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

Biography

Elected: 1984, 15th term.

Born: August 13, 1949, Gary, IN

Home: Merrillville, IN

Education: IN U. Northwest, B.S. 1970, U. of Notre Dame, J.D. 1973, Georgetown U., LL.M. 1982

Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1973–76, 1983–84; Aide, U.S. Rep. Adam Benjamin, 1976–82.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Roman Catholic

Family: Married (Joanne Royce) , 2 children

Peter Visclosky, a Democrat first elected in 1984, is a former congressional aide who has found his niche in the House. “I’m an appropriator,” he once said. “Money makes policy.”

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 House 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 Gary Mayor Richard 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 involved in local politics. Visclosky narrowly prevailed over Hall with 34% of the vote to her 33%. He easily won the general election with 71% of the vote.

With the recent departures of Sen. Richard Lugar and several other veteran Hoosier State veterans, Visclosky became the dean of Indiana’s congressional delegation in 2013. His voting record has trended moderate, though in recent years he has become more loyal to his party. He did break Democratic ranks in opposing the New Year’s Day 2013 budget deal aimed at averting the so-called fiscal cliff, saying that it left too many tax and spending issues unresolved. He also was one of 37 House Democrats in October 2011 voting to thwart tougher federal regulations of the waste left after burning coal for electricity. In 2008, he opposed creation of the Troubled Asset Relief Plan for the ailing financial services industry, although he did back a subsequent proposal to bail out major automakers.

Visclosky concentrates much of his effort on projects to help the local economy, especially the steel industry. He has a solidly pro-union voting record. He is a leader of the Congressional Steel Caucus and has been vigilant in monitoring surges in steel imports. He urged the International Trade Commission in January 2013 to maintain trade protections against corrosion-resistant steel from Germany and South Korea and has repeatedly introduced bills requiring that federal funded projects use only American-made steel. 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.” He opposed the House-passed bill in 2009 establishing a cap-and-trade system to curb greenhouse gas emissions because it “leaves no margin of error as it relates to jobs in the domestic steel industry.”

The retirement of veteran appropriator Norm Dicks of Washington state enabled Visclosky to grab the coveted ranking Democrat slot on the Appropriations defense subcommittee in 2013. When Democrats were in the majority, he was the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, making him 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. 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, “I have always abided by the law and adhered to the rules and code of ethics of the House.” The House Ethics Committee formally cleared Visclosky and six other Appropriations members in February 2010.

Visclosky has been 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, thus allowing riverboat casinos for Gary. In recent years, he has echoed President Obama’s call for increased federal spending on infrastructure, which he said would help revitalize his district’s economy. “I am very big on transformational projects,” he told the Northwest Indiana Times in November 2012. “This area was transformed 100 years ago when somebody came in and built that first rail mill and built that first refinery. … So we need to do some transformational things.”

At home, Visclosky appeared secure politically until he became a target in the corruption probe in early 2009. But Republicans had trouble finding a candidate who could compete in the costly Chicago media market, and the GOP nomination fell to Mark Leyva, a carpenter who had lost four previous races to Visclosky. All Leyva could do was narrow the margin of victory for Visclosky, who won with 59% of the vote in 2010. He elevated his winning total to 67% in 2012, an indication that the scandal was squarely behind him.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-2461

(202) 225-2493

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2328
Washington, DC 20515-1401

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-2461

(202) 225-2493

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2328
Washington, DC 20515-1401

DISTRICT OFFICE

(219) 795-1844

(219) 795-1850

7895 Broadway Suite A
Merrillville, IN 46410-5529

DISTRICT OFFICE

(219) 795-1844

(219) 795-1850

7895 Broadway Suite A
Merrillville, IN 46410-5529

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(219) 736-2100

PO Box 10003
Merrillville, IN 46411

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

PO Box 10003
Merrillville, IN 46411

EXPORT CONTACTS » *

Staff

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Abortion

Seth Engdahl
Legislative Correspondent

Acquisitions

Joe DeVooght
Deputy Chief of Staff

Aerospace

Joe DeVooght
Deputy Chief of Staff

Agriculture

Megan Adamczewski
Legislative Assistant

Animal Rights

Seth Engdahl
Legislative Correspondent

Appropriations

Joe DeVooght
Deputy Chief of Staff

Emma Norvell
Legislative Director

Megan Adamczewski
Legislative Assistant

Seth Engdahl
Legislative Correspondent

Archna Jaiman
Legislative Correspondent

Lucas Wood
Defense Fellow

lucas.wood@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-2461

Banking

Archna Jaiman
Legislative Correspondent

Budget

Archna Jaiman
Legislative Correspondent

Education

Megan Adamczewski
Legislative Assistant

Energy

Kevin Spicer
Communications Director

Emma Norvell
Legislative Director

Environment

Megan Adamczewski
Legislative Assistant

Seth Engdahl
Legislative Correspondent

Foreign

Kevin Spicer
Communications Director

Archna Jaiman
Legislative Correspondent

Govt Ops

Seth Engdahl
Legislative Correspondent

Gun Issues

Seth Engdahl
Legislative Correspondent

Health

Emma Norvell
Legislative Director

Homeland Security

Joe DeVooght
Deputy Chief of Staff

Housing

Archna Jaiman
Legislative Correspondent

Immigration

Megan Adamczewski
Legislative Assistant

Intelligence

Joe DeVooght
Deputy Chief of Staff

Judiciary

Seth Engdahl
Legislative Correspondent

Labor

Kevin Spicer
Communications Director

Megan Adamczewski
Legislative Assistant

Medicare

Emma Norvell
Legislative Director

Military

Joe DeVooght
Deputy Chief of Staff

Lucas Wood
Defense Fellow

lucas.wood@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-2461

Small Business

Kevin Spicer
Communications Director

Social Security

Seth Engdahl
Legislative Correspondent

Tax

Emma Norvell
Legislative Director

Archna Jaiman
Legislative Correspondent

Technology

Joe DeVooght
Deputy Chief of Staff

Telecommunications

Emma Norvell
Legislative Director

Trade

Kevin Spicer
Communications Director

Megan Adamczewski
Legislative Assistant

Transportation

Kevin Spicer
Communications Director

Emma Norvell
Legislative Director

Veterans

Joe DeVooght
Deputy Chief of Staff

Emma Norvell
Legislative Director

Welfare

Seth Engdahl
Legislative Correspondent

Women

Seth Engdahl
Legislative Correspondent

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Peter Visclosky
Votes: 187,743
Percent: 67.28%
Joel Phelps
Votes: 91,291
Percent: 32.72%
2012 PRIMARY
Peter Visclosky
Unopposed
2010 GENERAL
Peter Visclosky
Votes: 99,387
Percent: 58.56%
Mark Leyva
Votes: 65,558
Percent: 38.63%
2010 PRIMARY
Peter Visclosky
Votes: 41,982
Percent: 100.0%
2008 GENERAL
Peter Visclosky
Votes: 199,954
Percent: 70.9%
Mark Leyva
Votes: 76,647
Percent: 27.18%
2008 PRIMARY
Peter Visclosky
Votes: 134,505
Percent: 100.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (59%), 2008 (71%), 2006 (70%), 2004 (68%), 2002 (67%), 2000 (72%), 1998 (73%), 1996 (69%), 1994 (56%), 1992 (69%), 1990 (66%), 1988 (77%), 1986 (73%), 1984 (71%)

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