John Conyers, Jr. (born May 16, 1929) is the U.S. Representative for , serving since 1965 (the district was numbered as the 1st District until 1993). He is a member of the Democratic Party. He is currently the second longest-serving incumbent member of the House (after fellow Michigan Democrat, John Dingell) and the third-longest incumbent member of the entire Congress by length of service (after Dingell and Daniel Inouye). The district includes most of northwestern Detroit, as well as Highland Park, Hamtramck and part of Dearborn.
Early life, education, and early career
After graduating from Northwestern High School in Detroit, Conyers served in the Michigan National Guard 1948 50; US Army 1950 54; and the US Army Reserves 1954 57. Conyers served for a year in Korea as an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and was awarded combat and merit citations. Conyers grew up in Detroit, and received both his B.A. and his J.D. from Wayne State University.
Conyers was present in Selma, Alabama on October 7, 1963, for the civil rights movement voter registration drive known as Freedom Day. He served as an assistant to U.S. Congressman John Dingell, Jr. prior to his election to Congress.
Detroit Mayoral campaigns
While serving in the U.S. House, Conyers made two unsuccessful runs for mayor of Detroit: one in 1989 against incumbent Coleman Young and again in 1993.
Incumbent Democratic Mayor Coleman Young decided to run for a fifth term, despite growing unpopularity and the declining economy of Detroit. In the September primary, Young won with 51% of the vote. Accountant Tom Barrow qualified for the November run off by getting second place with 24% and Conyers got third place with 18% of the vote. Young defeated Barrow in the run off with 56% of the vote.
In June 1993, incumbent Democratic Mayor Coleman Young decided to retire instead of seeking a sixth term, citing his age and health as the reasons. Although, many believed he decided not to run because of his growing unpopularity. In a Detroit News poll in February, 81% said Young should retire. Conyers was one of the 23 candidates who qualified for ballot access. Dennis Archer was a clear front runner from the beginning. He was a 51-year-old former State Supreme Court Justice who raised over $1.6 million. He won the September primary with 54% of the vote. Conyers placed in fourth place. Archer won the November election.
U.S. House of Representatives
In 1964, he defeated Republican Robert Blackwell with 84% of the vote. He won re-election to Michigan's 1st congressional district thirteen times, all with even larger margins. After the 1990 United States Census, Michigan lost a congressional district and Conyer's district was renumbered to the 14th district. In 1992, he won re-election to his 15th term in his new district with 82% of the vote against Republican nominee John Gordon. He won re-election another nine times after that. His worst re-election performance was in 2010, when he got 77% of the vote against Republican nominee Don Ukrainec.
In total, he has won re-election twenty-three times and has served twenty-four terms. He is the second longest-serving current member of the House, as well as the after World War II.
Conyers is one of the 13 founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and is considered the Dean of that group. Formed in 1969, the CBC was founded to strengthen African-American lawmakers' ability to address the legislative concerns of Black and minority citizens. He has served longer in Congress than any other African-American. In 1971, he was one of the original members of Nixon's Enemies List.
In 1965, John Conyers won a seat as a freshman on the influential Judiciary Committee, which was then under the leadership of liberal Democrat Emanuel Celler of New York. At the time, the assignment was an elite one, as Judiciary ranked behind only Ways and Means and Appropriations in terms of the number of Members who sought assignment there.
According to the National Journal, Conyers has been considered, with Pete Stark, John Lewis, Jim McDermott, and Barbara Lee, to be one of the most liberal members of Congress for many years. Civil rights icon Rosa Parks served on Conyers' staff between 1965 and 1988.
Conyers is known as one of the supporters of the drive to regulate online gambling. He has likened the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, hidden within the SAFE Port Act, to Prohibition.
After Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in 1968, Conyers introduced the first bill in Congress to make King's birthday a national holiday. It is now celebrated as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
- Nixon and Watergate
Conyers was critical of Richard Nixon during his tenure, and as a result was number 13 on President Richard Nixon's enemies list during Nixon's 1969 74 presidential tenure. The president's Chief Counsel described him as "coming on fast", and that he was "emerging" as a "black anti-Nixon spokesman"
Conyers voted on the Articles of Impeachment against Nixon in July 1974. He is the last remaining member of the House Judiciary Committee who did so, though one other fellow Committee member is still in Congress (Charles Rangel, Democrat of New York).
