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

Biography

Elected: 1986, 14th term.

Born: April 23, 1953, St. Joseph, MI

Home: St. Joseph, MI

Education: U. of MI, B.A. 1975

Professional Career: Project coord., U.S. Rep. David Stockman, 1975–80; Legis. affairs, O.M.B., 1981–83, Dir., 1984–85.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Congregationalist

Family: Married (Amey Richmond Rulon-Miller) , 2 children

Fred Upton, an affable Republican first elected in 1986, chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He has an unusually moderate voting record for a Republican committee chairman, but he offsets his centrism by regularly aligning with the interests of business against what he considers excessive government regulation.

The grandson of one of the founders of Whirlpool, Upton grew up in St. Joseph. He attended the University of Michigan and worked for David Stockman, first on Stockman’s congressional staff, then at the White House in the Office of Management and Budget from 1981 to 1985. Upton returned home and ran in the 1986 Republican primary against Rep. Mark Siljander, a conservative and evangelical Christian, and won 55%-45%, going on to win the seat handily in the general election.

Upton’s family fortune puts him in the upper echelon among members of Congress in wealth, but he has a regular-guy image. He is well known for insisting that everyone, from reporters to staffers to fellow lawmakers, call him “Fred,” and says he personally reads and signs all of his legislative mail. He is a devout Chicago Cubs fan, rarely missing an Opening Day at Wrigley Field, and has a bat from Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa in his office. His niece, Kate Upton, is a supermodel who graced the covers of Sports Illustrated’s 2012 and 2013 swimsuit issues. After the initial issue appeared, Upton said colleagues jokingly asked him, “Fred, are you adopted?”

Taking the helm of Energy and Commerce in 2011, he confidently predicted that “a significant number of Democrats” would join his party’s efforts to overturn President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law, which he dismissed as “a massive new government program that does real and lasting damage to our current system and all those covered under it.” It turned out, though, that the repeated repeal votes never drew more than a handful of Democrats in support.

Then in the fall of 2013, Upton successfully got through the House a bill to allow policyholders to keep their health insurance for a year even if it failed to meet the higher standards set out in the law. Upton's bill passed 261-157 over the objections of Obama and with the help of 39 Democrats, many of whom were worried about being punished at the ballot box for the president's broken promise that people who liked their policies could keep them. Upton's legislation never moved in the Democratically-controlled Senate. 

Many of Upton’s other initiatives got through the House on largely party-line votes and were left for dead in the Senate. They included legislation to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. Another bill overturned Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules designed to prevent Internet providers from blocking websites that use a lot of bandwidth, such as Netflix. He and other Republicans said net neutrality rules are unnecessary and were enacted without the proper authority. On the investigative front, his panel dug into the Obama administration’s loan guarantees to the failed solar company Solyndra Corp., which became a prominent GOP campaign issue in 2012.

Upton’s efforts delighted fellow Republicans, who once had derided him as “Red Fred” for his bipartisan tendencies. But the Sierra Club and other environmental groups began running ads against him at home. And some Michiganders wondered what had happened to the politician who had championed a bill to ban incandescent light bulbs as part of the 2007 energy bill, and then voted four years later to undo the measure. “The old Upton who five, six, eight years ago would have been more moderate on votes and parted company with his party, that old Upton is gone,” Bill Ballenger, editor of the newsletter Inside Michigan Politics told The Chicago Tribune.

With Republicans in control of the Senate in 2015, Upton expressed hope that some of his efforts to block federal environmental regulations could at least clear Congress, if not get signed into law. But at the same time, he released a outline of potential energy legislation that, while containing few specifics, appeared to be geared toward pragmatism. It promised to address "permitting challenges" that thwart development of infrastructure to modernize electricity systems and make them more secure, as well as developing an energy workforce that could address "21st century challenges" and include more minority and low-income workers, along with provisions on energy exports and energy efficiency.

