Editor’s note: The following report is the latest in a Daily Caller series revealing the opposition research Republican Jack Ryan planned to use in his short-lived 2004 campaign for U.S. Senate against then-Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama.
The opposition research file of Republican Jack Ryan includes 253 pages dedicated solely to media clippings about Barack Obama.
A page titled “Worst Hits on Barack Obama” serves as a table of contents for the most controversial stories involving the future president by 2004.
The first section — and by far the densest — is called “Shamefully Soft on Crime and Drugs,” and provides a window into Obama’s character liabilities, brought into focus by his willingness to vote either against or “present” on an array of anti-crime legislation. It includes accounts of his failing to support laws meant to protect battered women, ensure the privacy of rape victims and prevent the murder of witnesses.
Starting in 1997, the Chicago Tribune reported Obama was critical of a bill aimed at juvenile felons that would have created “a state database, complete with fingerprints,” given victims the right to testify during sentencing, added aggravated battery with a firearm to the list of crimes that would require trial as an adult, given police a full 24 hours to hold suspects without charges and converted youth convicts to adult sentences if they failed to “complete a juvenile sentence satisfactorily.”
“What we haven’t addressed in this bill is the preventative side that prevents kids from getting into the system in the first place,” Obama insisted then, in explaining his opposition.
By 1999, Obama had joined an effort to examine completely overhauling the state’s criminal code following what Jack Ryan’s researchers called “state lawmakers’ ‘zeal to get tough on crime.’”
Obama argued that lawmakers were too often pushing through tough-on-crime legislation, complicating the criminal code.
“It’s very hard for elected officials to resist a bill that enhances penalties for drug offenses because nobody’s pro-drug,” Obama said then, according to the Copley News Service. “For the same reason, it’s very hard to vote against a bill that makes life tougher on sex offenders. Nobody likes sex offenders,” he said.
Later that year, when faced with a bill that would put convicted wife batterers in prison for a minimum of two days, Obama took a pass. The Copley News Service reported his criticism of the bill was that it would fill the court system with offenders looking to avoid jail time.
On April 27, 1999, the Copley News Service reported on Obama’s questionable voting yet again, this time noting that he voted present on a bill that would allow victims of sex crimes to have their cases sealed following a conviction. The intent of that bill was to prevent public consumption of the explicit details of those crimes without “good cause.” Obama, it was reported, questioned the bill’s constitutionality. It became Illinois state law without his support.
In May of that year, the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin reported that Obama voted present yet again, becoming one of only seven state senators to avoid registering their support for a bill meant to deter the murder of witnesses. The Senate “overwhelmingly” approved the bill, which would allow prior testimony under oath to be admitted as evidence in a case where that witness was unavailable.