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Sen. Chuck Grassley (R)

Iowa

N/A

grassley.senate.gov

Biography

Elected: 1980, term expires 2016, 6th term.

Born: September 17, 1933, New Hartford, IA

Home: Cedar Falls, IA

Education: U. of N. IA, B.A. 1955, M.A. 1956, U. of IA, 1957-58

Professional Career: Farmer.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Baptist

Family: Married (Barbara Ann Speicher) , 5 children

Republican Chuck Grassley was first elected to the House in 1974 and to the Senate in 1980. He self-effacingly describes himself as “just a farmer from Butler County,” and does still climb aboard his tractor to till his land. But he has become much more—a dogged overseer of the FBI and other agencies, a hero to government whistleblowers, a plain-spoken and independent-minded deal-maker, and one of the most talked-about users of Twitter.

Grassley grew up on a farm in Butler County near Waterloo. His parents switched to the Republican Party when Franklin Roosevelt ran for a third term in 1940. Grassley received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Iowa, and while in graduate school, he ran for the state House in 1956, losing by only 70-some votes. Two years later, he ran again and was elected at age 25. While he was in the state legislature, he worked as a sheet metal shearer and on an assembly line. He won an open U.S. House seat in 1974, the hugely successful post-Watergate year for the Democrats, and six years later, he won his Senate seat by beating incumbent Democratic Sen. John Culver, the father of future Gov. Chet Culver. Sen. Culver was an uncompromising liberal who came under fire from religious conservatives in 1980. Grassley was a conservative who had built up strong loyalty in his north central Iowa House district, which gave him nearly half his statewide lead over Culver.

In his other career as a part-time farmer, Grassley runs an 80-acre farm that he inherited in 1960 and has added to it over the years. It’s now a 710-acre concern that produces corn and soybeans. Grassley’s son manages the farm, but the senator likes to go back to help out in the fields on weekends, sometimes conducting congressional business on the cell phone that he keeps tucked under his cap. He stays in touch with his state in other ways, too. He has held meetings in each of the state’s 99 counties every year that he has served in the Senate.

Grassley is a committed fiscal conservative; he was one of eight senators to oppose the New Year’s Day 2013 tax and spending deal aimed at averting the so-called fiscal cliff because, he said, “Washington has a spending problem, not a taxing problem, and this deal doesn’t do anything about the spending problem.” John McMickle, a former Grassley aide who is now a Washington attorney, said admiringly: "He has a good sense of the mind of a regular person." In 2014, Iowa Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley learned just how outraged voters could become when Grassley's reputation was questioned. Braley dismissed Grassley as "a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school" -- a true statement on its face, but a damaging political gaffe that contributed to the congressman's eventual loss to Republican Joni Ernst.

Though he’s also a steady conservative on social issues—he opposes abortion rights and most gun control initiatives—Grassley is a populist in the agrarian tradition. He has distinguished himself in Congress as a defender of underdogs, and he has made oversight of bloated, indifferent, or corrupt government agencies a focal point of his Senate career. To the chagrin of his party, Grassley also takes on well-heeled political contributors when they raise his ire, as many a pharmaceutical executive can attest. Throughout the George W. Bush era, Grassley repeatedly went after Food and Drug Administration officials who he thought were too cozy with the industries they were supposed to regulate. In the mid-1980s, Grassley’s first major legislative achievement was passage of the Federal False Claims Act, which authorized lawsuits for fraud on behalf of the government; he says it has since brought the taxpayers more than $17 billion.

Grassley took the helm of the Judiciary Committee in 2015. He has long enjoyed a good relationship with Vermont's Patrick Leahy, the panel's top Democrat. "When he's wanted to open an investigation during the time I've been chairman, I just say, 'Fine,''' Leahy once said. "He has that kind of credibility." Grassley and Leahy have worked together on such matters as satellite television access, cellphone unlocking legislation and patent reform. But their relationship was expected to be severely tested by battles over confirming President Obama's judicial nominees, which Democrats had been able to expedite after ending filibusters on many nominations.

Grassley also teamed with Oregon's Ron Wyden on whistleblower matters, an area in which the Iowa senator long has taken a special interest. Former FBI agent Jane Turner said the senator has led many frustrated federal workers to turn to his office instead of the media. Turner worked with Grassley on controversies such as bureau staffers' thefts of artifacts from Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks. "Without Grassley, you would have tenfold more [Edward] Snowdens [and] Wikileaks, because he's the only true hope that whistleblowers have," Turner told the Des Moines Register. Another whistleblower, John Dodson, worked with Grassley's staff in exposing the "Operation Fast and Furious" gun-tracing scandal at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, in which the agency lost track of hundreds of firearms sold to straw purchasers for Mexican drug cartels.

