Lane’s Lessons for Current and Future Legislators – Constituent Services: “One of my top priorities is to listen to people’s concerns and to go to work for them. Whether it’s a complaint about a late GI Bill check, a student loan eligibility problem, or getting Medicare to pay a hospital bill, I’ve pushed the bureaucracies to help ordinary people with their problems. To make sure I hear about these problems, I’ve held personal office hours in every county of this district. During the past year, I and members of my staff have worked on over 5400 cases involving virtually every federal agency from the Department of Ag to the VA. That statistic represents everyday people who have real problems…Although we haven’t been able to solve every problem, we’ve compiled a strong record in making government work for average people. Another reason why I get out and talk to people is to learn their views and opinions. My close contact with areas constituents is extremely y useful in my work as a legislator. If several individuals in the district report the same problem, it becomes evident that legislation is necessary to solve the situation.”
“Millions of Americans face losing everything they own if a family member is hit by a long-term or catastrophic illness. It’s not only an issue for millions of Americans who work but have no health insurance, it’s also a problem faced by workers who are covered by employer provided health plans. The General Accounting Office found that between 1988 and 1990, 400k citizens were left without coverage due to insurance company mismanagement or fraud. That’s why I favor establishing a national health care plan similar to Canada’s that would provide universal coverage yet allow people to select their own hospitals and doctors. Effective cost containment would check huge increases. Marketing and wasteful administrative costs would be eliminated. The savings would cut out deductibles, expand coverage and increase research into new cures. The plan would be paid for by modest increase in employee payroll taxes and higher taxes on millionaires. Families, seniors and businesses would all see savings. The WSJ has reported that Canada’s health system is popular and less costly than ours. As one public opinion analyst put it, “Canadians secret nightmare is that their health care system will change and come to resemble our system. We don’t have to accept our current system. By pooling our risks and our resources we can take better care of each other. We can also have the economic peace of mind of knowing we won’t lose homes or everything we’ve saved should a family member become seriously ill. That’s the type of health care Americans need and the kind we must create.”
This book was a ten year struggle. Financially, emotionally and mentally. And one that I hope ends up portraying Lane Evans as he truly was.
I’ve worked hard to not include any political opinions, and merely document my research, interviews, and experiences. But this book was like writing about a dead man who was still alive. A man who could barely speak or write.
I couldn’t follow the basic biography formula due to my involvement in his life. Some would call it narcissism because I interjected myself to further the story. But I was a part of it. So that’s how I wrote it.
At first, I told myself to not get involved. To be like a nature photographer and watch the baby deer drown. Be an outside observer and chronicle this man’s life and death. And there were plenty of times when I witnessed things and bit my tongue. But then I realized that this man is my friend. I helped find him find a new nurse, helped him move from one apartment to another, and even just spent time with him for enjoyment rather than research. In the end, it has given me some insight that other biographers would not possess.
Some people told me to just write a basic, just-the-facts biography. Some even said that I should sign a non-disclosure agreement, as if there were some damning secrets to hide. There weren’t. There were no underage scandals with pages, no finger-tapping under airport bathroom stalls. No sex junkets or Congressional orgies. In fact, his life was pretty dull. Several people I interviewed said he was just a boring man. One woman even wished me luck in making his biography interesting.
Those who suggested a non-disclosure weren’t trying to hide scandal. Perhaps they were trying to hide the ugliness of Parkinson’s. And while I feel their intentions toward Lane were good, I feel it would be insulting to those individuals and families living with the disease. I believe Lane would want people to see the negative effects of the disease, so people can understand it and support research for a cure. To hide it, would be ignoring it.
I had to write about his physical downfall. I had to write about the effects that Parkinson’s has on a human being. To hide it, or be embarrassed of it, would be a travesty to those people who live with the disease as well as the people that love them. Maybe by writing about Parkinson’s, other families who may not understand the disease, may come to understand it, and then give the time they can to someone who is struggling.
Unfortunately he’s unable to pen an autobiography (which would have been much more eloquent!) But,this is how things worked out. So I wrote about Lane Evans, as I knew him. Guts and all.
