|Kirsten Rutnik Gillibrand|
United States Senator
from New York
|Assumed office |
January 26, 2009
Serving with Chuck Schumer
|Preceded by||Hillary Rodham Clinton|
Member of theU.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 20th district
January 3, 2007 – January 26, 2009
|Preceded by||John E. Sweeney|
|Succeeded by||Scott Murphy|
|Born||December 9, 1966 |
Albany, New York
Henry Nelson Gillibrand
|Residence||Hudson, New York|
|Alma mater||Dartmouth College (A.B.)|
University of California, Los Angeles (J.D.)
Kirsten Elizabeth Rutnik Gillibrand (pronounced /ˈkɜrstən ˈdʒɪlɨbrænd/; born December 9, 1966) is the junior United States Senator from New York and a member of the Democratic Party. On January 23, 2009, Gillibrand was appointed by Governor David Paterson to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton, who assumed the office of United States Secretary of State in the Obama administration. She is the second woman to serve as a U.S. Senator from New York.
Previously, she was elected twice to the United States House of Representatives, representing New York's 20th congressional district from January 3, 2007, to January 26, 2009. She was the first woman to serve as a representative of the district and the first Democrat to represent the district since Edward W. Pattison left office in 1979. As a member of the House, Gillibrand was considered to be a centrist Democrat, appealing to some Republican and conservative Democratic voters in upstate New York.
Gillibrand won the November 2010 special election to complete Clinton's Senate term. That term is to end in January 2013.
Early years and education
A member of a politically active family, Kirsten Rutnik was born and raised in Albany, New York. Her parents are Douglas P. Rutnik, an attorney and Democratic lobbyist with close ties to Republicans Al D'Amato and George Pataki, and Polly Noonan Rutnik, also an attorney.Gillibrand's maternal grandmother, Dorothea "Polly" Noonan (1915–2003), was a women's rights activist who was a leader of the Albany Democratic machine and the closest confidant of longtime Albany mayor Erastus Corning. "As a 10-year-old girl," Gillibrand later said, "I would listen to my grandmother discuss issues and she made a lasting impression on me."
After attending Albany's Academy of the Holy Names, she graduated in 1984 from Emma Willard School in Troy, New York. At Dartmouth College, she majored in Asian studies and graduated magna cum laude in 1988. While in college, Gillibrand was a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and studied abroad in both Beijing, China and Taiwan. She is semi-fluent but "rusty" in Mandarin Chinese and still uses Chinese words and phrases occasionally in her normal vocabulary. Her Chinese name is Lu Tian Na (陸天娜).
She received her Juris Doctor degree from the UCLA School of Law in 1991. She interned for Senator Alfonse D'Amato (R-NY) during college, and served as a law clerk to Judge Roger Miner on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
During the Clinton administration, Gillibrand served as Special Counsel to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Andrew Cuomo. She worked on HUD's Labor Initiative and its New Markets Initiative as well as on TAP's Young Leaders Of The American Democracy, on strengthening Davis-Bacon Act enforcement, and on drafting new markets legislation for public and private investment in building infrastructure in lower income areas.
As an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell and a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner, Gillibrand worked on a wide range of legal and policy-related issues. She handled many pro bono cases, including abused women and their children, and tenants seeking safe housing after lead paint and unsafe conditions were found in their homes.
Gillibrand was the Chair of the Women's Leadership Forum Network and was on the Boards of the Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Committee and the Commission on Greenway Heritage Conservancy for the Hudson River Valley. She also served on the Advisory Board for the Brennan Center for Justice.
Controversy over Philip Morris legal representation
During her employment with Davis Polk & Wardwell, Gillibrand represented the world's largest cigarette company, Philip Morris (now Philip Morris USA, a division of Altria Group), during major litigation, including both civil lawsuits and U.S. Justice Department criminal and civil racketeering probes. Davis Polk permitted its associates to decline to work on tobacco-related cases if they had moral or ethical objections, but Gillibrand chose to represent Philip Morris in some of the most sensitive matters related to its defense. Gillibrand was closely involved in key tobacco-related litigation, including aiding Philip Morris's controversial efforts to suppress information on the health effects of cigarette smoking collected by its German lab, the Institut für biologische Forschung, and advising Philip Morris officials on the content of public statements regarding their products and practices. She continued to represent Altria Group while a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner. In her 2008 Congressional campaign, Gillibrand reportedly received in excess of $18,000 in campaign donations from the tobacco industry, placing her among the top dozen House Democrats receiving such contributions.
