Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D)|
Last Updated June 4, 2001
seat up 2006
Born: Oct. 26, 1947,
Education: Wellesley Col., B.A. 1969; Yale U., J.D. 1973
Marital Status: married
- Professional: Atty., Children's Defense Fund, 1973-74; Council, U.S. House of Reps. Judiciary Committee, 1974; Asst. professor, U. of AR School of Law, 1974-77, 1979-80; Practicing atty., 1977-92; Chair, Pres. Task Force on Health Care Reform, 1993.
DC Office: 476 RSOB
202-224-4451; Fax: 202-228-0282; Web site: clinton.senate.gov
518-431-0120; Buffalo,716-854-9725; New York City,212-688-6262; Syracuse,315-448-0470.
Hillary Rodham Clinton was elected in November 2000 while she was first lady of the United States. Clinton grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois; her father owned and ran a drape and curtain factory. She excelled at her studies and was elected to student government at Maine South High School. Park Ridge is a solidly Republican Chicago suburb, near O'Hare Airport, and the young Hillary Rodham was a Goldwater girl in 1964. She went to Wellesley College, where she became a Democrat in the turbulent election year of 1968: she wrote her senior thesis (kept under lock and key by the college since 1993) on applying the theories of radical Chicago organizer Saul Alinsky and argued that antipoverty programs did not give enough power to the poor. She was elected student government president, in which she pushed successfully for admission of more black students and admission of men to women's dorms. At the 1969 commencement she gave a speech which got notice in Life magazine. She went on to Yale Law School, where she worked with the attorney for Black Panthers accused of murder and clerked for a summer with Communist attorney Robert Treuhaft in Berkeley. At Yale she met Bill Clinton, and they became partners for life.
Bill Clinton was anything but reticent about his political ambitions in his native Arkansas. He showed her around the state and together they went to Austin in 1972 to run the McGovern campaign. After graduation in 1973, Bill Clinton moved to Fayetteville to teach law at the University of Arkansas. In 1974 Hillary Rodham moved to Washington to work for the House Judiciary Committee's special counsel John Doar on the impeachment of Richard Nixon; Bill Clinton, at 28, ran against Republican Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt and nearly beat him. After Nixon resigned, she returned to Arkansas to teach law, and in October 1975 she and Clinton were married. In 1976 he was elected attorney general of Arkansas; she worked for Jimmy Carter's campaign. After that she worked for the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock and in 1977 was appointed to part-time chairman of the Legal Services Corporation. Under her leadership the Legal Services budget increased dramatically, including contributions to local political campaigns and conducting campaigns against ballot propositions. In 1978 Bill Clinton ran for governor, and after he won the Democratic nomination, tantamount to victory that year, Hillary Rodham invested $1,000 in commodities future and with the help of a friend who was general counsel of Tyson Foods, one of the state's biggest businesses, saw that turned into $100,000.
In 1980 Bill Clinton was defeated for re-election. He promptly took up a more moderate line and his wife began to call herself Hillary Clinton; in 1982 he beat the incumbent and became governor again. Hillary Clinton continued her law practice and service on the board of the Children's Defense Fund and other organizations. She chaired the Arkansas Education Standards Committee in 1983-84 and former Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. She served on the boards of Wal-Mart, TCBY and in 1988 and 1991 was named by the National Law Journal as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in the country. It was in these years also that she and her husband invested in the Whitewater real estate project and that she performed legal work for the Morgan Guaranty Savings and Loan, which invested in the project and whose failure cost the federal government $73 million. Whitewater later became the subject of congressional hearings and an independent counsel investigation, both of which were impeded when Rose Law Firm billing records were subpoenaed in July 1994 but were not found until they turned up in the residential quarters of the White House in January 1996. Independent Counsel Robert Ray in September 2000 ended the investigation, saying he could not prove that the Clinton had been involved in criminal activity or that they concealed information from investigators or obstructed justice: "The evidence was insufficient to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt."
