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Sheldon Whitehouse

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Title: Sheldon Whitehouse  
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Subject: United States Senate election in Rhode Island, 2006, United States Senate election in Rhode Island, 2012, Jack Reed (politician), Alberto Gonzales, Patrick Lynch (Rhode Island attorney general)
Collection: 1955 Births, American Episcopalians, American Prosecutors, Democratic Party United States Senators, Dismissal of United States Attorneys Controversy, Living People, People from New York City, People from Providence, Rhode Island, Rhode Island Attorneys General, Rhode Island Democrats, St. Paul's School (Concord, New Hampshire) Alumni, United States Attorneys for the District of Rhode Island, United States Senators from Rhode Island, University of Virginia School of Law Alumni, Yale University Alumni
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Sheldon Whitehouse

Sheldon Whitehouse
United States Senator
from Rhode Island
Assumed office
January 3, 2007
Serving with Jack Reed
Preceded by Lincoln Chafee
71st Attorney General of Rhode Island
In office
January 2, 1999 – January 7, 2003
Governor Lincoln Almond
Preceded by Jeffery Pine
Succeeded by Patrick Lynch
United States Attorney for the
District of Rhode Island
In office
January 20, 1993 – June 8, 1998
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Lincoln Almond
Succeeded by Margaret Curran
Personal details
Born (1955-10-20) October 20, 1955
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Sandra Thornton (1986–present)
Children Molly
Alma mater Yale University (B.A.)
University of Virginia (J.D.)
Profession Lawyer
Religion Episcopalian
Website Senate website

Sheldon Whitehouse (born October 20, 1955) is an American politician and the junior United States Senator from Rhode Island, serving since 2007. He is a member of the Democratic Party and previously served as a United States Attorney from 1993 to 1998 and as the Attorney General of Rhode Island from 1999 to 2003.


  • Early life, education, and pre-political career 1
  • Early political career 2
    • U.S. Attorney 2.1
    • State Attorney General 2.2
    • 2002 gubernatorial election 2.3
  • U.S. Senate 3
    • Elections 3.1
    • Tenure 3.2
      • Health care 3.2.1
      • Environmental issues 3.2.2
      • U.S. Attorney controversy 3.2.3
    • Committee assignments 3.3
    • Caucus memberships 3.4
  • Electoral history 4
  • United States Attorney General speculation 5
  • Personal life 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Early life, education, and pre-political career

Whitehouse was born in New York City, New York, the son of Mary Celine (née Rand) and career diplomat Charles Sheldon Whitehouse, and grandson of diplomat Sheldon Whitehouse. He graduated from St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, and from Yale University in 1978. He received his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1982.

Whitehouse worked as a clerk for Judge Richard F. Neely of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia from 1982 to 1983. He also worked in the Rhode Island Attorney General's office as a special assistant attorney general from 1985 to 1990, chief of the Regulatory Unit (which oversaw utilities) from 1988 to 1990, and also an assistant attorney general from 1989 to 1990.[1]

Whitehouse worked as Rhode Island Governor Bruce Sundlun's Executive Counsel beginning in 1991, and was later tapped to serve as Director of Policy. He oversaw the state's response to the Rhode Island Share and Deposit Indemnity Corporation (RISDIC) banking crisis,[2] which took place right after Sundlun took office. Whitehouse was appointed by Sundlun to be the state's Director of Business Regulation in 1992, where he oversaw a drastic reform in the state's workers' compensation insurance system.[1]

Early political career

U.S. Attorney

President three strikes law".[1] Whitehouse also initiated the investigation into municipal corruption in Rhode Island that led to Operation Plunder Dome, in which Mayor of Providence Vincent "Buddy" Cianci was eventually convicted on conspiracy charges.[3] As US Attorney for Rhode Island, Whitehouse oversaw an increase in environmental protection efforts, including an investigation into a Narragansett Bay oil spill that yielded the largest fine in state history.

State Attorney General

In 1998, Whitehouse was elected Rhode Island Attorney General. He initiated a lawsuit against the lead paint industry that ended in a mistrial; the state later won a second lawsuit against former lead paint manufacturers Sherwin Williams Co., Millennium Holdings, and NL Industries that found them responsible for creating a public nuisance.[4] This decision, however, was unanimously overturned by the Rhode Island Supreme Court on July 1, 2008. The Court found that under Rhode Island law it is the responsibility of property owners to abate and mitigate lead hazards.

