|44th Dean of the United States House of Representatives|
January 3, 2015
|Preceded by||John Dingell|
|Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee|
January 3, 2007 – January 3, 2011
|Preceded by||Jim Sensenbrenner|
|Succeeded by||Lamar S. Smith|
|Chairman of the House Oversight Committee|
January 3, 1989 – January 3, 1995
|Preceded by||Jack Brooks|
|Succeeded by||William F. Clinger, Jr.|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 13th district
January 3, 2013
|Preceded by||Hansen Clarke|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 14th district
January 3, 1993 – January 3, 2013
|Preceded by||Dennis Hertel|
|Succeeded by||Gary Peters|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 1st district
January 3, 1965 – January 3, 1993
|Preceded by||Lucien Nedzi|
|Succeeded by||Bart Stupak|
|Born||John James Conyers, Jr.
May 16, 1929
Highland Park, Michigan, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Monica Esters (1990–present)|
|Alma mater||Wayne State University|
|Service/branch||Army National Guard
United States Army
|Years of service||1948–1950
John James Conyers, Jr. (born May 16, 1929) is the U.S. Representative for Michigan's 13th congressional district, serving in Congress since 1965 (the district was numbered as the 1st District until 1993, and as the 14th district from 1993 to 2013). The district includes the western half of Detroit, as well as Dearborn, Highland Park, and most of the downriver suburbs including Wyandotte and Romulus. He is a member of the Democratic Party. Conyers, as its longest-serving current member, is the Dean of the House of Representatives. He is also the oldest and the longest-serving current member of the United States Congress.
Early life, education, and early career
After graduating from Northwestern High School in Detroit, Conyers served in the Michigan National Guard 1948–50; U.S. Army 1950–54; and the U.S. 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 law degree 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
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, 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 came in fourth place. Archer won the November election.
U.S. House of Representatives
In 1964, he ran for an open seat in what was then the 1st District, and defeated Republican Robert Blackwell with 84% of the vote. He was reelected 13 times with even larger margins. After the 1990 United States Census, Michigan lost a congressional district and Conyers'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-five times and is serving in his twenty-sixth term. He is the longest-serving current member of the House, the longest-serving current member of the entire Congress, the fourth longest-serving member of the House in history, and the seventh longest-serving member of Congress in history. He is the second-longest serving member of either house of Congress in Michigan's history, trailing only his former boss, Dingell. He is also the last member of the large Democratic freshman class of 1964 who is still serving in the House.
In May 2014, Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett determined that Conyers had not submitted enough valid nominating petition signatures to appear on the August 2014 Primary Election ballot. Two of his petition circulators were found not to have been registered voters at the time they were collecting signatures, as required under Michigan law. However, on May 23, Federal District Judge Matthew Leitman issued an injunction placing Conyers back on the ballot, ruling that the requirement that circulators be registered voters was similar to an Ohio law previously found unconstitutional by a Federal appeals court in 2008. The Michigan Secretary of State's office subsequently announced they would not appeal the ruling.
Conyers is one of the 13 founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) 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 Democratic Congressman 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 opponents 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.
Conyers introduced the "Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act" (H.R. 40) in January 1989, and has re-introduced anew this bill each congressional term. This bill calls for the creation of a commission to research the history of slavery and its effects on current America, resulting in recommendations on how to remedy this injustice. Its current version was introduced and referred to committee on January 3, 2013.
Conyers first introduced the House of Resolution 40 in 1989, and have annual proposed this act until it is approved and passed. The House Resolution 40 expresses the impact of slavery's brutal institution on today's society, politics, and economy. "My bill does four things: It acknowledges the fundamental injustice and inhumanity of slavery It establishes a commission to study slavery, its subsequent racial and economic discrimination against freed slaves; It studies the impact of those forces on today's living African Americans; and The commission would then make recommendations to Congress on appropriate remedies to redress the harm inflicted on living African Americans."
- 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, although another fellow Committee member, Democratic Congressman Charles B. Rangel, of New York, is still in Congress.