In 1991 Bill Clinton ran for president. It was widely rumored that he had had many extramarital affairs; at a Washington press breakfast the Clintons admitted that their marriage had not been without problems. After the election, Clinton announced that the leader of his task force on health care reform would be the first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton--the first time her maiden name was featured. The task force under her direction and that of Ira Magaziner met secretly and without input from members of Congress; a complicated plan was finally produced after a couple of deadlines were not met. Clinton eventually did testify before Congress; there and in other public forums she was crisp, articulate, knowledgeable. But she was unable to persuade Congress to adopt her plan. It never came to the floor in either house, and was abandoned in September 1994. In the meantime, the first lady had problems with scandals. In May 1993 the members of the White House Travel Office were fired, and director Billy Ray Dale was later prosecuted--and acquitted by a jury within minutes. Clinton denied that she had any role in the firings, or in apparent plans to replace the charter service with one owned by Clinton friends and Hollywood producers Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason. In June 2000 Independent Counsel Robert Ray concluded that Clinton had given "factually false" testimony in a sworn depositon, but declined to prosecute her.
Clinton persevered through the humiliations of the health care fiasco and the scandals with an aplomb that showed great discipline and determination. She worked on lesser, but nonetheless worthy projects, helping to shape the CHIP children's health insurance program, seeking funding for breast cancer and other women's health problems, producing the bipartisan Adoption and Safe Family Act of 1997. She wrote It Takes a Village and donated the proceeds to children's hospitals. In January 1998, when Bill Clinton denied the charge that he had had an affair with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Hillary Rodham Clinton flew to New York to appear on the Today show and charge that the allegations were the product of "a vast right-wing conspiracy." She continued to support him, though with obvious frostiness, when he was forced to admit in August 1998 that the charges were true.
Meanwhile, she campaigned gamely for Democratic candidates in the 1998 elections, and was particularly moved by the warm applause she received in her four appearances in New York for Senate candidate Charles Schumer. In October 1998 New York Congressman Charles Rangel told her that she should run for the Senate from New York herself: "She said, 'Who would want me to run here?' But she had a twinkle in her eye. And I knew then this was more than a joke for her." Three days after the 1998 election, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan announced that he would not run for re-election in New York in 2000. Moynihan, the nation's best thinker among politicians since Lincoln and its best politician among thinkers since Jefferson, a man whose public career extends back into the 1950s and includes many prescient warnings and original insights, who had served four terms in the Senate after serving in the cabinet or subcabinets of four successive presidents, obviously was not going to be replaced by a politician of similar magnitude; there aren't any. But there also weren't any obvious Democratic successors. Moynihan himself suggested state Controller Carl McCall; Congresswoman Nita Lowey of Westchester County was interested in the race; but it was not clear that either had the stature to beat the likely Republican nominee, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. In early 1999 Bob Torricelli, the aggressive head of the Senate Democrats' campaign committee, called for Clinton to run. She said she was giving "careful thought" to it. She started making more trips to New York, and Lowey said she would be glad to step aside if Clinton ran. In July 1999 she appeared at Moynihans' Upstate farm and then began a "listening tour" across Upstate New York. Giuliani responded with an appearance in Arkansas.