When her past work for Philip Morris surfaced during the 2008 campaign, Gillibrand claimed that she had no control over what cases she was assigned as a Davis Polk associate. She also noted that she had previously spoken about her Philip Morris work and that she had voted in favor of all three anti-tobacco bills in that session of Congress. She maintained that most of her work consisted of assisting the company in assembling documents in response to subpoenas, adding, "I don't think clients you represented as an associate are relevant, I think how you vote is relevant." She also claimed to have no knowledge of the financial contributions by Altria and Altria executives to her campaign, and was unfamiliar with her father's work as lobbyist for Philip Morris.
The issue resurfaced after she took her seat in the Senate, when The New York Times ran a front page investigative piece in March 2009 on Gillibrand's work on behalf of Philip Morris.[ Gillibrand reacted quickly to the Times article by placing ads on Google stating "Gillibrand Fights Tobacco" and directing viewers to a link to a page on her site touting a 100% anti-tobacco voting record.
U.S. House of Representatives
In 2006, Gillibrand defeated four-term Republican incumbent John E. Sweeney in New York's 20th congressional district election by a margin of 53%-47%. She co-founded the Congressional High Tech Caucus with Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) at the beginning of the 110th Congress. She was also a member of the Blue Dog Coalition during her tenure in the House.
Gillibrand while serving in the House of Representatives
Gillibrand won her bid for re-election in 2008 and enjoyed a sophomore surge, defeating challenger Alexander "Sandy" Treadwell 62%-38%. During the campaign, she was criticized for hosting fundraisers in London, England, and Paris, France. While the fundraisers were legal and contributions only came from American citizens living abroad, some critics claimed that her actions were hypocritical since during her first campaign, she had criticized Sweeney for hosting an out-of-state fundraiser for the 2006 election.
Media reports of her relationship with colleagues in the New York congressional delegation have been contradictory. During the spectacle surrounding Gillibrand's eventual appointment to the United States Senate in January 2009, commentators like Politico's Glenn Thrush and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd claimed that Gillibrand was "unpopular" and was known within her delegation by the unflattering nickname "Tracy Flick", after the Reese Witherspoon character from the movie Election. Recently, 11 members of the NY Congressional Delegation, including 5 from the NYC area, endorsed her 2010 Senate campaign.
During her tenure in the House, she would travel the Washington Metro with her son Theodore and drop him off at the congressional day care center before proceeding to work. She has also posted her daily schedules, earmark requests and financial disclosure forms on her website.
In a May 2008 New York Times article, Gillibrand was mentioned along with fellow Representative Gabrielle Giffords as a "young Democratic dragon slayer who won in Republican district" in the context of possibly becoming the first woman to be elected President.
United States Senate special election in New York, 2010
On December 1, 2008, President-elect Barack Obama announced his choice of Hillary Rodham Clinton, the junior U.S. Senator from New York, as United States Secretary of State. Clinton's nomination was confirmed by the Senate and she resigned her Senate seat on January 21, 2009, creating a vacancy in the Senate to be filled by appointment by Governor David Paterson until a special election in 2010 for the balance of Clinton's term, which ends in 2012. Gillibrand had been rumored by the media as one of several people, including Caroline Kennedy and New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, to be under consideration as Clinton's replacement. On January 23, Paterson announced his selection of Gillibrand as the junior Senator from New York. In attendance were Al D'Amato, in whose office she interned and who is one of only three living former Senators from New York (along with Clinton and James L. Buckley), and other New York State officials and some members of the New York Congressional delegation. Gillibrand officially took office on January 27, taking the oath of office from Vice President Joe Biden.