- National Health Care Act
The United States National Health Care Act (Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act) (H.R. 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 United States 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 United States 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.
- 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.
- 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, two former aides of Conyers 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-WA) and Ranking Minority Member Howard Berman (D-CA), 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: “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
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 $6,000, 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 ended up serving just over 27 months at the Alderson Federal Prison Camp and was released from federal custody officially on May 16, 2013.
- 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:
|“||It shouldn't need to be said in 2009, and after the historic election of our first African-American president, but let me remind all my colleagues that patriotic Americans of all races, religions, and beliefs have the right – and the responsibility – to participate in our political process, including by volunteering to work in Congressional offices. Numerous Muslim-American interns have served the House ably and they deserve our appreciation and respect, not attacks on their character or patriotism.||”|
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."
Conyers'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."
- Criticism of American foreign policy
Conyers and his Republican colleague Ted Yoho offered bipartisan amendments to block the U.S. military training of Ukraine's Azov Battalion of the Ukrainian National Guard. Some members of the battalion are openly white supremacists. Conyers stated, "If there’s one simple lesson we can take away from US involvement in conflicts overseas, it’s this: Beware of unintended consequences. As was made vividly clear with U.S. involvement in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion decades ago, overzealous military assistance or the hyper-weaponization of conflicts can have destabilizing consequences and ultimately undercut our own national interests."
- Committee on the Judiciary (Ranking Member)
- As Ranking Member of the full committee, Rep. Conyers may serve as an ex officio member of all subcommittees.
- Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy
- Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties
- Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law
- Founding Member and Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus
- Congressional Progressive Caucus
- International Conservation Caucus
- Out of Afghanistan Caucus (Co-Chair)
- Congressional Cement Caucus
Conyers is married to Monica Conyers. Monica Conyers filed for divorce from her husband citing a "breakdown" in the marriage in September 2015.
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 has 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 United States
- 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
- History of the African Americans in Metro Detroit
- Gray, Kathleen. "Detroit Free Press – John Conyers and Gary Peters on track back to U.S. House". The Detroit Free Press. The Detroit Free Press. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
- "One of Michigan's finest, John Conyers!". African American Registry.
- Zinn, Howard (1994). You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train. Beacon Press. pp. 63–64.
- "In Mayor's Races, Capitol Hill Often Doesn't Lead to City Hall". Politico. May 2, 2007.
- "Detroit Mayor Easily Wins Primary but Faces Runoff". The New York Times. September 14, 1989.
- "Detroit's Young wins again". The Dallas Morning News. November 8, 1989.
- Walsh, Edward (June 23, 1993). "Detroit Mayor Bars New Race; Scramble to Succeed Young Is Assured".
- Holewa, Lisa (September 14, 1993). "23 candidates hope to replace Detroit mayor". The Item.
- "As Mayor of 20 Years Retires, Detroit Faces a New Kind of Election". The New York Times. September 13, 1993.
- "Invalid petitions could keep U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Detroit off Aug. 5 primary ballot". mlive.com. May 2, 2014. Retrieved May 9, 2014.
- "Judge Allows US Rep. Conyers to Be on Ballot". abcnews. May 23, 2014. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
- "Michigan Secretary of State won't appeal ruling putting John Conyers back on the ballot". Detroit Free Press. May 30, 2014. Retrieved May 30, 2014.
- http://conyers.house.gov/index.cfm/reparations and https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr40
- Conyers, John. "Reparations". http://conyers.house.gov. John Conyers. Retrieved October 24, 2014.
- Also see Wikisource transcription of Nixon's enemies list
- H.R. 676
- Brown, Jr., Sylvester (May 15, 2005). "Conyers looks for news in the wrong place". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. p. D2.
- Tony Allen-Mills and Tom Pattinson, "Blair faces US probe over secret Iraq invasion plan" The Times, May 22, 2005.
- "FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 7". clerk.house.gov. January 6, 2005. Retrieved February 22, 2008.