Clinton's early campaign was not without troubles. There was widespread ridicule of the idea of someone with no previous connection with the state running for senator from New York. Her claims that she had always been a New York Yankees fan were met with disbelief, and her claim that she had often driven through Upstate New York on childhood vacations (her family often summered near her father's home town of Scranton, Pennsylvania, not far away) seemed a pathetic reach. In August 1999 Bill Clinton granted clemency to four Puerto Rican terrorists who never expressed remorse for their violent crimes--an obvious pitch for the Puerto Rican vote and a foreshadowing of the pardons he would issue in January 2001. Embarrassed, she came out against the move, without giving a heads-up to Puerto Rican leaders. That same month the Clintons left their favorite vacation spot, fashionable Martha's Vineyard, for a sojourn in Skaneateles, a pleasant town in the Finger Lakes they would never have visited otherwise. In October the Clintons bought a house in woodsy Chappaqua in Westchester County and were then embarrassed because they borrowed most of the purchase price from Democratic fundraiser Terry McAuliffe; later they got more conventional financing. In November1999 on a trip to Israel Clinton embraced and kissed the wife of Yasir Arafat after a speech in which she lambasted the Israelis; Clinton explained later that she was acting in a diplomatic capacity, but her act brought back memories of her endorsement of an independent Palestinian state when that was not yet U.S. policy. In February 2000 she formally announced her candidacy, with her husband standing silently by, from a venue in Westchester. By that point her poll ratings had slipped, and she was running no better than even with Giuliani.
Carpetbagging is not necessarily a political crime in New York. Voters there in 1964 elected Robert Kennedy, though he lived in Virginia and had a technical residence in Massachusetts. Robert Kennedy won in 1964 not just because of Lyndon Johnson's coattails, but because he ran virtually even in usually Republican Upstate New York; national celebrities may be commonplace in New York City, but when they show up in small Upstate towns and cities it is noted and appreciated. Hillary Rodham Clinton's strategy was similar. With her usual hard work, perseverance and intensity, she criss-crossed Upstate New York, listened to its voters' many complaints, learned about local issues and adopted appealing positions on them: the same slogging persistence she had shown in the dreary days in Arkansas and the tumultuous days after the health care fiasco and scandal charges in Washington. And she waited for the opposition to make mistakes, which it did. In March 2000 Giuliani was under attack when police officers shot an unarmed man in Manhattan; the liberal New York press seized on this opportunity, and the mayor helped them by releasing the victim's juvenile crime record. In April Giuliani announced that he had prostate cancer; in May he announced that he was seeking a separation from his wife, days after she announced she was appearing in the Vagina Monologues. Days later, in a dramatic press conference, he announced he was leaving the Senate race.
Within 24 hours the Republicans had another candidate, Long Island Congressman Rick Lazio. He had talked of running in summer 1999, until Governor George Pataki announced suddenly in August that he was backing his longtime rival Giuliani. Lazio had a moderate voting record in the House; like Giuliani he backed abortion rights; he also had a genuine legislative achievement, enactment of major reforms of public housing, passed in October 1998. He raised plenty of money: Hillary haters from all over the country sent in contributions large and small, and he ended up spending $40 million. But his campaign was less than perfect. He was dogged for a while by an SEC investigation of a 1997 option trade which netted him far less than Clinton's commodities trades; though the complaint was dismissed without action in August, this was similar to HUD's attempt to take away control of public housing from Giuliani and the Civil Rights Commission's negative report on police practices in New York--attempts to abuse the powers of the federal government to further the first lady's candidacy. He was vulnerable to attacks, made often by Clinton, that he had supported Newt Gingrich, a bete noire to most New York voters. And there were unforced errors. In the first debate on September 13, Lazio walked over to Clinton and presented her a paper with a pledge to eschew soft money ads. In a time when voters were eager for consensus, Lazio was providing them with confrontation, and this in-your-face behavior was especially repugnant to women. Nine days later they both agreed to not run ads financed by soft money, that is, contributions to parties; but this was unenforceable, since parties and others can spend what they want to, and the assumption of Lazio strategist Mike Murphy--a key advisor in John McCain's campaign--that campaign finance was a vote-moving issue proved ill-founded. In the second debate, Lazio declined to say that he would vote for any Supreme Court nominee who opposed the key abortion rights decision of Roe v. Wade, a defensible position intellectually, but one difficult to sustain politically in New York, and Clinton pounded him on it. Lazio was also embarrassed by phone calls paid for by the state Republican Party, which under Pataki's leadership has a penchant for in-your-face tactics, that attacked Clinton for accepting $50,000 in June from the Muslim Alliance, one of whose leaders, the ad said accurately, "openly brags about its support for a Mideast terrorism group--the same kind of terrorism that killed our sailors on the U.S.S. Cole." To voters this seemed a stretch, and the ads put Lazio on the defensive for the last two weeks of the campaign.