Whitehouse also founded the Rhode Island Quality Institute, "an organization dedicated to improving health care quality in the State of Rhode Island". He also authorized the first Rhode Island State Police wiretap to investigate public corruption.[5]

Whitehouse's tenure as attorney general also saw some controversy. When black Providence police officer Cornel Young Jr. was shot and killed by two fellow officers while he was off-duty in January 2000,[6] Whitehouse was criticized for not appointing an independent prosecutor to investigate the shooting.[7] Later that year, Whitehouse was criticized when 15-year-old Jennifer Rivera, a witness in a murder case, was shot by a relative of the man she was to testify against later that year.[8] After Rivera's shooting, Whitehouse strengthened the state's witness protection program.

2002 gubernatorial election

Whitehouse was defeated in the Democratic primary by former State Senator and two-time failed gubernatorial candidate Myrth York, who was unsuccessful in the general election against Republican Donald Carcieri.

U.S. Senate

Whitehouse speaks in 2008



In 2006, Whitehouse ran for the seat occupied by Senator Lincoln Chafee, a Republican seeking a second full term. After winning the Democratic primary by a large margin, Whitehouse went on to defeat Chafee with 53 percent of the vote.


On November 6, 2012, Sheldon Whitehouse won reelection to a second term in office, easily defeating GOP challenger Barry Hinckley, "both in state results and in local towns. Whitehouse won by 30 points, with 64.9 percent of the vote in Rhode Island".[9]


Whitehouse voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Budget Control Act. He voted against Cut, Cap and Balance and the debt ceiling increase. Earlier in his first term, he voted for the Stimulus package and the TARP. He voted against cap and trade, but sponsored Offshoring Prevention and supported the Global Warming Reduction Act.[10] [11]

In traditionally liberal Rhode Island, both the Democratic Whitehouse and his predecessor, Republican Lincoln Chafee, hold liberal political positions. But Whitehouse has been to the left of Chafee on economic issues, a position that separated him from his opponent in the last election.[12] In 2007, Whitehouse was ranked the second-most liberal senator by the National Journal.[13]

Whitehouse supports stem cell research, abortion rights, LGBT rights and gay marriage, as well as affirmative action. He has publicly supported a reintroduction of the Equal Rights Amendment. Like Chafee, Whitehouse opposed intervention in Iraq (Chafee was the only Republican senator to vote against it).

He voted to confirm Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, but opposed the nomination of Samuel Alito.

Whitehouse supports a more progressive tax system and strongly opposed the Bush tax cuts and proposals to repeal the Estate Tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax. He is in favor of gun control and has spoken out against the Patriot Act. Whitehouse supported introducing a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, stating that the United States must use caution in the future and avoid engaging in military action in Iran.[12]

Despite a generally pro-rehabilitation stance on crime, Whitehouse supports the federal use of the death penalty, but opposes its use at the state level in Rhode Island.[14] Whitehouse also opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement and other similar proposals. He has styled himself as a supporter of fair trade and is opposed to using presidential authority to "fast-track" normalized trade relations.[14]

In addition, Whitehouse has stated that he does not want torture abuse by the Bush administration to be "papered over", and supports a commission to uncover its war crimes.

Whitehouse has faced some criticism for alleged insider trading, avoiding big losses by trading stocks after top federal officials warned congressional leaders of "the coming economic cataclysm" in September 2008.[15]

PolitiFact determined that Whitehouse falsely claimed Paul Ryan's 2012 budget blueprint "gets rid of Medicare in 10 years." Whitehouse claimed to have meant that Ryan's plan would have ended Medicare "as we know it", turning it into a voucher program.[16]

Health care

During the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Whitehouse cautioned that conservative opposition to the bill was moving toward historical incidences of mob violence, saying, "Too many colleagues are embarked on a desperate, no-holds-barred mission of propaganda, obstruction and fear...cautions us of the excesses to which these malignant, vindictive passions can ultimately lead. Tumbrils have rolled through taunting crowds. Broken glass has sparkled in darkened streets. Strange fruit has hung from southern trees".[17]

In December 2009, Whitehouse said "birthers", "fanatics", and "people running around in right-wing militia and Aryan support groups" oppose Obamacare.[18]

Environmental issues

In November 2011, ThinkProgress reported Whitehouse's introduction of a bill that would require federal natural resource agencies to be concerned with the long-term effects of climate change, and to encourage preparation of natural resource adaptation plans by the states. The Safeguarding America’s Future and Environment Act (SAFE) Act also "would create a science advisory board to ensure that the planning uses the best available science”.[19]

In reference to the proposed action on mandatory emissions curbs, Whitehouse told The Hill that “I am not hearing anybody on our side, even the people who are more economically concerned about the climate legislation who come from coal states, that sort of thing, saying, 'What are we going to say about this, is this a problem?’”[20]

Whitehouse dismissed Climategate: “Climategate should properly be known as Climategate-gate because it was the scandal that was phony.”[21]

In May 2011 Whitehouse introduced legislation to support coastal jobs and protect oceans. The National Endowment for the Oceans, Coasts, and Great Lakes Act (S.973) is pending.