Gov. Paterson's choice of Gillibrand was met with both praise and criticism. She was touted by some Democrats as a rising star in the Democratic Party.
Following her swearing in, Gillibrand was assigned to the following Senate committees:
Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
Subcommittee on Energy, Science and Technology
Subcommittee on Domestic and Foreign Marketing, Inspection, and Plant and Animal Health (Chairwoman)
Subcommittee on Hunger, Nutrition and Family Farms
Committee on Environment and Public Works
Subcommittee on Green Jobs and the New Economy
Subcommittee on Oversight
Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health
Committee on Foreign Relations
Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps and Narcotics Affairs
Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy and Global Women's Issues
Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection
Special Committee on Aging
During her tenure in the House of Representatives, Gillibrand was a member of the Blue Dog Coalition and was considered a centrist, Gillibrand has received an 8% rating from the American Conservative Union, 70% from Americans for Democratic Action, and 90% from the American Civil Liberties Union. OnTheIssues.org rates Gillibrand as a "Populist-Leaning Liberal."
Health care reform legislation
Gillibrand voted in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Senate's version of health care reform legislation, although it did not contain provisions for a public option for health insurance, for which she had previously expressed support. The Senate bill was heavily criticized by New York Governor David Paterson and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who warned that it would force New York City to close 100 health clinics, would create a $1 billion hole in New York State's budget, and threaten the existence of struggling hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities. Bloomberg, who called the bill a "disgrace," subsequently telephoned Gillibrand personally to express his extreme dissatisfication with the bill.
When confronted with these criticisms, Gillibrand responded, "What the mayor and the governor are talking about is the Medicare reimbursement rates... I've been fighting on this issue for over six months. What it is, Erroll, is when it comes to funding formulas in the Senate, there are more small states than big states, and so the funding formulas tend to help small states. And that's something Senator Schumer and I have to push back on every single time, because the fact of the matter is, for every dollar New York sends to Washington, we only get 79 cents back, and that's largely due to these formulas. We win on the formula debate on the House. So what I've been trying to do is fight for the House version of the bill when we are in conference... If we are successful we can close the $1 billion gap."
Gillibrand also claimed that the bill would be a net benefit for New York because it would bring in $40 billion to the state, insure 2.7 million New Yorkers, increase the use of preventative care by requiring that it is covered, and give tax credits to 250,000 small businesses to help them afford health care coverage.
Economic crisis measures
During the height of the global financial crisis in 2008, Gillibrand, then a member of the House of Representatives, voted twice against the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, calling it "fundamentally flawed". However, she did vote for the automobile industry bailout in December 2008.
In 2009, as Senator, Gillibrand voted for the $787 billion stimulus plan backed by the Obama administration. At a press conference on January 25, 2009, Gillibrand said that during her first week in the Senate, she would work to ensure that the stimulus bill included relief funds for New York State. She supported the President's recovery plan and budget, and voted for cram down to allow judges to write down mortgages of struggling homeowners.
Abortion and Reproductive Issues
Gillibrand espouses a pro-choice position and has voted in favor of federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, contraception and United Nations Population Fund programs. She voted against Senator Ben Nelson's proposed amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which would have prohibited the government from allowing insurance plans that cover abortion in a national healthcare exchange.
Gillibrand is a co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act commonly referred to by its opponents as card check. The legislation would allow the formation of a union without an election by secret ballot when 50% or more of workers sign authorization cards.
Gillibrand's position on gun rights has changed since she joined the Senate. While in the House, she was an outspoken opponent of gun control. She had received a 100% positive rating from the NRA, and sponsored an amendment to the 2008 Farm Bill that would have allowed expanded hunting on public lands.Gillibrand has also worked to strengthen the NRA-endorsed National Instant Criminal Background Check System Improvement Act.
Gillibrand's pro-gun rights positions received great scrutiny after her appointment to the Senate and were the object of scathing criticism by some of her fellow New York Democrats, particularly those in the New York City area. Within days of her being named to the Senate by the governor, Gillibrand indicated that her pro-gun rights position was flexible. At the start of a statewide "listening tour" in Harlem, Gillibrand was asked whether there might be NRA positions that contradict the gun-control needs of an inner-city community. She replied, "There might well be," adding, "I'll look into it."