- National Health Care Act
The U.S. National Health Care Act (Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act) (HR 676), is a bill submitted to the United States House of Representatives by Conyers which, as of September 29, 2008, has 93 cosponsors. It was first introduced, with 25 cosponsors, in 2003, and reintroduced each session since then. The act calls for the creation of a universal single-payer health care system in the United States, in which the government would provide every resident health care free of charge. In order to eliminate disparate treatment between richer and poorer Americans, the Act would also prohibit private insurers from covering any treatment or procedure already covered by the Act. The bill is currently in the House Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Health.
- Downing Street memo
On May 5, 2005, Conyers and 88 other members of Congress wrote an open letter to the White House inquiring about the Downing Street memo, a leaked memorandum that revealed an apparent secret agreement between the U.S. and the United Kingdom to attack Iraq in 2002. The Times reported that newly discovered documents reveal British and U.S. intentions to invade Iraq and leaders of the two countries had "discussed creating pretextual justifications for doing so". The documents go on to say that Tony Blair decided the U.S. would need to "create" conditions to justify the war.
The memo story broke in the United Kingdom, but did not receive much coverage in the United States, prompting Conyers to lament: "This should not be allowed to fall down the memory hole during wall-to-wall coverage of the Michael Jackson trial and a runaway bride." Conyers and others reportedly considered sending a congressional investigation delegation to London.
- What Went Wrong In Ohio
In May, 2005, Conyers released What Went Wrong In Ohio: The Conyers Report On The 2004 Presidential Election, which discusses the voting irregularities in the state of Ohio during the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election. The evidence offered consists of statistical abnormalities in the differences between exit poll results and actual votes registered at those locations. The book also discusses reports of faulty electronic voting machines and the lack of credibility of those machines used to tally votes.
He was one of 31 members of the House who voted not to count the electoral votes from Ohio in the United States presidential election, 2004.
- The Constitution in Crisis
On August 4, 2006, Conyers released his report, The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retributions and Cover-ups in the Iraq War, an edited collection of information intended to serve as evidence that the Bush Administration altered intelligence to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The Constitution in Crisis examines much of the evidence presented by the Bush Administration prior to the invasion and questions the credibility of their sources of intelligence. In addition, the document investigates the conditions that led to the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, as well as further evidence of torture having been committed but not made known to the public. Finally, the document reports on a series of "smear tactics" purportedly used by the administration in dealing with its political adversaries.
The document calls for the censure of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Notably, however, Conyers refuses to back impeachment proceedings.
- On anti-Muslim intolerance
Conyers has proposed House Resolution 288, which condemns religious intolerance but emphasizes Islam as needing special protection from acts of violence and intolerance. It states that it should never be official policy of the United States Government to disparage the Quran, Islam, or any religion in any way, shape, or form, and calls upon local, State, and Federal authorities to work to prevent bias-motivated crimes and acts against all individuals, including those of the Islamic faith. The bill was referred to the House subcommittee on the Constitution in June 2005.
- Conyers v. Bush
See also Conyers v. Bush
In April 2006 Conyers, together with ten other senior congressmen, filed an action in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, challenging the constitutionality of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. The complaint alleged the bill was not afforded due consideration by the United States Congress before being signed by the President. The action was subsequently dismissed on grounds of lack of standing.
- Ethics controversy
In letters sent separately to the House Ethics Committee, the FBI, and the US Attorney's office by two former aides of Conyers, they alleged that Conyers used his staff to work on several local and state campaigns, and forced them to baby-sit and chauffeur his children. In late December 2006, Conyers "accepted responsibility" for possibly violating House rules. A statement issued December 29, 2006, by the House Ethics Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and Ranking Minority Member Howard Berman (D-Calif.), said that Conyers acknowledged what he characterized as a "lack of clarity" in his communications with staff members regarding their official duties and responsibilities, and accepted responsibility for his actions. In deciding to drop the matter, Hastings and Berman stated:
After reviewing the information gathered during the inquiry, and in light of Representative Conyers cooperation with the inquiry, we have concluded that this matter should be resolved through the issuance of this public statement and the agreement by Representative Conyers to take a number of additional, significant steps to ensure that his office complies with all rules and standards regarding campaign and personal work by congressional staff.
Also, in 1992, he was implicated in the House banking scandal.
- Copyright controversy
Conyers has come under fire from scientific and taxpayers' advocacy groups for repeatedly introducing a bill that would overturn NIH Public Access Policy, and forbid the government from mandating that federally funded research be made freely available to the public. Critics assert that Conyers has been influenced by publishing houses who have contributed significant money to Conyers.
