked squarely into Walberg’s sore spot. To which, Walberg responded with a two-worded lie, “December 2008”, before skedaddling away to focus on an irrelevant vote to her question, and then bragged about his “clear principles”. The auto rescue was no less of a “key vote” than the Wall Street bailout. Walberg’s attempt to downplay the importance of the auto rescue seems to be a subconscious defense impulse against his guilt for having missed the vote on it.
July 8, 2010 – GOP Primary Debate – Adrian, MI
Rooney: “In 2008, I believe it was, after you lost the election to Mark Schauer, Congressman Schauer, your voting record’s not there anymore. You basically stopped voting. Why?”
Brian Rooney started smartly, by presenting the question using simple, unchallenging facts for Walberg’s to comment on. Rooney reserved his more pointed, challenging questions for the follow-ups.
Walberg: “I was on an operation table and a recovery table, during five and a half hours of voting that happened one - on the last day of the term, that is normally not the last day of the term, it’s already finished - a non-elective, scheduled surgery. My physician was willing to hook me up to a leg bag, a gurney, and take me to the floor if it was necessary. It was not.”
“You could have read that, had you been a resident of this district, in the papers that reported why I was not there for that final voting process.”
No newspapers had those details. Per the “leg bag”, a lot of people on catheters lead very productive lives. On May 8, 2020, in response to the increase in absentee voting, Walberg told radio host, Steve Gruber, “If you can’t get to the polls and vote, you shouldn’t be voting.” So, based on his own standards, if Walberg was incapable of voting while on a catheter, he should have resigned from Congress.
Rooney: “I’ll tell you what I did read, Congressman Walberg, is that your campaign spokesman said that you were having elective shoulder surgery, in a press release. You came back and said, no, I was not having elective shoulder surgery. And then the reporter said, well, what surgery were you having, and you refused to answer. So, I think it’s important you be accurate as far as what you were doing, because in my opinion, one of the votes you missed was the auto bailout vote. Congressman John Dingell, whether you love him or hate him, would have been there on a gurney making that vote.”
Note how Rooney’s question was about errors in messaging and accountability from Walberg’s office. Walberg did not address those things, instead he misdirected everyone’s attention with graphic details of surgery, which was not what Rooney asked about.
Walberg: “Well, now that you asked, if you’re not too squeamish, when you have a prostate reamed out, you’re not able to walk on the floor and vote. And besides that – [short crowd applause] – Besides that, Brian, Congressman Dingell is always there to make government bigger, and more expensive, and more intrusive.”
“And I’m healthy now! No cancer! It wasn’t for cancer, okay?! It just took me too long in front of the john. So that’s it! Hope we’re over it now.”
Walberg’s gory details misdirected the audience’s attention away from Rooney’s question about accountability.
Walberg described a Transurethral Resection of the Prostate (T.U.R.P.); a one hour procedure. A scope would be inserted into Walberg’s penis and urethra to trim excess tissue from his prostate to relieve pressure from his urinary tract. Walberg would be kept on a catheter for a day or two until the swelling went down.
Analysis: Why Fly to Maryland During the Holidays for a Common Surgical Procedure?
· That debate had a lot more details, that we can now try to piece together with the reports from December 2008, when Walberg described having a “long-planned surgery” at a Maryland hospital, “to coincide with a traditional break on Capitol Hill”.
Let’s Consider the Logistics of Walberg’s Long Plan:
1. T.U.R.P. is a common procedure available at hospitals all throughout the District
2. The calendar fast approached Christmas
3. Walberg had just finished a grueling political campaign and election loss
4. Walberg supposedly had no expectation of being called back to Congress
It would have been so much more efficient and less burdensome to have the surgery in Adrian, Ann Arbor, Jackson, or any number of local urology specialists. Walberg could recuperate cozily at home with his family and prepare for Christmas, instead of getting on an airplane to impose himself to recuperate at the home of a soon-to-be-laid-off staffer, and then drag himself in a post-op condition onto another cram-packed airplane to get back home.
July 28, 2010 – Campaign Meet & Greet - Napoleon, MI
Video 1 (3:00 mark):
Video 2 (continued):
[Walberg picked up a campaign mailer sent by his GOP Primary opponent, Brian Rooney]
Walberg: “When I go to this page and I see, [read from Rooney’s mailer] ‘When Tim Walberg lost his congressional race, he stopped voting. Walberg was still our Congressman, but he just stopped voting. Walberg didn’t even vote when our jobs were on the line, but Walberg showed up every month to collect his Congressional salary. That’s just not right, and we can do better.’”