Upton was awarded the Energy and Commerce gavel despite pleas from GOP Rep. Joe Barton of Texas to waive term limits so that he could regain the job. But Barton had opposed Boehner in the race for Republican minority leader in 2006, and his public apology to BP during the June 2010 hearings on the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico made him a political liability. Two less-senior members of the committee, Cliff Stearns of Florida and John Shimkus of Illinois, also ran for the post in the hope that Upton would be rejected as too moderate. Upton launched an aggressive bid for the chairmanship, contributing thousands of dollars to Republican challengers. The contest heated up when conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh came out against Upton, and pundit Glenn Beck called him “all socialist.” Nevertheless, the GOP Steering Committee, heavily influenced by Boehner, chose Upton.

In his voting patterns, Upton did become more conservative as he was courting Republican leaders for the chairmanship in 2010. That year, his American Conservative Union rating was 92; in 2011, it dipped to 64, closer to his lifetime rating of 73. In 2012 and 2013, it was 76 and 72 respectively.

Earlier in his House career, Upton was known for his amendments to force across-the-board cuts in appropriations. But he also freely exercised his independence when his party controlled the House from 1995 to 2006. He sought, with limited success, to use his leverage to reduce the size of the tax cuts of the Bush era. He backed increases in the minimum wage, increased funding for Amtrak, and Democratic measures to expand medical insurance for poor children. He also voted with Democrats to preserve the Endangered Species Act.

On Energy and Commerce, Upton chaired the Telecommunications Subcommittee for six years. He supported a bill to allow regional telephone companies to provide broadband service more easily, and he pushed for higher fines against broadcasters for indecent programming. President George W. Bush signed his bill to create a “safe playground for kids” on the Internet, free of pornography and other inappropriate material.

Upton has been an election target from both the left and right. In 2010, former state Rep. Jack Hoogendyk ran against him in the GOP primary, criticizing Upton for voting for the $787 billion bailout of the financial industry and for the Republicans’ Medicare prescription drug bill in 2003. Upton vastly outspent Hoogendyk and won 57%-43%, not a robust outcome for a longtime incumbent. He went on to win 62%-34% in the general election.

Hoogendyk came back for another challenge in 2012. But Upton took him more seriously this time, conducting outreach to tea party groups and winning with ease, 67%-33%. His Democratic opponent in the general election was Mike O’Brien, a former Marine and office furniture company manager making his first run for elective office. He blasted Upton’s support of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget plan. Though he was lauded for running a good campaign, the $294,000 that O’Brien raised was no match for Upton’s $4 million. Upton won, 55% to 43%, the smallest victory margin in his career. He took every county, though the race in Kalamazoo County, the district’s largest, was a virtual tie.

In 2014, Upton drew a better-funded Democratic challenger -- Paul Clements, a Western Michigan University political scientist who decided to run after becoming dismayed by Upton's reversal on climate change. Clements received help from Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig's Mayday political action committee, which spent more than $2 million to portray Upton as a captive of oil and drug companies. One week before the election, a poll showed Clements within the margin of error, but Upton won with 56%. His term as Energy and Commerce chair ends in 2016, and there has been speculation he could retire then.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-3761

(202) 225-4986

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2183
Washington, DC 20515-2206

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-3761

(202) 225-4986

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2183
Washington, DC 20515-2206

DISTRICT OFFICE

(269) 385-0039

(269) 385-2888

157 South Kalamazoo Mall Suite 180
Kalamazoo, MI 49007-4861

DISTRICT OFFICE

(269) 385-0039

(269) 385-2888

157 South Kalamazoo Mall Suite 180
Kalamazoo, MI 49007-4861

DISTRICT OFFICE

(269) 982-1986

(269) 982-0237

720 Main Street
St. Joseph, MI 49085

DISTRICT OFFICE

(269) 982-1986

(269) 982-0237

720 Main Street
St. Joseph, MI 49085

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

285 Ridgeway Street
St. Joseph, MI 49085

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(269) 983-1144

285 Ridgeway Street
St. Joseph, MI 49085

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Staff

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Abortion

Mark Ratner
Policy Coordinator

Agriculture

Nick Bush
Senior Legislative Assistant

nick.bush@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3761

Animal Rights

Joan Hillebrands
Chief of Staff

Appropriations

Mark Ratner
Policy Coordinator

Nick Bush
Senior Legislative Assistant

nick.bush@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3761

Banking

Mark Ratner
Policy Coordinator

Budget

Nick Bush
Senior Legislative Assistant

nick.bush@mail.house.gov
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Joan Hillebrands
Chief of Staff