- The DRA One Year Later: Dems Waiting for Outcome of Legal Challenges to Law That Stiffens Medicaid Transfer Penalties from ElderLawAnswers.com, February 10, 2007
- "Judge Dismisses Budget Bill Lawsuit". ABC News. Associated Press. November 6, 2006. Retrieved November 28, 2006.[dead link]
- "CNN.com – Congressman accused of using staff to baby-sit – Apr 12, 2006". CNN. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
- Conyers accepts responsibility for possible ethics violations
- [dead link]
- "Conyers Introduces H.R. 801, "The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act" | District Dispatch". Wo.ala.org. February 13, 2009. Retrieved August 23, 2010.
- "Lawrence Lessig and Michael Eisen: Is John Conyers Shilling for Special Interests?". Huffington Post. March 2, 2009. Retrieved August 23, 2010.
- Editors, The (March 2, 2009). "A Truth Commission for the Bush Era?". Roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com. Retrieved March 23, 2011.
- "H.R.104 | To establish a national commission on presidential war powers and civil liberties". Thomas.loc.gov. Retrieved March 23, 2011.
- Paul Blumenthal (July 27, 2009). "Rep. Conyers: Don’t Read the Bill". Sunlight Foundation. Retrieved July 29, 2009.
- "Why Read the Health Care Bill?". On the Record w/ Greta Van Susteren. July 29, 2009. Retrieved July 29, 2009.
- "Conyers offered deal in bribery probe". Retrieved June 17, 2009.
- "Detroit councilwoman under scrutiny, scolds media". Retrieved June 18, 2009.
- "Kilpatricks, Conyers among 8 named in FBI bribery probe". Detroit Free Press. January 28, 2009. Retrieved January 11, 2012.
- SWICKARD, JOE; BEN SCHMITT and DAVID ASHENFELTER. Also, Free Press Staff Writers (June 26, 2009). "Monica Conyers pleads guilty to conspiracy". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 16:08, Friday June 26, 2009 (UTC). Check date values in:
- Sharon Terlep (March 11, 2010). "Lawmaker's Wife Sentenced to Jail". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 11, 2010.
- http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2011/04/prosecutors_monica_conyers_mus.html Prosecutors: Monica Conyers must stay at Camp Cupcake Retrieved 2011-10-28
- Tresa Baldas (February 5, 2013). "Monica Conyers, Sam Riddle out of prison in time for Kilpatrick corruption verdict". Detroit Free Press.
- O'Brien, Michael (October 15, 2009). "Conyers blasts GOP lawmakers' accusations of Muslim 'spies' – The Hill's Blog Briefing Room". Thehill.com. Retrieved August 23, 2010.
- "Website of the House Judiciary Committee". Judiciary.house.gov. December 16, 2010. Retrieved March 23, 2011.
- Elliott, Justin (December 16, 2010) Top Dem sticks up for WikiLeaks, Salon.com
- "Ukraine's Neo-Nazis Won't Get U.S. Money". Bloomberg. 12 June 2015.
- "U.S. House Passes 3 Amendments By Rep. Conyers To Defense Spending Bill To Protect Civilians From Dangers Of Arming and Training Foreign Forces". Press Releases. 11 June 2015.
- NAACP Spingarn Medal
- H.R. 4279, Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2007
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Project Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at The Library of Congress
- CD14 at Michigan Liberal
- John Conyers' oral history video excerpts at The National Visionary Leadership Project
- Congressman John Conyers, Jr. official U.S. House site
- John Conyers Jr for Congress
- Global Family Day movement co-founded by John Conyers and Linda Grover
- John Conyers at DMOZ
- 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)
- 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)
- Open letter to George W. Bush, re: Downing Street Memo (originally signed by 89 US Congress members), John Conyers, et al. (May 5, 2005)
- Bush asked to explain UK war memo CNN (May 12, 2005)
- The Downing Street Memo John Conyers (May 27, 2005)
- 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)
- 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)
- A Motion for Censure Congressman John Conyers, Jr., The Nation (December 22, 2005)
- Q & A with Conyers Guernica Magazine, May 22, 2006
- House chair warns White House to comply with subpoenas, November 5, 2007[dead link]