Bruce Babbitt

Last updated
Bruce Babbitt
Bruce Babbitt by Gage Skidmore.jpg
47th United States Secretary of the Interior
In office
January 22, 1993 January 2, 2001
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Manuel Lujan
Succeeded by Gale Norton
16th Governor of Arizona
In office
March 4, 1978 January 5, 1987
Preceded by Wesley Bolin
Succeeded by Evan Mecham
19th Attorney General of Arizona
In office
January 6, 1975 March 4, 1978
Governor Raúl Castro
Wesley Bolin
Preceded byWarner Lee
Succeeded by Jack LaSota
Personal details
Bruce Edward Babbitt

(1938-06-27) June 27, 1938 (age 81)
Flagstaff, Arizona, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Hattie Coons
Education University of Notre Dame (BS)
Newcastle University (MSc)
Harvard University (LLB)

Bruce Edward Babbitt (born June 27, 1938) is an American attorney and politician from the state of Arizona. A member of the Democratic Party, Babbitt served as the 16th governor of Arizona from 1978 to 1987, and as the United States Secretary of the Interior from 1993 through 2001.


He won election as Arizona Attorney General after graduating from Harvard Law School. He became Governor of Arizona after the death of his predecessor, Wesley Bolin. Babbitt won election to a full term in 1978 and won re-election in 1982. He helped found the Democratic Leadership Council and sought the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination, but dropped out of the race after the first set of primaries.

After his presidential campaign, Babbit served as head of the League of Conservation Voters. He served as the Secretary of the Interior for the duration of Bill Clinton's presidency. Clinton also strongly considered nominating Babbitt to the Supreme Court after vacancies arose in 1993 and 1994. After leaving public office in 2001, Babbitt became an attorney with Latham & Watkins.

Personal life

Babbitt was born into a prominent Roman Catholic Flagstaff, Arizona family, the son of Frances B. (Perry) and Paul James Babbitt Sr. [1] [2] He graduated from the University of Notre Dame, attended Newcastle University in the United Kingdom on a Marshall Scholarship, and then received his law degree at Harvard Law School. [3]

He married Harriet Coons (known as Hattie) in 1968. She has worked as an attorney in Arizona and Washington, D.C., and served as United States Ambassador to the Organization of American States from 1993 to 1997, and as Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development from 1997 to 2001 during the Clinton Administration. [4]

As attorney for the Scottsdale Daily Progress newspaper, Babbitt worked with publisher Jonathan Marshall in crafting legislation that became Arizona's "open meeting law."

Political career


Babbitt signing legislation in the Governor's Office in Phoenix, Arizona. Billy Davis In Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt Office.jpg
Babbitt signing legislation in the Governor's Office in Phoenix, Arizona.

In the state election of November 1974, Babbitt overcame Republican incumbent Warner Lee to become Attorney General of Arizona. [5]

He succeeded Wesley Bolin as governor when Bolin died in office on March 4, 1978. Arizona does not have a lieutenant governor; the Arizona Secretary of State, if holding office by election, stands first in line in case the governor vacates his or her post. However, Rose Mofford, then secretary of state, had been appointed to her post and thus was not eligible to become governor according to the Arizona state constitution. Babbitt, as attorney general, was next in the line of succession, and thus served the balance of the term to which Raúl Héctor Castro had originally been elected in 1974. Babbitt was elected for a full four-year term later in 1978, and again in 1982. He did not run for a third term in 1986.

In 1982, Babbitt intervened in negotiations between the Cochise County sheriff and leaders of the Christ Miracle Healing Church and Center over the release of church members whom the church was hiding from facing charges for assault. The church, which had been implicated in bomb-making, would play a central role in the Miracle Valley shootout later that year. In 1983, Babbitt sent the Arizona National Guard to the strike against the Phelps Dodge mining company in Morenci, Arizona.

With the retirement of Republican Barry Goldwater from the U.S. Senate in 1986, many in Arizona expected Babbitt to oppose Representative John McCain for the seat. In a surprise press conference in 1985, Babbitt instead announced he would forgo the Senate race to concentrate on a White House bid in 1988.

Babbitt is the only Arizona governor to have completed two four-year terms with nine years of service. George W.P. Hunt is Arizona's longest-serving governor, however, with 17 years of total service and seven terms.

National work

In 1979, Babbitt was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve as a commissioner on the President's Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island, a six-month investigation of the March 1979 accident at a commercial nuclear power plant at Middletown, Pennsylvania. [6] Babbitt spoke at the 1980 Democratic National Convention, which nominated incumbent Jimmy Carter as the Democratic candidate for president.