- House Report on George W. Bush presidency and proposed inquiry
On January 13, 2009, the House Committee on the Judiciary, led by Conyers, released "Reining in the Imperial Presidency: Lessons and Recommendations Relating to the Presidency of George W. Bush", a 486-page report detailing alleged abuses of power that occurred during the Bush administration, and a comprehensive set of recommendations to prevent recurrence. Conyers has introduced a bill to set up a "truth commission" panel to investigate alleged policy abuses of the Bush administration.
- Bill reading controversy
In late July 2009, Conyers, commenting on the healthcare debate in the House, stated that I love these members, 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? His remark brought criticism from government transparency advocates such as the Sunlight Foundation, which referred to readthebill.org in response. In the House, 93 representatives signed a pledge, started by Mike Pence of Indiana, to read a health care bill before voting on it.
- Bribery conviction of wife, Monica Conyers
Conyers' wife, Monica, a former President pro tempore of the Detroit City Council, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit bribery in June 2009. This is punishable by up to five years in prison; in March 2010 she was sentenced to 37 months imprisonment, followed by two years supervised probation.
On June 16, 2009, the United States Attorney's Office said that two Synagro Technologies representatives had named Monica Conyers as the recipient of bribes from the company totaling more than $60,000, paid to influence passage of a contract with the City of Detroit. The information was gathered during an FBI investigation into political corruption in the city. She was given a pre-indictment letter, and offered a plea bargain deal in the case. On June 26, 2009, she was charged with conspiring to commit bribery. She pleaded guilty. On March 10, 2010 she was sentenced to 37 months in prison, and also received two years of supervised probation. She is appealing the sentence. She began serving her term on September 10, 2010 at a minimum-security camp in Alderson, West Virginia.
- Response to accusations regarding American Muslim spies
In October, Conyers responded to allegations from four Republican Congress Members, in the wake of the launch of the book Muslim Mafia, that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) sought to plant Muslim "spies" in Capitol Hill. He strongly opposed the accusations, saying:
Conyers was one of the first three U.S. Congress members to condemn the allegations, joining Andr Carson (D-IN) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA).
At a December 16, 2010 hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on the subject of "the Espionage Act and the Legal and Constitutional Issues Raised by WikiLeaks," Conyers "argue[d] strongly against prosecuting WikiLeaks in haste-or at all." He strongly defended the whistleblowing organization, saying:
"As an initial matter, there is no doubt that WikiLeaks is very unpopular right now. Many feel that the WikiLeaks publication was offensive. But being unpopular is not a crime, and publishing offensive information is not either. And the repeated calls from politicians, journalists, and other so-called experts crying out for criminal prosecutions or other extreme measures make me very uncomfortable. Indeed, when everyone in this town is joined together calling for someone s head, that is it a pretty strong sign we need to slow down and take a closer look.... [L]et us not be hasty, and let us not legislate in a climate of fear or prejudice. For, in such an atmosphere, it is our constitutional freedoms and our cherished civil rights that are the first to be sacrificed in the false service of our national security."
Conyer's statement was "in marked contrast to the repeated calls from other members of Congress and Obama administration officials to prosecute (or kill) [WikiLeaks head Julian] Assange immediately."
Conyers is married to Monica Conyers.
He appeared in Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 discussing the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks, stating that members of Congress "don't read most of the bills". Conyers frequently posts at Daily Kos and Democratic Underground. Since May 2005, he's been a contributing blogger at The Huffington Post and his own blog.
United States National Health Care Act - legislation introduced by John Conyers that would provide universal health care in the U.S.
PRO-IP Act - legislation introduced by John Conyers that would increase both civil and criminal penalties for trademark and copyright infringement and create a new executive branch office dedicated to enforcing intellectual property laws.
Congressman John Conyers Talks About Bush Lying America Into War and His Campaign to Hold Bush Accountable: The Downing Street Memo and More (John Conyers interview), BuzzFlash (June 9, 2005)
Bush asked to explain UK war memo CNN (May 12, 2005)
Open letter to George W. Bush, re: Downing Street Memo (originally signed by 89 US Congress members), John Conyers, et al. (May 5, 2005)
Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio: Status Report of the House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff (prepared at the request of Congressman John Conyers, January 5, 2005)
The Constitution in Crisis; The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War (Investigative Status Report of the House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff, December 2005)
The Downing Street Memo John Conyers (May 27, 2005)
It's time for Karl Rove to go: The president needs to ask for a special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame case Congressman John Conyers, Jr., Salon.com (October 15, 2003)
A Motion for Censure Congressman John Conyers, Jr., The Nation (December 22, 2005)
Q & A with Conyers Guernica Magazine
- House chair warns White House to comply with subpoenas
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