Over the years, Grassley has conducted intensive oversight of the FBI, the Homeland Security Department, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the FDA. He has long advocated that Congress follow the same laws it imposes on citizens, and he was the chief Senate sponsor of the sweeping Congressional Accountability Act of 1995. At his urging, the Senate in late 2010 passed a whistleblower protection bill for federal employees. Although it left out Grassley’s specific provision protecting whistleblowers in the intelligence community, he was happy with the outcome. He also helped steer to passage in late 2012 an update of laws that, among other things, created ombudsmen to educate federal agency managers about whistleblower rights. “I’ve told every president, including this president in his first term, I still hope for a Rose Garden ceremony honoring whistleblowers, hosted by the president of the United States,” he told reporters.

Grassley has shown an inclination to challenge Wall Street. He attacked the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2011 for failing to detail how it handled nearly 20 referrals of suspicious trading at a major hedge fund. He was one of four Republicans who voted for the initial Senate Dodd-Frank financial services bill in May 2010, although he voted against the final version later in July. He also was the only Republican to vote with Democrats on the Senate Agriculture Committee for sweeping reform of the derivatives market in April 2010. And his support for whistle-blower rights led him to co-sponsor with Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., an amendment in May 2010 that extended whistleblower protections to employees of credit rating agencies, such as Standard & Poor’s, which have been criticized for not providing accurate credit ratings for high-risk securities. Grassley voted for the government rescue of the financial industry during the final months of the Bush administration and faced criticism for his vote from Iowa conservatives.

For years, Grassley was the chief sponsor of the bankruptcy overhaul that finally passed and was signed into law in 2005. He took special care to see that Chapter 12, which applies to farmers, would allow them to reorganize their debt without creditors’ consent. Grassley’s vote against the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor was the first time he ever opposed a nominee for the high court. He voiced displeasure with her views on property rights and gun ownership rights. He subsequently also voted against another of President Barack Obama’s high court nominees, Elena Kagan, citing her “relatively thin record.” He joined with academic researchers and consumer groups in October 2011 to protest a Department of Health and Human Services decision to remove an online database of doctor malpractice and disciplinary cases. Though he was critical of Obama’s proposals to curb gun violence in January 2013 following the Newtown, Conn., school massacre, he agreed on the need to upgrade the FBI-maintained database to conduct background checks of gun purchasers.

Grassley won passage of a binding resolution in January 2011 requiring senators to make the holds they put on legislation and nominees public. The use of so-called “secret holds,” unique to the Senate, had allowed individual senators to delay or stop action by the Senate anonymously, and it has been a major obstacle to getting judicial nominees confirmed. Grassley won a 92-4 vote forcing senators to put their objections in writing and submit them for publication in The Congressional Record no longer than two days after the holds are made.

Grassley served two stints as chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, in the first half of 2001 and from 2003 to 2006. When Democrats took control of the Senate in 2007, Grassley became the panel’s ranking Republican until 2010. He had close relations and weekly meetings with his Democratic counterpart, Max Baucus of Montana, often to the dismay of conservative Republicans who thought Grassley was too accommodating. But the working relationship between the two was crucial to many successful initiatives during the Bush era. Grassley and Baucus rounded up bipartisan support for Bush’s income tax cuts early, and he was one of the leaders in creating the prescription drug benefit under Medicare in 2003. After the bill passed, Grassley in 2007 helped stop Democratic efforts to pass a measure that Republicans had expressly kept out of the earlier bill: to allow the government to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. The same year, Grassley worked with Baucus to secure Senate support to expand the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program.

When Obama in 2009 proposed a far-reaching bill to bring more people into the health insurance market, Grassley was one of the Senate negotiators trying to broker a deal, despite pressure from within his party. In the end, Grassley voted against the legislation, complaining that it would cut funding for Medicare and would neither hold down taxes nor contain health care costs. When critics charged that the legislation created so-called “death panels” to selectively dole out care, Grassley helped fan the flames when he said, “(You) should not have a government-run plan to decide when to pull the plug on Grandma.”

But in January 2015, legal journalist and author Steven Brill said he spoke to Grassley about King v. Burwell, a lawsuit coming before the Supreme Court seeking to cut off tax subsidies for insurance in states that opted to have the federal government set up their health exchanges under the law. Brill said the senator responded, "Oh, that’s ridiculous. We obviously meant that the subsidies would go to the federal exchange and not just the state exchange.”

