Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 1978, 18th term.

Born: June 14, 1943, Chicago, IL

Home: Menomonee Falls

Education: Stanford U., A.B. 1965, U. of WI, J.D. 1968

Professional Career: Staff asst., U.S. Rep. Arthur Younger, 1965; Practicing atty., 1968–69.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Episcopalian

Family: married (Cheryl) , 2 children

Republican Jim Sensenbrenner, first elected in 1978, is a forceful conservative whose prickly personality can rankle liberals, but he has racked up a number of legislative accomplishments.

Sensenbrenner grew up in the Milwaukee area, with strong Wisconsin roots. His great-grandfather was a founder of Kimberly-Clark, which invented the sanitary napkin, and Sensenbrenner is an heir to the paper and cellulose fortune. He reports a net worth of more than $15 million, and on top of that, he won $250,000 in the District of Columbia lottery after buying two tickets while picking up some beer for an office party at a Capitol Hill liquor store. He graduated from Stanford University and the University of Wisconsin Law School and has spent most of his adult life in politics. He served briefly as a staffer in the U.S. House, and then was elected to the Wisconsin Assembly in 1968 and to the Wisconsin Senate in 1974. (His son, Robert, is now counsel to the House Administration Committee.) When Republican Rep. Bob Kasten ran for governor, Sensenbrenner ran in this district and won the Republican primary by 589 votes.

Sensenbrenner has a rough and often partisan edge, which does not always wear well with his colleagues. He apologized in 2011 for remarks he made about first lady Michelle Obama, who has made fighting the nation’s high obesity rate one of her priorities. Attempting to make a point about hypocrisy at a church bazaar, Sensenbrenner displayed a stunning lack of decorum and sensitivity by saying she had a “big butt.” He later repeated the reference in an airport cell phone conversation that several people overheard. The same year, he briefly suggested impeaching Attorney General Eric Holder in connection with Holder’s refusal to release documents in connection with the controversial “Operation Fast and Furious” gun-tracing program. Fellow Republican Dan Lungren of California told The New York Times in 2006 that Sensenbrenner “treats us all like dogs.”

But Sensenbrenner’s pugnaciousness has endeared him to conservatives—the right-wing magazine Human Events named him as its man of the year in 2006. And his legislative skills have earned him respect on Capitol Hill. He was one of the first to urge that Congress apply to itself the same laws it imposes on the rest of the country. A former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sensenbrenner now heads the panel’s Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee. Despite his conservatism, he occasionally opposes his party on principle. He was one of 17 House Republicans to vote against a 2012 amendment to bar the Obama administration from using taxpayer funds to defend its health care law in court.

When he chaired Judiciary in 2001, Sensenbrenner was instrumental in passing the first congressional authorization of the Department of Justice in many years, citing the vital role that it gave his committee in improving oversight of the department. The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington criticized him, however, after the BP oil spill disaster in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. Sensenbrenner owned more than 3,600 shares of the company’s stock but did not recuse himself from an investigation into the company or from votes relating to it. He was not required to do so under House rules, but the group said his involvement created an appearance of impropriety. He also has come under criticism for taking foreign trips financed by outside groups. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in 2009 that he had visited Liechtenstein five times since 2004.

Sensenbrenner is best known for his work on Judiciary after the September 11 attacks. He pressed for a thorough congressional review of Attorney General John Ashcroft’s proposal for beefed-up investigative powers for law enforcement. Concerned about possible violations of civil liberties, he insisted on a sunset provision for the USA Patriot Act, the anti-terrorism law passed just after the attacks on New York and Washington, ensuring it would expire in four years and give Congress a chance to study its impact. By 2005, he decided that his concerns about civil liberties had been addressed and pushed to make most of the law permanent. Some questionable parliamentary maneuvering during one of his hearings on renewal of the act led Democrats to file an unusual resolution condemning Sensenbrenner for alleged abuse of power. The House rejected the resolution on a party-line vote, and Sensenbrenner refused demands for an apology.

