- Democratic Member of Congress
- Member of the radical Progressive Caucus
- In 2002, traveled to Baghdad and embraced Saddam Hussein, in a trip financially supported by Iraqi-American businessman Shakir al-Khafaji, who has been investigated for receiving “lucrative vouchers for Iraqi oil from Saddam’s government”
Jim McDermott is a Democratic Member of Congress who represents the Seventh District of Washington State, located in the heart of Seattle.
McDermott was born in 1936 in Chicago. He earned a B.S. degree from Wheaton College in 1958 and an M.D. degree from the University of Illinois in 1963. After serving in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps from 1968 to 1970, he took a job at the University of Washington Hospital in Seattle.
McDermott ran for a seat in the lower house of the Washington state legislature in 1970 and won, moving up to the state senate four years later. In 1980 he ran for Governor, ousting moderate Democratic incumbent Dixy Lee Ray in the primary but losing in November to a Republican.
McDermott retired from the state legislature in 1987, served briefly as a medical officer with the U.S. Foreign Service in tropical Africa, and then returned to Washington State in 1988 to run for an open Seventh District seat in Congress. He won the Democratic primary with a 38 percent plurality and the general election by a landslide.
McDermott quickly became, and remains, one of the farthest left members of Congress. He belongs to the Progressive Caucus and has been rated 95 percent liberal/left in his voting by the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA).
The only certified psychiatrist in Congress, McDermott advocates Canadian-style socialized medicine.
In 1996, while sitting as ranking minority member of the House Ethics Committee which was then hearing charges against Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, McDermott received (from a Florida couple) a tape of an illegally recorded cell phone conversation that had taken place between Gingrich and some fellow Republican congressional leaders. McDermott himself then violated the law by giving access to this stolen conversation to the New York Times, which quoted excerpts in a story a few days later.
Rep. John Boehner, who was a participant in the taped conversation, sued McDermott for his illegal media leak. A court subsequently determined that McDermott had engaged in “willful and knowing misconduct” that “rises to the level of malice,” and ordered the congressman to pay Boehner’s legal costs (over $600,000) plus $60,000 in damages. A December 11, 2006 report by the House Ethics Committee stated that McDermott had “violated ethics rules by giving reporters access to an illegally taped telephone call involving Republican leaders a decade ago.”
In September 2002 McDermott traveled to Baghdad along with fellow Progressive Caucus member David Bonior and Rep. Mike Thompson. The three lawmakers embraced Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and created propaganda in his behalf, publicly expressing doubt about the Bush administration’s claims that Saddam’s regime had manufactured and stockpiled weapons of mass destruction. Interviewed upon his return to the United States by George Stephanopoulos on ABC, McDermott declared that President George W. Bush was “trying to provoke a war.” McDermott then told the startled Stephanopoulos that he found Saddam more credible than Bush: “I think you have to take the Iraqis on their value -- at their face value [but] I think the President would mislead the American people.
When that interview was conducted, it was generally believed that the $5,510 travel expenses of McDermott's trip to Baghdad had been paid entirely by the nonprofit organization Life for Relief and Development (LRD), an organization that regularly shipped food and medicine to Iraq. One of LRD's financial supporters was Detroit-area Iraqi-American businessman Shakir al-Khafaji, who, according to an April 2004 investigation published by the Seattle Times, had received "lucrative vouchers for Iraqi oil from Saddam's government."
In addition to his luxury junket to Baghdad, McDermott also received a $5,000 check from al-Khafaji that got deposited in a legal fund which the congressman had set up to cover legal fees related to his involvement in the aforementioned cell phone case. McDermott returned this $5,000 -- but not the travel money -- in April 2004.
In March 2008, federal prosecutors charged that the 2002 trip to Baghdad by McDermott and his fellow lawmakers had been secretly financed, through an intermediary named Muthanna Al-Hanooti, by Saddam's intelligence agency. According to the indictment, Al-Hanooti, a member of a Michigan nonprofit organization named Focus on American and Arab Interests and Relations (FAAIR), had arranged the trip at the behest of Saddam's regime. In exchange for his efforts, Al-Hanooti was rewarded with 2 million barrels of Iraqi oil. Responding to the foregoing revelations, McDermott spokesman Michael DeCesare said, "Obviously we didn't know it at the time. The trip was to see the plight of the Iraqi children. That's the only reason we went."
McDermott's biggest source of campaign funds by a wide margin is organized labor; one of his largest donors has been the American Association for Justice, formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.
During his legislative career, McDermott has voted:
- against major tax cut proposals in April 1995, October 1995, September 1998, February 2000, March 2000, July 2000, May 2001, May 2003, October 2004, and May 2006;
- against a welfare-reform bill designed to move people off the welfare rolls and into paying jobs;
- against multiple proposals to open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas exploration;
- against a proposal to fund offshore oil exploration along the Outer Continental Shelf;
- against the construction of new oil refineries in the U.S.;
- against the development of a national missile defense system;
- against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001;
- against the post-9/11 anti-terrorism measure known as the Patriot Act;
- against allowing the U.S. government to use electronic surveillance to investigate suspected terrorist operatives;
- against a bill permitting the government to combat potential terrorist threats by monitoring foreign electronic communications which are routed through the United States;
- against an October 2002 joint resolution authorizing U.S. military action in Iraq;
- against the establishment of military commissions to try enemy combatants captured in the war on terror;
- in favor of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq immediately and by a preordained date;
- against President Bush’s 2007 decision to deploy some 21,500 additional U.S. soldiers in an effort to quell the violent insurgents in Iraq;
- in favor of a proposal to expedite the transfer of all prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay detention center;
- against a bill to increase the presence of U.S. border patrol personnel;
- in favor of permitting illegal aliens to receive public assistance;
- against requiring hospitals to report (to the federal government) illegal aliens who receive emergency medical treatment;
- against separate proposals calling for the construction of some 700 miles of fencing to prevent illegal immigration along America's southern border;
- against a proposal to grant state and local officials the authority to investigate, identify, and arrest illegal immigrants;
- in favor of proposals to replace the death penalty with a life imprisonment sentence;
- against a proposal to increase the mandatory minimum prison sentence for committing a federal crime with a firearm;
- against legislation to ban the late-term abortion procedure commonly known as partial-birth abortion in November 1995, September 1996, March 1997, July 1998, April 2000, June 2003, and October 2003;
- in favor of an amendment to permit federal funding (with taxpayer dollars) for abortion procedures.
In 2002, McDermott was one of 14 Democrats who refused to support a resolution condemning the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional and had to be prohibited in public schools and other government forums because it contained the words "under God."
In 2003 he was one of only 11 Members of Congress who voted against a non-binding resolution "expressing the support and appreciation of the nation for the President and the members of the armed forces who are participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom."
McDermott serves as an honorary
for Democratic Action,
along with such notables as Barney Frank,