With his populist bent, Grassley has for years pursued “fairness” in the tax code.He led the committee to tighten the rules on partial gifts of art, which allowed donors to retain possession while receiving tax deductions. “Call it what it is, a subsidy for millionaires to buy art,” he said. “Where I come from, the word ‘giving’ doesn’t mean ‘keeping.’ ” In 2007, Grassley joined Baucus in backing a bill to repeal the alternative minimum tax, which has been ensnaring an increasing number of middle-income taxpayers in addition to the wealthy itemizers it was designed to catch. But Grassley also said it would be unfair to raise other taxes to repeal the AMT.

Corn-based ethanol is an important product of Iowa’s agribusiness, and Grassley has used his influence on the committee to win advantageous tax treatment of ethanol. He has also sought tax incentives for biodiesel, made with soybean oil or recycled cooking oil. The United States is a major exporter of agricultural products, and Grassley has been a supporter of free trade, backing the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993, normal trade relations with China, and the Central America Free Trade Agreement. On another issue important to his state, Grassley in 2012 publicly tangled with GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney over tax credits for wind energy production; he called Romney’s opposition “a knife in my back.”

As a farmer, Grassley supported both the Republicans’ 1996 Freedom to Farm law that attempted to phase out government subsidies and the subsequent disaster payments to farmers when they suffered financially under the law. He opposed the 2002 farm bill, drafted by Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, on the grounds that it allowed a higher limit on subsidies than the $275,000 that Grassley had persuaded the Senate to vote for. He has consistently argued that high payments to individual farmers put the whole program in political jeopardy.He supported the 2012 Senate-passed farm bill after successfully adding an amendment to install a cap on payments and close loopholes allowing non-farmers to qualify for payments.

For more than two decades, Grassley has been the most popular politician in Iowa. “I commune with Iowans on a regular basis, and I think they know that. They appreciate it, and they don’t feel like Washington has gone to my head. I suppose if I don’t get smug and overconfident, I’ll be reelected,” he said in 2004, shortly before he was returned to the Senate by a vote of 70%-28%. He has not had a tough race since 1974, when he won his House seat with 51% of the vote.

Twitter has given Grassley a national following. He posts his own updates on the social media platform from his iPhone and is known for his typos, misspellings, and abbreviations (which inspired comedian Stephen Colbert to proclaim in mock amazement, “This isn’t just tweeting. This is avant-garde, stream-of-consciousness poetry.”) Grassley uses it to often gripe about cable television’s History Channel: “Why do we h v such a channelwhen it doesnt do history.” He also takes regular aim at Obama, once calling the president “stupid” (which led Obama senior campaign adviser David Axelrod to tweet back, “I think a 6-year-old hijacked your account and is sending out foolish Tweets just to embarrass you!”) But Grassley’s best-known offering came in October 2012 after he struck a deer with a car and reported to his followers: “Assume deer dead.” His tweet was retweeted more than 2,300 times, and a parody account on the animal’s behalf was launched.

Grassley declared in September 2013 that he planned to run for reelection in 2016, when he would be 83. Noting the impending retirement of his veteran Democratic colleague, Tom Harkin, he told reporters that “if Iowa had to start over two years from now with two very junior senators, it would hurt Iowans’ opportunities to get anything done in the Senate."

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-3744

(202) 224-6020

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 135
Washington, DC 20510-1501

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-3744

(202) 224-6020

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 135
Washington, DC 20510-1501