After a difficult conference committee with the Senate, he won an extension of the act for the Bush administration. But Sensenbrenner had differences with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales over the scope of the domestic surveillance program and demanded steps to protect “the freedoms we cherish.” Sensenbrenner pushed in 2011 for a six-year extension, as well as a permanent extension of its so-called “lone wolf” provision allowing the government to monitor terrorists even if they are not suspected of ties to a specific group. The law is unpopular with younger, tea party conservatives who are suspicious of government.

Sensenbrenner worked steadily for years on some bills. One of them was the bankruptcy bill, which passed in 2005 after being held up for years by a Democratic provision preventing abortion protesters from filing for bankruptcy to avoid fines and damages in attacks on abortion clinics. He has backed limitations in tort law on class action, medical malpractice, and asbestos liability, and has sought to increase penalties for frivolous lawsuits. But he has not always followed the party line. In 2003, he said he saw no need to amend the Constitution to ban same-sex marriages.

Another of Sensenbrenner’s focused efforts has been on immigration. In 2004, he successfully added to the intelligence reorganization bill provisions setting national standards for driver’s licenses. They denied licenses to illegal immigrants, prohibited the use of Mexican matricula consular cards for identification, tightened standards for asylum, and overrode state laws and regulations blocking border barriers. In 2005, the House approved Sensenbrenner’s immigration bill, 261-161, and it became law. He took a skeptical view in January 2013 of bipartisan efforts to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill, saying, “Extending amnesty to those who came here illegally or overstayed their visas is dangerous waters.”

The House Republicans’ six-year term limit for senior committee members forced Sensenbrenner to give up the Judiciary gavel in January 2007. In March, Minority Leader John Boehner named Sensenbrenner the ranking Republican on the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. A global warming skeptic, Sensenbrenner had voted against the creation of the panel, saying it was nothing more than a publicity stunt, but he promised to participate in the debate. He protested when Republicans abolished the committee—which he would have chaired—in late 2010, saying the panel was still needed as a check on the Obama administration. He continues to attack climate science as a member of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, which he also chaired in the late 1990s. He sought to head the committee again in 2013, but lost out to Texas’ Lamar Smith.

Sensenbrenner has been reelected easily every two years. In 2009, he announced his reelection at the same time he made it known that he had prostate cancer. He prided himself on not missing votes, scheduling his cancer treatments around the House schedule, and holding more than 200 town meetings in 2009 and 2010. He cruised to a 69%-27% victory and narrowly missed that mark two years later with a 68%-32% win.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-5101

(202) 225-3190

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2449
Washington, DC 20515-4905

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-5101

(202) 225-3190

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2449
Washington, DC 20515-4905

DISTRICT OFFICE

(262) 784-1111

(262) 784-9437

120 Bishops Way Room 154
Brookfield, WI 53005-6294

DISTRICT OFFICE

(262) 784-1111

(262) 784-9437

120 Bishops Way Room 154
Brookfield, WI 53005-6294

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(414) 967-9292

N76 W14726 North Point Drive
Menomonee Falls, WI 53051

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

N76 W14726 North Point Drive
Menomonee Falls, WI 53051

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Erik Kinney
Legislative Assistant