Walberg: “And I agree, if that’s the truth. If I was in the Bahamas, sucking my thumb, angry at you folks for not sending me back, and still taking my Congressional salary - absolutely true, it wouldn’t be right. But what bothers me is that Brian Rooney knew the answer from a debate on July 8th in Adrian, 9-12 Group had. And he directly asked me the question about this, and I was surprised, him being an attorney that he would ask a question that he did not already know the answer to. You don’t do that, but he did.”
Walberg: “And I looked at him, and he said, uh, ‘Why weren’t you there?!’ And I said, ‘Well Brian, I was – I was in surgery, in recovery.’ And he said, ‘Well, that’s what you said in the press! But what was the surgery?’” [meet & greet attendees moaned and chuckled]
Walberg: “And I said, ‘Well Brian, ya’ know, there’s some things ya’ kinda like to keep personal.’ And I said, ‘You’re a young man, and you’ll probably find that out later on.’Especially when you have to wear those stupid gowns. But he said, ‘Well! I mean, you owe it to your constituents! If you believe in transparency, as you say you do?! Then you ought ta’ know!’”
Walberg: “And I looked at him, and I said, ‘Brian? If that’s what you want, all of you out there, if you’re a little squeamish, cover your ears.’ And I would say the same thing now. So, ‘Brian? You’re asking? You want me to tell? Sure. I was in the hospital, in surgery, having my prostate reamed out. Wasn’t cancer, and I sure feel good now. Is that fine?’” [meet & greet attendees chuckled]
Walberg: “Sue was looking directly at him. And my wife said he kind of- ” [Walberg mocked a wide-eyed startled expression.]
Attendee: “I think he felt a little remorse.”
Walberg: “I think he felt embarrassed. And I think the crowd felt, ‘Attaboy, Walberg! Too bad you had to go through that.’ Um, so he knew it! That was on July 8th, and you started receiving that this week.” [holds up Rooney’s campaign mailer again]
2nd Attendee: “That’s a pretty drastic step, just cause you could not vote!”
Walberg: “Heh, heh, heh. And, if I was in the Bahamas or something, that would be a different story. And I think most people who know me, know that I never walked away from a legitimate fight, and a vote, and a tough vote.”
Analysis: Rooney’s Mailer, or Petulant Loser Walberg Sucked Thumb in the Bahamas
· Every word from Brian Rooney’s campaign mailer was truthful. Walberg did not even argue that there was anything specifically untruthful in the mailer.
· Rooney’s mailer did not characterize Walberg with the facts it laid out. It was Walberg who connected those dots and characterized himself as a petulant, infantile loser, sucking his thumb. Between the known facts, and Walberg’s characterization, there is a large gradient of possible behavior that we can agree: “wouldn’t be right.”
· Compare how Walberg’s recounting of the dialogue from the debate compared to the actual original debate, to see how Walberg distorted things.
October 11, 2010 – Campaign Meet & Greet – Adrian, MI
Analysis: Walberg Refused to Answer for his own Legislative Record
· “I don’t answer.” In a just world, that would be an instantly disqualifying response from a United States Representative.
· It was not conjecture! That bill was actually the most recent legislation that the House voted on from Walberg’s record. So, Walberg had a duty to make a decision on it, and to own up for his decision to the public.
· Shame on Walberg for calling that attendee’s polite, legitimate and relevant question, “conjecture”, and for attempting to make that person feel bad, as though they did something wrong for asking it.
October 13, 2010 – General Election Debate - Charlotte, MI (Moderator: Tim Skubick)
Skubick: “Had you been there, Mr. Walberg, would you have supported Federal aid to General Motors and Chrysler?”
The hypothetical wording of the question made it unclear that this was an actual bill from Walberg’s record in Congress.
