Rep. Peter Visclosky (D)
Elected: 1984, 13th term.
Born: Aug. 13, 1949, Gary .
Education: IN U. Northwest, B.S. 1970, U. of Notre Dame, J.D. 1973, Georgetown U., LL.M. 1982.
Family: Married (Joanne Royce); 2 children.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1973–76, 1983–84; Aide, U.S. Rep. Adam Benjamin, 1976–82.
The congressman from the 1st District is Peter Visclosky, a Democrat first elected in 1984. As the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, Visclosky was one of the powerful “cardinals” of the House. But he was forced to step aside, at least temporarily, in June 2009 after he was subpoenaed as part of a grand jury investigation into possible corruption in the appropriations process. The next-in-line in seniority, Democrat Ed Pastor of Arizona, took over the subcommittee for the duration of the investigation. In 2007, The Indianapolis Star reported that Visclosky had steered more than $12 million to out-of-state defense companies that contributed to his campaign. Much of that federal money had been secured through the efforts of a lobbying firm, PMA Group, that hired a former top Visclosky aide, Richard Kaelin, the newspaper reported. Visclosky said he expected to be cleared of wrongdoing. “I have always abided by the law and adhered to the rules and code of ethics of the House,” he said in a June 2, 2009 statement.
|Peter Visclosky (D)||199,954||(71%)||($1,664,250)|
|Mark Leyva (R)||76,647||(27%)||($12,024)|
|Peter Visclosky (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (70%), 2004 (68%), 2002 (67%), 2000 (72%), 1998 (73%), 1996 (69%), 1994 (56%), 1992 (69%), 1990 (66%), 1988 (77%), 1986 (73%), 1984 (71%)
Visclosky grew up in Lake County. His father was mayor of Gary in the early 1960s, and Visclosky went to college there and to law school at the University of Notre Dame. He practiced law and then worked for six years in Washington for 1st District Rep. Adam Benjamin, a Democrat. Benjamin died suddenly of a heart ailment in 1982, and Visclosky returned to Indiana. In 1984, he ran for the seat in the Democratic primary against Katie Hall, a black state senator who had been given the 1982 nomination—and thus the election, in this Democratic district—by Mayor Hatcher, who was also the district’s party chairman. In the 1984 contest, she faced a determined Visclosky, who pulled out all the stops to connect with voters since he couldn’t rely on the local Democratic establishment, which was backing Hall. He called himself the “Slovak Kid” to connect with the district’s many European ethnic groups, and he held hot dog dinners to attract young people and others not usually seeped in local politics. Visclosky narrowly prevailed over Hall with 34% of the vote to her 33%.
Visclosky’s voting record has trended in the direction of moderate, and he concentrates much of his effort on projects to help the local economy, especially the steel industry. He has a solid pro-union voting record. He is a leader of the Congressional Steel Caucus and has been vigilant in monitoring surges in steel imports. When George W. Bush was elected president in 2000 with critical help from steel-producing areas, Visclosky had greater leverage, and Bush did impose steel import quotas. But when the quotas were removed, Visclosky protested that Bush “stabbed the American steelworkers in the back.” Visclosky, meanwhile, sought health benefits for unemployed and retired workers whose steel companies were unable to pay them, and he again called for close monitoring of imports. In 2005, he joined a bipartisan group of House members calling for repeal of permanent trade relations with China, which he termed “a one-way street.” He criticized Bush for rejecting a recommendation to provide relief to American pipe-steel producers suffering from Chinese imports. In 2008, he sought to require that federally funded projects use only American-made steel, and he called for increased duties on subsidized steel, especially steel from China.
As the chairman of the appropriations subcommittee, Visclosky was adept at securing federal funding for projects in his district and doling them out to other lawmakers. One of his efforts was passing an exemption to the federal Johnson Act that made Lake Michigan waters eligible for gambling and thus allowing riverboat casinos for Gary. On broader national issues, Visclosky in 2007 rejected the Bush administration’s request for $89 million for a new nuclear warhead, and he slashed from $405 million to $120 million the administration’s proposed funding for reprocessing fuel rods in nuclear power plants, which was opposed by anti-nuclear-power environmentalists. He added more than $1 billion for the Energy Department’s research and development of civilian energy technologies, including renewable fuels and energy efficiency.
At home, Visclosky appeared secure until he became a target in the corruption probe in early 2009.