A founding member of the Democratic Leadership Council and the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association in 1985, Babbitt sought the Democratic Party's 1988 nomination for President of the United States. Among his proposals was a national sales tax to remedy the then-record budget deficits piled up during the several past administrations. He enjoyed positive press attention (called a "boomlet" in USA Today), but after finishing out of the top tier of candidates in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, he dropped out of the race. In an intentional reference to Richard Nixon (who said after losing the California governorship in the 1962 election that the press "won't have [me] to kick around anymore"), Babbitt joked in his last campaign press conference that the media "won't have Bruce Babbitt to puff up anymore." The Washington Post reported that Babbitt dropped this line from the prepared text of his withdrawal speech. [7]

Clinton administration

Babbitt as Secretary of the Interior in Washington, D.C. circa 1993 Bruce babbitt.jpg
Babbitt as Secretary of the Interior in Washington, D.C. circa 1993

After leading the League of Conservation Voters, Babbitt served for eight years, 1993–2001, as the United States Secretary of the Interior during Bill Clinton's administration.

Babbitt worked to protect scenic and historic areas of America's federal public lands. In 2000 Babbitt created the National Landscape Conservation System, a collection of 15 U.S. National Monuments and 14 National Conservation Areas to be managed by the Bureau of Land Management in such a way as to keep them "healthy, open, and wild."

In 1993, Babbitt was seriously considered by President Clinton to replace retiring United States Supreme Court Justice Byron White. Due to his lead on environmental issues, however, Clinton nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg instead. Clinton again considered Babbitt for the high court in 1994 when Harry Blackmun announced his retirement. Babbitt was passed over again, this time in favor of Stephen Breyer, due to Breyer's immense support in the U.S. Senate, primarily because he was close to Sen. Ted Kennedy.[ citation needed ]

In 1998 Babbitt was the subject of a federal grand jury investigation into whether he had lied to Congress about having denied an Indian casino license in Wisconsin in return for political donations. The controversy has been called Wampumgate. Babbitt was cleared of wrongdoing in the special prosecutor's final report on the investigation the following year. [8]

Post-political life

Babbitt with then-Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar at the Department's headquarters in Washington, D.C. Bruce Babbitt and Ken Salazar.jpg
Babbitt with then-Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar at the Department's headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Babbitt took a job as chief counsel of the environmental litigation department of Latham & Watkins, an international law firm, after leaving the Department of the Interior. During his time at Latham & Watkins, Babbitt offended many environmentalists by taking on two clients trying to build large developments near the coastline. Babbitt defended both projects, one on Hearst Corporation land in central California and the other on the Ahmanson Ranch north of Los Angeles. [9]

Babbitt has attracted the ire of some environmentalists and Native American groups for his representation of the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort and its effort to expand the resort and use waste water to make artificial snow. [10]

He serves as trustee of the World Wildlife Fund Secretariat Trustees in the U.S., and was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations until 2012. [11] He has also served on the Board of Directors since 2009 for the Amazon Conservation Association, whose mission is to conserve the biological diversity of the Amazon. [12] Babbitt is also a member of the ReFormers Caucus of Issue One. [13]

See also

Further reading

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  1. "Candidate's Father Dies in Flagstaff". Associated Press News Archive. 1988-01-25. Retrieved 2018-04-18.
  2. H, Cori (2003-01-23). "Paul James Babbitt". Find A Grave. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  3. Arizona Governor Bruce Edward Babbitt Archived 2011-06-04 at the Wayback Machine , National Governors Association.
  4. Harriet C. Babbitt-Jennings Strouss Attorneys at Law Archived January 13, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  5. "Arizona Voting". The Gallup Independent. Gallup, NM. AP. November 6, 1974. Retrieved October 16, 2016 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  6. Walker, J. Samuel (2006). Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective. University of California Press. p. 281. ISBN   9780520246836.
  7. Schwartz, Maralee; Ifill, Gwen (1998-02-21). "Babbitt's Opening Line--Almost". The Washington Post. pp. A12.
  8. Miller, Bill; Vise, David A. (1999-10-14). "Babbitt Cleared in Casino Probe". The Washington Post. pp. A1. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
  9. Sterngold, James (13 March 2002). "Former Interior Secretary to Develop Water Projects in the Middle East". New York, New York. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  10. "". Archived from the original on 2006-09-29. Retrieved 2007-07-02., "Can anyone really trust Bruce Babbitt?
  11. "Membership Roster - Council on Foreign Relations". 6 January 2012. Archived from the original on 6 January 2012. Retrieved 15 September 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  12. "Amazon Conservation Association" . Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  13. "ReFormers Caucus". Issue One. Retrieved 2018-04-18.
Legal offices
Preceded by
Warner Lee
Attorney General of Arizona
Succeeded by
Jack LaSota
Political offices
Preceded by
Wesley Bolin
Governor of Arizona
Succeeded by
Evan Mecham
Preceded by
Manuel Lujan
United States Secretary of the Interior
Succeeded by
Gale Norton
Party political offices
Preceded by
Raúl Castro
Democratic nominee for Governor of Arizona
1978, 1982
Succeeded by
Carolyn Warner
Preceded by
Chuck Robb
Chair of the Democratic Governors Association
Succeeded by
Richard Riley