Walberg: “Had I been there, would I have supported aid to General Motors or Chrysler? Um, the issue I think more importantly for what I would have done, had I been there, would have been working for a better economy that would give Chrysler and General Motors a greater opportunity to succeed. Uh, we see all sorts of aid packages being offered. We see stimulus packages that my opponent supported. We see Cap and Trade, energy tax increases. We see stimulus packages. Uh, we see Pelosi budgets that are deficit-producing into the trillions of dollars. And yet we see an economy that’s still struggling. My efforts when I was in Congress, and will be if I go back will be to reduce the excessive cost, regulatory fees, impingements upon the economy, and growing so that companies like Chrysler, General Motors, and may I say, Ford, who did it on their own without government bailouts, without government incentives, and now they are competing, really on an unlevel playing field, and yet are doing it because they are using what grows an economy, and that’s the private sector.”
Walberg, exploited that hypothetical wording to veer away into his own fantasy terrain. Clearly, the thrust of Walberg’s response was his opposition to the auto rescue, but he was too cowardly to just say so.
Skubick: “So, you would have voted NO.”
Walberg: “I would have voted FOR an economy that grows strong.”
So, Walberg would have voted FOR a non-existent bill.
Skubick: “I understand. But if the vote was up on the board for aid to GM and Chrysler, you would have – [Walberg interruption].”
“if…” That wording allowed Walberg to keep pretending like it was not a real vote.
Walberg: “We work on reality, Tim. You know that. We’ve worked with each other for, well, since 1982. You know that I work on reality of what grows an economy. And that’s the economy that says let’s get out of the way and let GM, lets Chrysler, let Ford, let what grows an economy, and that’s private sector work.”
“work on reality…” – Sure… and let’s hear more about that imaginary, ‘economy that grows strong’ bill that Walberg would have voted for, as we try to muffle our to rage-puke with our pocket Constitutions.
Skubick: “Not to belabor the point, but if I’m reporting Mr. Walberg’s position on aid to GM and Chrysler, it was a NO vote on that.”
For the fourth time Walberg, answer the damned question.
Walberg: “My report on aid to GM and Chrysler is giving them aid through a growing economy.”
“My report…” You can see Walberg’s technique was to grasp for random words to try to spin back onto the moderator, and dodge the question, however incoherently.
Skubick: “Understand. Mr. Schauer?”
“understand”? Why be charitable?
Mark Schauer went on and gave a clear, coherent answer to the question.
October 14, 2010 – Article: Jackson Citizen Patriot – by Chris Gautz
· Chris Gautz’s first-person report on the debate [exhibit below], and from 2008, made Walberg’s contradictory statements have personal visceral impact. Gautz was one of the first reporters that Walberg spoke to about the auto loan in 2008.
November 2, 2012 – MLive: Jackson – by Bob Wheaton
· Bob Wheaton’s reports bookended the professional reporting on Walberg and the auto industry rescue. Wheaton also did the first bit of analysis, and identified a KEY POINT, on how the bill was a dilemma for Walberg’s claimed principles [exhibit below].
Analysis: Four Years a Coward
· Four years after the House voted on the auto rescue, Walberg was still incapable of taking a position on it. Walberg failed to vote on it then, and has been too cowardly to take a position on it ever since.
CONCLUSION: WHAT A DECADE OF SPINELESS CRONYISM HAS WROUGHT
Here we are, and gosh, Walberg is so pleased.
· Walberg’s Shift: The last quarter of 2008 was an inflection point. Walberg’s claimed principles had failed against the needs of our district. So, in 2010, Walberg returned transformed from having been somewhat principled and willing to criticize a Republican President, into being an unprincipled coward driven by shameless lies, short-term advantages and crony-interests. Walberg has remained in power ever since.
· The Excuse: Walberg has a credibility deficit. So, we should not accept at face value that he flew out to DC for the full week of the special session, to lodge with his subordinate government staffer, to receive and recover from a common surgical procedure, while neglecting his duties at the Capitol all week. Walberg failed to inform the public of any of that, and his Chief of Staff bungled the excuse to reporters. So, I would need real proof and a better explanation, before accepting that excuse from Walberg.
· Worker Toll: None of Walberg’s discussion around the auto industry rescue, accounted for the imminent harm that faced workers, retirees, or their families in our district if the auto industry collapsed, and their earned savings and pensions were all dissolved. Walberg claimed without evidence that a private restructuring would have worked out better for the industry, but that would not have favored workers or retirees.
· “I don’t answer.”: And thus, Walberg disgraced the title of Representative.
September 30, 2020