DISTRICT OFFICE

(515) 288-1145

(515) 284-4069

Federal Building Room 721
Des Moines, IA 50309-2140

DISTRICT OFFICE

(515) 288-1145

(515) 284-4069

Federal Building Room 721
Des Moines, IA 50309-2140

DISTRICT OFFICE

(319) 363-6832

(319) 363-7179

111 7th Avenue SE Box 13 Suite 6800
Cedar Rapids, IA 52404

DISTRICT OFFICE

(319) 363-6832

(319) 363-7179

111 7th Avenue SE Box 13 Suite 6800
Cedar Rapids, IA 52404

DISTRICT OFFICE

(563) 322-4331

(563) 322-8552

Federal Building Suite 720
Davenport, IA 52801

DISTRICT OFFICE

(563) 322-4331

(563) 322-8552

Federal Building Suite 720
Davenport, IA 52801

DISTRICT OFFICE

(712) 233-1860

(712) 233-1634

Federal Courthouse Room 120
Sioux City, IA 51101-1244

DISTRICT OFFICE

(712) 233-1860

(712) 233-1634

Federal Courthouse Room 120
Sioux City, IA 51101-1244

DISTRICT OFFICE

(319) 232-6657

(319) 232-9965

Waterloo Building Room 210
Waterloo, IA 50701-5497

DISTRICT OFFICE

(319) 232-6657

(319) 232-9965

Waterloo Building Room 210
Waterloo, IA 50701-5497

DISTRICT OFFICE

(712) 322-7103

(712) 322-7196

Federal Building Room 307
Council Bluffs, IA 51501

DISTRICT OFFICE

(712) 322-7103

(712) 322-7196

Federal Building Room 307
Council Bluffs, IA 51501

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

PO Box 1000
Des Moines, IA 50304

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

PO Box 1000
Des Moines, IA 50304

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Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Acquisitions

Kurt Kovarik
Legislative Assistant

Aerospace

Kurt Kovarik
Legislative Assistant

Agriculture

Andrew Brandt
Legislative Assistant

Appropriations

Kurt Kovarik
Legislative Assistant

Nick Davis
Legislative Correspondent

Arts

James Rice
Legislative Assistant

Banking

Kathy Kovarik
Legislative Assistant

Kurt Kovarik
Legislative Assistant

Nick Davis
Legislative Correspondent

Budget

Kurt Kovarik
Legislative Assistant

Sherry Kuntz
Legislative Assistant

Nick Davis
Legislative Correspondent

Chris Conlin
Tax Counsel

Campaign

James Rice
Legislative Assistant

Commerce

Sherry Kuntz
Legislative Assistant

Consumers

Kathy Kovarik
Legislative Assistant

Crime

Kathy Kovarik
Legislative Assistant

Disaster

Sherry Kuntz
Legislative Assistant

Economics

Nick Davis
Legislative Correspondent

Chris Conlin
Tax Counsel

Education

James Rice
Legislative Assistant

Nick Davis
Legislative Correspondent

Energy

Kurt Kovarik
Legislative Assistant

Molly Foley
Constituent Services Specialist

Environment

James Rice
Legislative Assistant

Molly Foley
Constituent Services Specialist

Family

Kathy Kovarik
Legislative Assistant

Foreign

Kurt Kovarik
Legislative Assistant

Govt Ops

Kathy Kovarik
Legislative Assistant

James Rice
Legislative Assistant

Grants

Sherry Kuntz
Legislative Assistant

Health

Karen Summar
Director of Health Policy

Homeland Security

Kolan Davis
Legislative Director

Kathy Kovarik
Legislative Assistant

Sherry Kuntz
Legislative Assistant

Housing

Sherry Kuntz
Legislative Assistant

Human Rights

Kathy Kovarik
Legislative Assistant

Immigration

Kathy Kovarik
Legislative Assistant

Intelligence

Kurt Kovarik
Legislative Assistant

Judiciary

Kolan Davis
Legislative Director

Kathy Kovarik
Legislative Assistant

Labor

Kurt Kovarik
Legislative Assistant

Chris Conlin
Tax Counsel

Medicare

Karen Summar
Director of Health Policy

Military

Charles Murphy
Legislative Assistant

James Rice
Legislative Assistant

Native Americans

Molly Foley
Constituent Services Specialist

Public Works

Sherry Kuntz
Legislative Assistant

Science

James Rice
Legislative Assistant

Small Business

Chris Conlin
Tax Counsel

Social Security

Chris Conlin
Tax Counsel

Tax

Chris Conlin
Tax Counsel

Technology

Kathy Kovarik
Legislative Assistant

James Rice
Legislative Assistant

Trade

Andrew Brandt
Legislative Assistant

Molly Foley
Constituent Services Specialist

Transportation

Sherry Kuntz
Legislative Assistant

Veterans

James Rice
Legislative Assistant

Welfare

Kathy Kovarik
Legislative Assistant

Women

Kathy Kovarik
Legislative Assistant

Election Results

2010 GENERAL
Chuck Grassley
Votes: 718,215
Percent: 64.35%
Roxanne Conlin
Votes: 371,686
Percent: 33.3%
2010 PRIMARY
Chuck Grassley
Votes: 197,194
Percent: 100.0%
2004 GENERAL
Chuck Grassley
Votes: 1,038,175
Percent: 70.0%
Arthur Small
Votes: 412,365
Percent: 28.0%
2004 PRIMARY
Chuck Grassley
Unopposed
Prior Winning Percentages
2004 (70%), 1998 (68%), 1992 (70%), 1986 (66%), 1980 (54%), House: 1978 (75%), 1976 (57%), 1974 (51%)

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