In one of her first votes as a Senator, Gillibrand voted to reject a measure that would have expanded gun rights in the District of Columbia.While Gillibrand's spokesman characterized the vote as consistent with her previous view that local governments have the right to determine gun restrictions, the Albany Times-Union noted that her position was counter to her vote just five months earlier on an almost identical House bill. She also cosponsored the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2009 with Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, a longtime advocate of gun control. Gillibrand also opposed federal legislation that would have allowed American citizens to carry concealed firearms across state lines if they were legally allowed to carry the weapons in their home states.
Gillibrand has also modified some of her positions on illegal immigration to the United States since her appointment to the Senate.
As a Representative, Gillibrand opposed granting any sort of amnesty to illegal immigrants and supported empowering local police to enforce Federal immigration laws. She also opposed giving federal contracts to employers who have hired illegal immigrants and supported increasing the number of border patrol agents. She was a co-sponsor of the SAVE Act, which aimed to crack down on illegal immigration by means of more border guards, surveillance technology, accelerated deportations and a mandatory program requiring employers to verify the immigration status of employees. Breaking with former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, Gillibrand opposed his plan to issue drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. She also voted in favor of Rep. Tom Tancredo's legislation targeting and withholding Federal funds from sanctuary cities. Gillibrand also sought to make English the official language of the United States.
Following her appointment to the Senate, Gillibrand's positions were harshly criticized by immigration advocates and Democratic elected officials. She subsequently changed some of her positions, explaining that "it’s a case of learning more and expanding my view.” She now opposes deporting illegal immigrants and cutting off funds to sanctuary cities. She also supports an earned path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. She is a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act, which would provide amnesty to any undocumented immigrants under the age of 35 who first entered the United States before the age of 16, has been in the country for at least the last five years, and has earned a high school diploma or GED in the United States and would retroactively repeal the federal law that prohibits state colleges and universities from giving undocumented immigrant students in-state tuition rates.She also supports a moratorium on home raids until comprehensive immigration reform is passed. She still opposes granting driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
Gillibrand favors legalizing civil unions across the country and leaving the issue of same-sex marriage up to the States, once stating, “All things that we give to married couples, committed gay couples should be eligible for. And then the question of whether you call it a marriage or not, what you label it, that can be left to the states to decide.” In 2007, Gillibrand received an 80 out of 100 rating from the LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign—the lowest score out of New York’s Democratic representatives. She declined to cosponsor legislation repealing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. She voted against legislation to grant same-sex partners of U.S. citizens and permanent residents the same immigration status of married couples.
In an interview with the editorial board of the New York Times following her appointment to the Senate, Gillibrand insisted that she had supported same-sex marriage since shortly before her re-election to the House in 2008. On the morning of her appointment to the Senate, she called the Empire State Pride Agenda to reiterate her full support for Same sex marriage.
According to the ESPA, as a member of the Senate, Gillibrand will also support a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
On April 16, 2009, Gillibrand endorsed Governor Paterson's proposed legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in New York.
In July, 2009, Senator Gillibrand announced she was considering introducing an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would impose an 18-month moratorium on the discharge of gays serving in the military.
She ultimately decided against introducing the amendment, as she could not amass the 60 votes required to avoid a filibuster, but told the blog The Daily Beast that she was able to secure the commitment of the Senate Armed Services Committee to hold hearings on "don't ask, don't tell" in the fall of 2009.
However, the hearings were postponed and began on February 2, 2010.
In December, 2009, the LGBT publication The Advocate, citing Senator Gillibrand's position on gay marriage and her work toward repealing "don't ask don't tell", declared her one of its five "People of the Year".
She opposes the No Child Left Behind Act, because she believes it "places an unmanageable strain on county and school budgets". She supports doubling the Child and Dependent Care Credit, and eliminating or permanently fixing the Alternative Minimum Tax.