Environmental Defense Fund praised him for working to protect the Gulf Coast wetlands.[22]

Whitehouse has said that development of alternate energy sources, including solar power, will eliminate U.S. dependence on foreign oil. He has cited the installation of new solar panels on three new bank branches in Rhode Island, saying that the projects “created jobs, they put people to work, they lowered the cost for these banks of their electrical energy, and they get us off foreign oil and away, step by step, from these foreign entanglements that we have to get into to defend our oil supply”. In regard to these comments, PolitiFact investigated the economics of renewable energy and determined that solar and wind investments would not have a large effect on oil consumption, calling Whitehouse's comments "Mostly False" due to "this misimpression—and because of the other inaccuracies in Whitehouse’s speech".[23]

On November 14, 2013, he gave his 50th weekly Senate speech on climate change. The series of speeches highlight the science of climate change and offer paths for the United States to take strong action.

U.S. Attorney controversy

Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy

Whitehouse received notice in a June 2007 opinion piece from journalist (senior editorial writer) Michael McGough of the Attorney General Alberto Gonzales: "His [Gonzales'] stated definition of what is improper for him and his staff, believe it or not, tracks the legal standard for criminal obstruction of justice. Is that the kind of attorney general we want?"[24]

In May 2007, Whitehouse had joined other Senators in pressuring for Gonzales' resignation[25] and continued to question Gonzales' service in the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy.[26]

Committee assignments

Whitehouse is a member of the following committees:[27][28][29]

On August 3, 2007, it was announced that Whitehouse would receive the Golden Gavel award, having presided over Senate debates for more than 100 hours in his first six months in office.

Caucus memberships

Electoral history

Rhode Island U.S. Senate Election 2006
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Sheldon Whitehouse 205,274 53.5
Republican Lincoln Chafee (incumbent) 178,548 46.5 -7.0
Rhode Island U.S. Senate Election 2012
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Sheldon Whitehouse (incumbent) 254,718 65.0 +11.5
Republican Barry Hinckley 137,056 35.0

United States Attorney General speculation

Upon Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement in September 2014 of his intention to step down, some speculated that Whitehouse could be nominated as Holder's replacement.[31][32]

Personal life

In 1986 Whitehouse married Sandra Thornton, a marine biologist and granddaughter of James Worth Thornton and Elena Mumm Thornton Wilson. Her step-grandfather was prominent essayist and critic Edmund Wilson. They live in Rhode Island with their two children, Molly Whitehouse and Alexander "Xander" Whitehouse.

Whitehouse is a descendent of William Bradford, colonial governor of Massachusetts, as well as theologian Archibald Alexander, Episcopal bishop Henry John Whitehouse, and railroad executive Charles Crocker.[33][34]

After meeting with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in September 2008, Whitehouse came under scrutiny due to possible insider trading, when he sold a number of positions, valued at least at $250,000, over the next six days.[35][36] Whitehouse was trading anywhere from 5–20% of his net worth.[37] In Senate candidate Barry Hinckley's book, he said that it was "implausible that much of someone’s net worth would be traded without someone’s knowledge".[37] A spokesperson for Whitehouse's office explained that the senator "is not actively involved in the management" of the accounts implicated, and that he "neither directed his financial advisor to undertake any transaction during that time, nor ever took advantage of any exclusive or secret information".[38]