For a race that was close almost all the way in the polls, this Senate election--surpassing the 1998 New York Senate race as the most expensive in history not involving a self-financing candidate--was decided by a surprisingly wide margin. Clinton won 55%-43%, almost the same as Schumer's 55%-44% two years earlier. "Sixty-two counties, 16 months, three debates, two opponents and six black pantsuits later--here we are!" exulted Clinton on election night. She was helped, of course, by the fact that Al Gore was carrying New York 60%-35%. But she ran well on her own. Robert Kennedy had won 53%-43% when Lyndon Johnson was carrying the state 69%-31%; the coattails were smaller in 2000, and Clinton's margin slightly greater. She carried New York City by 74%-25%, the same margin as Schumer's in 1998. She trailed in the suburbs by only 53%-45%, despite Lazio's suburban provenance; he carried his Long Island base, but she carried her now native Westchester. And Lazio won Upstate by only 51%-47%; Clinton carried most of the large counties there, and her percentages in county after county, not usually 50% but seldom under 40%, are impressive evidence of her hard work in campaigning and mastering Upstate issues. Clinton carried the Jewish vote, according to the VNS exit poll, by only 53%-45%, which would usually mean disaster for a Democrat in New York, and she did far less well than Schumer and other Democrats among those with graduate degrees, a large percentage of whom are Jewish. But she carried Upstate women by 55%-43%, an excellent showing for a Democrat: the work paid off.
A few days after the election, Clinton took a victory lap around Upstate New York and had a harmonious meeting in Albany with Governor George Pataki. She called for abolition of the Electoral College--a position her senior colleague Schumer shares, but he notes that it will never be ratified by a majority of state legislature. But her standing fell in the months after the election. In December 2000 she signed a book contract with Simon & Shuster for $8 million--$4.5 million more than the book contract for which Newt Gingrich was so roundly attacked in 1995. In departing the White House, the Clintons took $190,000 in gifts--far above the Senate's $50 limit--and many had to be returned when it was revealed that they included items donated to the White House, not the Clintons. Among the gifts were $7,375 worth of coffee tables and chairs donated by Denise Rich, former wife and advocate of Marc Rich, the fugitive financier pardoned by Bill Clinton on his last day in office, despite the opposition of New York U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White. Hillary Rodham Clinton said she had no opinion on the pardon. Nor, she said, did she have any role in the pardon of four Hasidic Jews from the Rockland County community of New Square who were convicted of fleecing the federal government of millions of dollars--a pardon White also opposed. But Clinton had visited New Square in August 2000, had won the community's vote by a margin of 1,400 to 12 and had been present at a White House Map Room meeting between their leaders and Bill Clinton on December 21, 2000, where they asked for the pardons. She said she had no knowledge as well that her brother Hugh Rodham had, while living at the White House, pushed for and obtained the pardon of two other felons for which he had been paid $400,000. In the Senate, Clinton was greeted courteously for the most part, but she did not receive the Super A committee assignment she sought, and instead got seats on Budget, Health and Education, and Environment and Public Works. She joined the New Democrats and introduced bills designed to revive the Upstate economy and called for an ending to military exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. Clinton's prospects for a long Senate career are good; no New York Democratic senator has been defeated for re-election since direct election of senators became part of the Constitution. But what is surely her ultimate goal although she denied it--her election as president in her own right--seemed in early 2001 considerably more distant than it did on election night 2000.
||Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-L-WF)
|Rick Lazio (R-C)
||Hillary Rodham Clinton (D)
|Mark S. McMahon (D)
||Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-L)
|Bernadette Castro (R-C)
|2000||Receipts||Receipts from PACs||Expenditures|
|Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-L-WF)
|Rick Lazio (R-C)
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