Census

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Chief of Staff

Commerce

Mark Ratner
Policy Coordinator

Crime

Nick Bush
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nick.bush@mail.house.gov
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Disaster

Nick Bush
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nick.bush@mail.house.gov
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Economics

Nick Bush
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nick.bush@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3761

Education

Nick Bush
Senior Legislative Assistant

nick.bush@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3761

Energy

Mark Ratner
Policy Coordinator

Environment

Nick Bush
Senior Legislative Assistant

nick.bush@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3761

Family

Elizabeth Thomas
Scheduler; Senior Advisor

Finance

Joan Hillebrands
Chief of Staff

Mark Ratner
Policy Coordinator

Foreign

Nick Bush
Senior Legislative Assistant

nick.bush@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3761

Govt Ops

Joan Hillebrands
Chief of Staff

Nick Bush
Senior Legislative Assistant

nick.bush@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3761

Gun Issues

Nick Bush
Senior Legislative Assistant

nick.bush@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3761

Health

Mark Ratner
Policy Coordinator

Homeland Security

Nick Bush
Senior Legislative Assistant

nick.bush@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3761

Housing

Nick Bush
Senior Legislative Assistant

nick.bush@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3761

Human Rights

Elizabeth Thomas
Scheduler; Senior Advisor

Immigration

Nick Bush
Senior Legislative Assistant

nick.bush@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3761

Insurance

Mark Ratner
Policy Coordinator

Intelligence

Nick Bush
Senior Legislative Assistant

nick.bush@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3761

Internet

Mark Ratner
Policy Coordinator

Judiciary

Nick Bush
Senior Legislative Assistant

nick.bush@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3761

Labor

Mark Ratner
Policy Coordinator

Nick Bush
Senior Legislative Assistant

nick.bush@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3761

Land Use

Nick Bush
Senior Legislative Assistant

nick.bush@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3761

Medicare

Mark Ratner
Policy Coordinator

Military

Nick Bush
Senior Legislative Assistant

nick.bush@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3761

Native Americans

Elizabeth Thomas
Scheduler; Senior Advisor

Rules

Elizabeth Thomas
Scheduler; Senior Advisor

Social Security

Elizabeth Thomas
Scheduler; Senior Advisor

Tax

Mark Ratner
Policy Coordinator

Technology

Mark Ratner
Policy Coordinator

Telecommunications

Mark Ratner
Policy Coordinator

Trade

Nick Bush
Senior Legislative Assistant

nick.bush@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3761

Transportation

Nick Bush
Senior Legislative Assistant

nick.bush@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3761

Veterans

Nick Bush
Senior Legislative Assistant

nick.bush@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3761

Welfare

Elizabeth Thomas
Scheduler; Senior Advisor

Women

Elizabeth Thomas
Scheduler; Senior Advisor

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Fred Upton
Votes: 174,955
Percent: 54.59%
Mike O'Brien
Votes: 136,563
Percent: 42.61%
2012 PRIMARY
Fred Upton
Votes: 45,919
Percent: 66.56%
Jack Hoogendyk
Votes: 23,072
Percent: 33.44%
2010 GENERAL
Fred Upton
Votes: 123,142
Percent: 61.98%
Don Cooney
Votes: 66,729
Percent: 33.58%
2010 PRIMARY
Fred Upton
Votes: 42,182
Percent: 57.12%
Jack Hoogendyk
Votes: 31,660
Percent: 42.88%
2008 GENERAL
Fred Upton
Votes: 188,157
Percent: 58.86%
Don Cooney
Votes: 123,257
Percent: 38.56%
2008 PRIMARY
Fred Upton
Votes: 47,753
Percent: 100.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (62%), 2008 (59%), 2006 (61%), 2004 (65%), 2002 (69%), 2000 (68%), 1998 (70%), 1996 (68%), 1994 (73%), 1992 (62%), 1990 (58%), 1988 (71%), 1986 (62%)

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