Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D)
Elected: 1984, 13th term.
Born: April 2, 1937, Nanticoke .
Education: Temple U., 1957-61, Dickinson Law Schl., 1962-65.
Family: Married (Nancy); 1 child.
Military career: Army Reserves, 1960–61.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1966–85; Nanticoke City solicitor, 1969–81; Admin. law judge, 1971–80.
The congressman from the 11th District is Paul Kanjorski, a Democrat first elected in 1984. Kanjorski grew up in Nanticoke, near Wilkes-Barre. As a 16-year-old page in the House of Representatives in 1954, he was on the floor when Puerto Rican terrorists started shooting from the gallery and wounded five congressmen. Sprayed by dust from the gunfire, Kanjorski helped to bring stretchers into the chamber. He attended, but did not graduate from, college and law school, then passed the bar exam and returned home to practice law. He was a workmen’s compensation administrative law judge for nine years and Nanticoke city solicitor for 12. He ran for Congress and won the Democratic primary by pointing out that the incumbent was in Central America while flooded Wilkes-Barre area residents were boiling water to drink.
|Paul Kanjorski (D)||146,379||(52%)||($3,153,006)|
|Lou Barletta (R)||137,151||(48%)||($1,315,969)|
|Paul Kanjorski (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (72%), 2004 (94%), 2002 (56%), 2000 (66%), 1998 (67%), 1996 (68%), 1994 (67%), 1992 (67%), 1990 (100%), 1988 (100%), 1986 (71%), 1984 (59%)
In the House, Kanjorski is a tough partisan whose voting record was once liberal but has moved toward the center, especially on cultural issues. He opposes abortion rights but has voted for international family planning aid. He voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq, but later voiced regret for his vote and criticized the Bush administration for diverting funds from fighting Al Qaeda to Iraq. In April 2007, he bucked his party as one of six House Democrats who voted against giving the District of Columbia full voting representation in the House of Representatives.
On the Financial Services Committee, Kanjorski is the No. 2 Democrat and chairman of the Subcommittee on Capitol Markets, Insurance and Government Sponsored Enterprises. He helped to write the post-Enron scandal bill to crack down on corporate fraud, and he pushed a “subprime lending” bill to protect consumers from predatory practices. In 2007, he took the lead on renewing the terrorism risk-insurance program, including a requirement that insurance carriers offer coverage of a nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological attack. He also has proposed steps toward federal regulation of the insurance industry, starting with a Treasury Department office to collect information about the industry. Major insurance companies staunchly oppose the measure.
Most important to Kanjorski is helping his economically ailing district. With help from powerful home-state ally Rep. John Murtha, he has directed millions of federal dollars to local projects; The New York Times has called him “a master of earmarking.” But his eagerness to deliver money back home has gotten him some unwelcome notice. The Scranton Times-Tribune reported in 2007 that since the late 1990s, Kanjorski has earmarked nearly $10 million in federal funding to Cornerstone Technologies, a troubled high-tech research and development company controlled by his relatives. The company was supposed to turn coal into minute particles for use in carbon fibers, but the end product was disappointing and Cornerstone filed for bankruptcy in 2006, with more than $1 million in debt. “It was just like the Three Stooges meet anthracite,” a Penn State professor who worked with the firm told the Times-Tribune. Former employees charged that Kanjorski “often took an active role in its operations,” according to the newspaper account. In 2008, the U.S. Transportation Department had blocked $5.6 million that Kanjorski had earmarked for a parking garage in Nanticoke.
Republicans have targeted Kanjorski, and succeeded in tightening his margin. In 2008, his opponent was Hazleton Mayor Louis Barletta, who had challenged him in 2002 and lost. Given his role on the Financial Services Committee, Kanjorski was a prime target for grass-roots opposition against the $700 billion bailout of the financial services industry that committee Democrats shepherded through the House in 2008. Polls in September showed Kanjorski was deadlocked or trailing Barletta, who criticized him for weak oversight of the financial industry, including the many companies whose executives had made campaign contributions to Kanjorski. “I’m elected to Congress to do the right thing, not to get reelected,” he told The Citizens’ Voice in Wilkes-Barre.
Barletta ran ads criticizing Kanjorski’s support of the bailout, and he talked up the need for federal action to control illegal immigration. Kanjorski outspent Barletta $3.2 million to $1.3 million, and he received campaign help from Biden and former President Bill Clinton. He won by only 52%-48%. Barletta won three of the five counties, including the district’s largest, Luzerne. Kanjorski prevailed with 60% in gritty Lackawanna and 56% in fast-growing Monroe. Kanjorski has had some health problems in recent years, including triple bypass surgery in 2007.