Jan. 31, 2004
Lane Evans has done it again. He has gone beyond the call of duty to serve the public he works so hard to please. He was able to help me by helping my beloved brother.
My brother served two tours in Vietnam, and was even wounded. He, like many other young men, was exposed to Agent Orange while defending freedom abroad. As a result he has been living a life plagued by health problems and illness — twice stricken with cancer. As the medical bills mounted and the stress of having to deal with such situations increased, he felt he had nowhere to turn to get the help he needed, deserved and earned. My brother has been continually tossed from one agency to the next — each one failing to live up to promises made.
Eventually, my brother was at wits end and felt he had nowhere to turn. I could not accept what was happening, so I turned to the one person whom I thought could help my brother — I turned to Lane Evans.
The office of Lane Evans provided my brother with the direction and muscle he needed to receive the attention and care deserved by someone who has honorably served his country. Nothing is more demanding on ones mind than to have to deal with life-threatening illness, except to have nowhere to turn with your illness. Having Lane Evans involved with my brother’s situation has provided my brother and his family the hope necessary to overcome obstacles and live life.
Without Lane Evans, my brother would be hurting without hope. Now, my brother is breathing easier knowing that he has someone looking out for him.
“Government doesn’t work very hard when it comes to solving the problems of ordinary citizens. All too often, it turns a deaf ear when people have complaints. One of my top priorities is to listen to people’s concerns and to go to work for them. Whether it’s a complaint about a late GI Bill check, a student loan eligibility problem, or getting Medicare to pay a hospital bill, I’ve pushed the bureaucracies to help ordinary people with their problems. To make sure I hear about these problems, I’ve held personal office hours in every county of this district. During the past year, I and members of my staff have worked on over 5400 cases involving virtually every federal agency from the Department of Ag to the VA. That statistic represents everyday people who have real problems…Although we haven’t been able to solve every problem, we’ve compiled a strong record in making government work for average people. Another reason why I get out and talk to people is to learn their views and opinions. My close contact with areas constituents is extremely useful in my work as a legislator. If several individuals in the district repot the same problem, it becomes evident that legislation is necessary to solve the situation.” – Lane Evans, Oct 7, 1990
Lane was a geek for technology and knew how to use it to his advantage. Along with his cable-access call-in show, he was also capitalizing on advancements in satellite television transmission that allowed local news stations to transmit Live broadcasts and cover issues all the way in Washington DC. Lane held press conferences any chance he got, and was always in contact with reporters back home.
He was capitalizing on a technological revolution that transformed politics across the nation. Previously, Politicians had been able to have more control over local messaging and media coverage. Few reporters from their home districts would come to DC, because if they did, they would have to make a tape and then literally send it back to the news station. This meant politicians could take their message back to their district, giving them time to fine-tune their message and deliver their own hand-picked information. The Satellite transmission gave reporters greater access to Washington to get immediate responses and hold Politicians more accountable.
In July of 1987 the Congressional Quarterly did an article about this new satellite technology, and how young Congress members who were “raised on television” used the medium to their political advantage. It was called “Hometown Celebrities: the TV Generation in the House,” and it featured Lane on the cover. To which Senator Paul Simon commented: “I’ve been in Washington 13 years and I’ve never made the cover of Congressional Quarterly. I think that is an indication of the kind of impression that he has made in the Washington scene.”
The Satellite transmission was equivalent to the “carrier pigeon vs. the wireless telegraph” as the article said: “The ability to dominate the news agenda back home has always been an important protective tool for House incumbents. Now, for those with a high profile on local television, the protective effect is amplified. (Lane) Evans is one member whose security clearly has been bolstered by his status as a local TV star…During his appearances in the district, many greet him with the sort of enthusiasm and adulation that a popular entertainer might receive. Evans’ ability to obtain television coverage of his activities helps him offset Republican charges that he is an extreme liberal.”
At this time, the media was bound by Equal-time laws that mandated that news outlets provide equal time to legally declared political candidates during prime-time, but they were now released from the Fairness Doctrine, which mandated news outlets provide “balanced and fair coverage of controversial issues. The Fairness Doctrine was eliminated by Reagan in 1987. Still, many Republicans felt that the local news was unfairly giving Lane too much air time.
