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The Canton Repository - Congressmen, Candidates Hear from Residents Questioning Wall Street Bailout

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Location: Massillon, OH

By Robert Wang and Edd Pritchard

The crowd gathered Wednesday evening to meet John Boccieri didn't have many questions, but the first one was about the $700 billion bailout for Wall Street.

The woman said she was a Republican, but she still didn't want to see Wall Street executives get help from the government. At the same time, she wondered if the Democrats would block the move.

Plenty of area residents have questions about the Bush Administration's plan to spend up to $700 billion to buy weakened banks' troubled debt assets in the hopes of preventing a financial meltdown.

Calls are rolling into Congressional offices and questions are being asked on the campaign trail.

People point out that they had to show they could afford loans in order to buy their houses, and argue it's not fair to bail out people who have been irresponsible. Many are upset with the high pay and padded severance packages of executives who lead the troubled banks.

MAKING A STATEMENT

Meghan Dubyak, a spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, said a substitute math teacher from Westerville drove to Washington, D.C., to personally tell Brown that he was against the plan.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, estimated 40 to 60 people a day were calling the congressman's Belden Village and Washington, D.C., offices to express disapproval of the federal proposal.

Faxed form letters and e-mails opposing the so-called "bailout" are pouring in from throughout Regula's district, the spokeswoman said.

Regula supports a financial rescue package that includes accountability and oversight of Treasury officials who would buy the assets and a cap on executive pay. He also wants taxpayers to benefit from any financial gain reaped by the sale of the assets.

Dubyak said Brown's office has received 10,000 e-mail and phone messages since the federal plan was proposed last weekend. More than 95 percent expressed resistance to the idea of a "bailout."

"We have folks on the phone all day long and answering calls," she said. "There's no break. They finish one call, and they pick up another."

Dubyak said the Senate phone lines shut down at one point.

Pat Lowry, the press secretary for U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, whose district includes Youngstown and the eastern sliver of Green, said Ryan's office has received about eight to 10 calls a day from constituents about the bill. Most of the callers are against any "bailout."

"It's kind of divided into two camps," Lowry said. "Those who are just saying, 'No,' and those who are saying they don't like it but understand that something needs to be done."

CANDIDATES' STANCE

As for the two state senators bidding to replace Regula, Boccieri, D-Alliance, and Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, both have urged caution as Congress and the Bush administration work on a plan. They also believe oversight is necessary.

Both campaigns have been getting questions about the issue, representatives said.

Residents have every right to be outraged over the bailout's magnitude and the growing national debt, Schuring said. Officials in Washington need to work together to save the country's financial system.

"Rather than buying equity in these companies, the government should loan financial institutions the money they need so they can pay the American people back," Schuring said in a statement, adding that a federal oversight panel should monitor bailout decisions.

At the Massillon event on Wednesday, Boccieri warned against federal officials making a "rush to judgment" on the issue.

Boccieri said he disagreed with initial proposals that would have given a "blank check" to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

"We didn't get into this mess overnight. We need time to look at this," Boccieri said. "I hope they will take their time and find the right solution."


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