  1. ^ a b c "Sheldon Whitehouse for Governor, "About Sheldon" (cached 9/1/2002)". Retrieved 2014-04-13. 
  2. ^ [6]
  3. ^ Rhode Island Cancer Council, "Sheldon Whitehouse"
  4. ^ Peter B. Lord, "3 companies found liable in lead-paint nuisance suit," The Providence Journal, February 23, 2006.[7]
  5. ^ """Rhode Island Quality Institute, "Who We Are. Retrieved 2014-04-13. 
  6. ^ Ken Mingis, "Off-duty Providence police officer shot, killed by 2 other officers," The Providence Journal, January 28, 2000.[8]
  7. ^ Jonathan D. Rockoff, "Minority leaders seek independent inquiry," The Providence Journal, February 6, 2000.[9]
  8. ^ Mark Arsenault, "Grounded in law, Whitehouse builds his case on leadership," The Providence Journal, August 25, 2002.[10]
  9. ^ "2012 Election Results". NARRAGANSETT-SOUTH KINGSTOWN PATCH. Retrieved 2012-11-08. 
  10. ^ "The U.S. Congress Votes Database". Washington Post. Retrieved 12 March 2012. 
  11. ^ "Sheldon Whitehouse On The Issues". On The Issues. Retrieved 12 March 2012. 
  12. ^ a b "Sheldon Whitehouse on the Issues". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  13. ^ "National Journal's 2007 Vote Ratings"
  14. ^ a b "Sheldon Whitehouse on the Issues". Retrieved 2014-04-13. 
  15. ^ "Sen. Whitehouse mentioned in book on Congressional 'insider' trading". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  16. ^ "U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse says budget proposed by vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan would eliminate Medicare in 10 years". Tampa Bay Times Politifact. 23 October 2012. Retrieved 14 August 2014. 
  17. ^ Milbank, Dana (2009-12-21). "An ugly finale for health-care reform". The Washington Post. 
  18. ^ "Sen. Whitehouse: Foes of health care bill are birthers, right-wing militias, aryan groups". Washington Times. 2009-12-20. Retrieved 2014-04-13. 
  19. ^ "Climate Hawk Sheldon Whitehouse Introduces Climate Resilience Legislation". ThinkProgress. 
  20. ^ say "‘Climategate’ hasn't swayed swing votes on climate change bill" . The Hill. 
  21. ^ "Climate Hawks Whitehouse And Franken Hold Climate Crisis Colloquy". ThinkProgress. 
  22. ^ "Environmental Defense Praises Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse for Working to Protect Wetlands". Environmental Defense Fund. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  23. ^ "U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse says that the development of solar power and other forms of renewable energy will "get us off" foreign oil". PoliFact. 
  24. ^ McGough, Michael (June 14, 2007). "Whitehouse takes Gonzales to the woodshed: How the freshman senator built the strongest case against the attorney general.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2007-06-17. 
  25. ^ Stout, David (2007-05-24). "Bush Backs Gonzales in Face of No-Confidence Vote". The New York Times. 
  26. ^ David Johnston and Scott Shane (2007-07-25). "Gonzales Denies Improper Pressure on Ashcroft". The New York Times. 
  27. ^ Committee Assignments United States Senate.'.' Retrieved June 20, 207.
  28. ^ Senate Judiciary Committee and Subcommittee membership United States Senate.'.' Retrieved June 20, 2008.
  29. ^ Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and Subcommittee membership United States Senate.'.' Retrieved June 20, 2008.
  30. ^ "Senate Leaders Announce Bipartisan Committee To Investigate Judge G. Thomas Porteous" (Press release). Senate Democratic Caucus. 2010-03-17. Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  31. ^  
  32. ^ Camia, Catalina (25 September 2014). "After Eric Holder: Potential attorney general choices".  
  33. ^ "Coming Soon". Retrieved 2014-04-13. 
  34. ^ "Sheldon Whitehouse ancestry". Retrieved 2014-09-01. 
  35. ^ "FULL DETAILS: How Congress Insider Traders Abused The Public's Trust During The Financial Crisis".  
  36. ^ "Open Secrets Report" (PDF). 
  37. ^ a b "Hinckley jabs at Whitehouse over insider trading accusations". WPRO. 
  38. ^ "Breaking News | | The Providence Journal". 2014-04-09. Retrieved 2014-04-13. 

Further reading

External links

  • Senator Sheldon Whitehouse official U.S. Senate site
  • Sheldon Whitehouse for Senate
  • Sheldon Whitehouse at DMOZ
Legal offices
Preceded by
Lincoln Almond
U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island
Succeeded by
Margaret Curran
Preceded by
Jeffrey Pine
Attorney General of Rhode Island
Succeeded by
Patrick Lynch
Party political offices
Preceded by
Robert Weygand
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Rhode Island
(Class 1)

2006, 2012
Most recent
United States Senate
Preceded by
Lincoln Chafee
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Rhode Island
Served alongside: Jack Reed
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Amy Klobuchar
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Jon Tester
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