To that, News Director Greg Wilson at the Rock Island TV-station WHBF (known for being Republican) said: “We don’t put him on just for the sake of having him on.” They only covered him if a local issue was being discussed. And Lane knew that he could spin nearly everything to be local, so he was able to dominate most news cycles even with the most miniscule of issues.
One of Lane’s first priorities upon entering Congress was to push his Populist philosophy, so in 1983 he founded the House Populist Caucus along with thirteen other Democrats, including notables such as Tom Dashcle, Berkley Bedell, Al Gore, Frank McCloskey, Bill Richardson, Harold Volkmer, Gerry Sikorski, Tim Penny, James Oberstar and Barbara Boxer.
Today, the term Populist has become a blanket term for any anti-establishment candidate or someone popular with the common voter. This upsets many purists however, including Lane’s friend Jim Hightower, radio commentator, columnist, and former presidential campaign manager for Fred Harris. Hightower describes Populism as: “a doctrine, a history, and an organized movement to empower ordinary folks to battle the financial and corporate elites.” Or in other words, “Populism is standing up for the little guys against the bankers, big-shots and bastards. The very essence of populism is breaking the grip that big corporations have on our country.”
Evans’ Populist caucus was going to push for a progressive tax policy, more credit access for farmers, to revoke the 1981 corporate tax cuts, and for better enforcement of anti-trust laws.
“We’re looking for some real old-time political scraps with the forces of reaction and unbridled corporate power,” Lane told the Argus/Dispatch in 1983. “We’re all card-carrying capitalists. We believe in oil companies; we just want a lot of them…the idea behind populism is to promote competition the way it’s supposed to be, not huge monopolies or unfair corporate practices.”
In keeping with the Populist philosophy, Lane did something practically unheard of on Capitol Hill — he declined a $9100 pay raise and didn’t enroll in the retirement plan. He also returned ten percent of his $60,000 salary to the US Treasury. It was a sign of solidarity with the people of the district, 20,000 of whom lost their jobs during the manufacturing downturn. “My people don’t get those types of perks, why should I?”
“In 1987 I introduced a bill, HR 1657 to make the GI bill permanent…the original bill was threatened when President Reagan sought to eliminate it in his fiscal year 1987 budget…I felt compelled to fight for the bill because it was working…It took some negotiations and maneuvering, but we did succeed in making the bill permanent. I was most pleased when Congressman Lane Evans of Illinois, a senior member of the committee, introduced an amendment (to name it) the Montgomery GI Bill of 1984. In offering his amendment, Congressman Evans commented on my role in the proposed legislation: “You had the vision to conceive the New GI Bill. You had the courage to fight for it against strong and committed opposition. You had the leadership needed to succeed. It has done what you said it would and even more.” — Sonny Montgomery (R-MS)
“Sonny Montgomery: The Veteran’s Champion” by G.V. Sonny Montgomery with Michael B. Ballard and Craig S. Piper. University Press of Mississippi. 2003.
“From time to time, I’ve been asked who I am running against. My reply has been that I’m not running against anyone, because I am running for an office and to represent people. The office I hold, and ask to retain, demands such an approach. With all the problems Congress has with its poor public perception, its credibility won’t be restored if it is comprised of 435 mudslingers. So I ask the voters to examine the candidates with a skeptical eye. Don’t rely on 30-second negative ads to make your important election choices. Look into the candidates record and ask them where they stand on the important issues that affect you.” Lane Evans, November 1990.
“During my time in Congress, I have tried to be an advocate for the hard-working people in our area: our family farmers, our small business owners and working people. It seems clear that our government has turned its back on the needs of average citizens as i
t has catered to the interest of a few wealthy and powerful Americans. I believe we can reverse these priorities and restore our visions and values that reward every American for what they contribute. It won’t happen by resorting to gimmicks or replaying the policies of the 80s. It requires a commitment to serving the interests of every American and make our country stand up for them. By insisting on fair taxation policies, fair trade and wise military spending, we can reduce the deficit, protect American jobs from unfair foreign competition and provide for the needs of our fellow citizens.” — Argus/Dispatch Nov 4, 1990.