In September 2009, the U.S. Senate voted 83-7 to strip federal housing funds from ACORN in the wake of the a controversy over apparently illegal activity exposed on undercover videos. Gillibrand split from Sen. Charles Schumer and joined just six other senators who voted against the bill. Gillibrand defended her vote, claiming that eliminating funding for ACORN "would be harmful to the thousands of hard-working New Yorkers who need extra assistance in the middle of this economic crisis."
Of the United Nations Durban III conference, Gillibrand said in November 2010: "We all witnessed how extreme antisemitic and anti-American voices took over Durban I and Durban II, and we should expect the same thing to happen with Durban III... I appreciate the Obama Administration’s strong statement opposing yesterday’s resolution, and urge it to again withdraw from the event and encourage other nations to do the same."
New York 20th congressional district election, 2006
Gillibrand ran in New York's 20th Congressional District against four-term Republican incumbent John E. Sweeney. The suburban and rural district was among the more Republican in the Northeast. Sweeney had a politically conservative/libertarian stance, and had not faced a serious opponent for election in any of his previous House races. Gillibrand won the election by a 6% margin over Sweeney.
New York's 20th congressional district election, 2008
Gillibrand ran for re-election in November 2008, easily defeating Republican challenger Sandy Treadwell to hold her seat.
As New York election law allows fusion voting, Gillibrand ran under the aegis of both the Democratic Party and the Working Families Party in her two elections to the House. The pooled vote totals for candidates are listed first, and the split of the votes among the parties they ran as is listed beneath.
New York's 20th congressional district: Results 2006–2008
Year Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct
2006 Kirsten E. Gillibrand 125,168 53% John E. Sweeney 110,554 47% *
Democratic 116,416 Republican 94,093
Working Families 8,752 Conservative 9,869
2008 Kirsten E. Gillibrand 193,651 62% Sandy Treadwell 118,031 38% *
Democratic 178,996 Republican 99,930
Working Families 14,655 Conservative 10,077
* Write-in and minor candidate notes: In 2006, there were 14,579 blank, void, and write-in ballots (6%). In 2008, the figures were separated, and there were 22,973 blank ballots, 26 void ballots, and 35 write-in votes (8%).
County results of the 2010 election.
United States Senate special election in New York, 2010
New York Democratic Representative Carolyn McCarthy, a vocal supporter of gun control who reportedly considered challenging Gillibrand in the 2010 primary because of this issue, expressed strong objections to the appointment of anyone with a 100% positive rating from the NRA. Senator Chuck Schumer, also a strong gun control advocate, supported the appointment and urged McCarthy to give Gillibrand a chance. McCarthy subsequently said she will not run for the seat. The New York Immigration Coalition also objected to the appointment based upon Gillibrand's views on immigration reform. President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid all expressed their support for the appointment. A Quinnipiac Poll in January 2009 showed that a plurality (46%) of New Yorkers polled expressed approval of Gillibrand's appointment to the Senate, but when asked if they have a favorable opinion of Gillibrand, 63% said they do not know enough about her yet. A Siena College poll at the same time showed twice as many respondents had a favorable opinion of her as had an unfavorable one (30–14%), but also reported a majority of respondents having neither a favorable nor unfavorable opinion. Gillibrand won a primary election in September 2010, defeating Gail Goode by a three to one margin, to gain the Democratic nomination.
Gillibrand won the November 2010 Special Election to formally retain her seat. Her Republican challenger was Joseph DioGuardi, former U.S. Congressman.
Gillibrand will likely run for a full term in office in 2012.
Gillibrand lives in Hudson, a small city 35 miles (56 km) south of Albany. She splits her time between Hudson and Washington, D.C., with her husband, British national and venture capital consultant Jonathan Gillibrand, and their two sons. Their older child was born in 2004. Gillibrand gave birth to her second child in May 2008, making her the sixth woman to have a child while serving as a member of Congress. Her House colleagues gave her a standing ovation for working until the day she gave birth. During the financial crisis in 2008, Gillibrand's husband made substantial investments in stock options that would rise in value if the stock market declined.