Aerospace

Todd Washam
Senior Legislative Assistant

Agriculture

Jacob Peterson
Legislative Assistant; Scheduler

Animal Rights

Erik Kinney
Legislative Assistant

Jacob Peterson
Legislative Assistant; Scheduler

Appropriations

Amy Bos
Legislative Director

amy.bos@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5101

Todd Washam
Senior Legislative Assistant

Arts

Amy Bos
Legislative Director

amy.bos@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5101

Banking

Amy Bos
Legislative Director

amy.bos@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5101

Jacob Peterson
Legislative Assistant; Scheduler

Budget

Andrew Moore
Legislative Assistant

Campaign

Amy Bos
Legislative Director

amy.bos@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5101

Erik Kinney
Legislative Assistant

Commerce

Jacob Peterson
Legislative Assistant; Scheduler

Communication

Amy Bos
Legislative Director

amy.bos@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5101

Education

Andrew Moore
Legislative Assistant

Energy

Todd Washam
Senior Legislative Assistant

Entertainment

Amy Bos
Legislative Director

amy.bos@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5101

Environment

Todd Washam
Senior Legislative Assistant

Erik Kinney
Legislative Assistant

Family

Amy Bos
Legislative Director

amy.bos@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5101

Finance

Jacob Peterson
Legislative Assistant; Scheduler

Foreign

Todd Washam
Senior Legislative Assistant

Govt Ops

Erik Kinney
Legislative Assistant

Jacob Peterson
Legislative Assistant; Scheduler

Sally Cole
Senior Caseworker

sally.cole@mail.house.gov
(262) 784-1111

Gun Issues

Amy Bos
Legislative Director

amy.bos@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5101

Health

Erik Kinney
Legislative Assistant

Homeland Security

Amy Bos
Legislative Director

amy.bos@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5101

Andrew Moore
Legislative Assistant

Housing

Jacob Peterson
Legislative Assistant; Scheduler

Matt Holsen
District Outreach Director

Human Rights

Amy Bos
Legislative Director

amy.bos@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5101

Immigration

Amy Bos
Legislative Director

amy.bos@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5101

Sally Cole
Senior Caseworker

sally.cole@mail.house.gov
(262) 784-1111

Intelligence

Todd Washam
Senior Legislative Assistant

Andrew Moore
Legislative Assistant

Intergovernmental

Todd Washam
Senior Legislative Assistant

Sally Cole
Senior Caseworker

sally.cole@mail.house.gov
(262) 784-1111

Internet

Amy Bos
Legislative Director

amy.bos@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5101

Judiciary

Amy Bos
Legislative Director

amy.bos@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5101

Sally Cole
Senior Caseworker

sally.cole@mail.house.gov
(262) 784-1111

Labor

Amy Bos
Legislative Director

amy.bos@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5101

Jacob Peterson
Legislative Assistant; Scheduler

Land Use

Erik Kinney
Legislative Assistant

Medicare

Amy Bos
Legislative Director

amy.bos@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5101

Erik Kinney
Legislative Assistant

Matt Holsen
District Outreach Director

Military

Andrew Moore
Legislative Assistant

Privacy

Amy Bos
Legislative Director

amy.bos@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5101

Science

Todd Washam
Senior Legislative Assistant

Social Security

Amy Bos
Legislative Director

amy.bos@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5101

Erik Kinney
Legislative Assistant

Matt Holsen
District Outreach Director

Tax

Andrew Moore
Legislative Assistant

Matt Holsen
District Outreach Director

Technology

Todd Washam
Senior Legislative Assistant

Telecommunications

Amy Bos
Legislative Director

amy.bos@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5101

Trade

Todd Washam
Senior Legislative Assistant

Transportation

Todd Washam
Senior Legislative Assistant

Veterans

Andrew Moore
Legislative Assistant

Sally Cole
Senior Caseworker

sally.cole@mail.house.gov
(262) 784-1111

Welfare

Amy Bos
Legislative Director

amy.bos@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5101

Erik Kinney
Legislative Assistant

Jacob Peterson
Legislative Assistant; Scheduler

Women

Amy Bos
Legislative Director

amy.bos@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-5101

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Jim Sensenbrenner
Votes: 250,335
Percent: 67.88%
Dave Heaster
Votes: 118,478
Percent: 32.12%
2012 PRIMARY
Jim Sensenbrenner
Unopposed
2010 GENERAL
Jim Sensenbrenner
Votes: 229,642
Percent: 69.32%
Todd Kolosso
Votes: 90,634
Percent: 27.36%
2010 PRIMARY
Jim Sensenbrenner
Votes: 119,713
Percent: 100.0%
2008 GENERAL
Jim Sensenbrenner
Votes: 275,271
Percent: 79.58%
Robert Raymond
Votes: 69,715
Percent: 20.15%
2008 PRIMARY
Jim Sensenbrenner
Votes: 47,144
Percent: 78.27%
Jim Burkee
Votes: 13,078
Percent: 21.71%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (69%), 2008 (80%), 2006 (62%), 2004 (67%), 2002 (87%), 2000 (74%), 1998 (91%), 1996 (74%), 1994 (100%), 1992 (70%), 1990 (100%), 1988 (75%), 1986 (78%), 1984 (73%), 1982 (100%), 1980 (78%), 1978 (61%)

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