| United States Senator |
from Rhode Island
January 3, 2007
Servingwith Jack Reed
|Preceded by||Lincoln Chafee|
|71st Attorney General of Rhode Island|
January 2, 1999 –January 7, 2003
|Preceded by||Jeffery Pine|
|Succeeded by||Patrick Lynch|
| United States Attorney for the |
District of Rhode Island
January 20, 1993 –June 8, 1998
|Preceded by||Lincoln Almond|
|Succeeded by||Margaret Curran|
|Born||October 20, 1955|
New York City, New York, U.S.
Sandra Thornton(m. 1986)
|Parents|| Charles S. Whitehouse |
|Education|| Yale University (BA)|
University of Virginia (JD)
Sheldon Whitehouse (born October 20, 1955) is an American lawyer and politician serving as the junior United States Senator from Rhode Island 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.
Whitehouse was born on October 20, 1955, 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 (1883–1965). Among his great-great-grandfathers were Episcopalian bishop Henry John Whitehouse and railroad magnate Charles Crocker, who was among the founders of the Central Pacific Railroad. Whitehouse graduated from St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, and from Yale College 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 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 as an assistant attorney general from 1989 to 1990.
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 banking crisisthat took place soon after Sundlun took office. In 1992 Sundlun appointed Whitehouse the state's Director of Business Regulation, where he oversaw a drastic reform in the state's workers' compensation insurance system.
President Bill Clinton appointed Whitehouse United States Attorney for Rhode Island in 1994. Whitehouse held the position for four years. With the 1996 extortion conviction of mobster Gerard Ouimette, he was the first prosecutor to convict a member of organized crime under Clinton's "three strikes law". [ citation needed ]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. As U.S. 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.
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, Millennium Holdings, and NL Industries that found them responsible for creating a public nuisance. [ citation needed ]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 authorized the first Rhode Island State Police wiretap to investigate public corruption.
When black Providence police officer Cornel Young Jr. was shot and killed by two fellow officers while he was off-duty in January 2000, [ citation needed ]Whitehouse was criticized for not appointing an independent prosecutor to investigate the shooting. 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. After Rivera's shooting, Whitehouse strengthened the state's witness protection program.
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Whitehouse was defeated in the Democratic primary by former State Senator Myrth York, who was unsuccessful in the general election against Republican Donald Carcieri.
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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, Whitehouse won reelection to a second term in office, easily defeating Republican 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".
On November 6, 2018, Whitehouse was reelected to a third term, defeating Republican Robert Flanders by 23 points.[ citation needed ]
In 2007, the National Journal ranked Whitehouse the second-most liberal senator.
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.
Whitehouse supports stem cell research, abortion rights, LGBT rights, and affirmative action.[ citation needed ] He has publicly supported a reintroduction of the Equal Rights Amendment. Whitehouse opposed intervention in Iraq.
He voted to confirm Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, but against the confirmation of Samuel Alito.[ citation needed ]
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, saying that the United States must use caution in the future and avoid engaging in military action in Iran.
Despite a generally pro-rehabilitation stance on crime, Whitehouse supports federal use of the death penalty, but opposes its use at the state level in Rhode Island.He also opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement and other similar proposals, styling himself as a supporter of fair trade and opposing the use of presidential authority to "fast-track" normalized trade relations.
In the spring of 2007, Whitehouse joined other senators in calling for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's resignation.After Gonzales's first appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee related to the controversy, Whitehouse told NPR, "[Gonzales] had a hard sell to make to me, and he didn't make it." He continued to question Gonzales's service in the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy.
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.
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.
In a 2018 interview with the Providence Journal , Whitehouse expressed opposition to D.C. statehood. He was dismissive of efforts to give District residents representation in Congress, suggesting they should be satisfied with the amount of federal activity nearby.
Whitehouse supported a vote that would limit continuing US support for the War in Yemen. Initially, Whitehouse was one of the two Democratic holdouts in the Senate, but an activist effort, including mobilizing fans of the Rhode Island band Downtown Boys, contributed to changing his position.
Whitehouse is a member of the following committees:
During the passage 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".
In December 2009, Whitehouse said "birthers", "fanatics", and "people running around in right-wing militia and Aryan support groups" oppose Obamacare.
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 the 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".
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?'"
Whitehouse dismissed the Climatic Research Unit conspiracy theory: "Climategate should properly be known as Climategate-gate because it was the scandal that was phony."
The Environmental Defense Fund praised him for working to protect the Gulf Coast wetlands.
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".
In a May 29, 2015, Washington Post editorial, Whitehouse advocated prosecution of members of the fossil fuel industry under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), in order to investigate their interest in anti-global-warming advocacy.
In April 2019, Whitehouse was one of 12 senators to sign a bipartisan letter to top senators on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development advocating that the Energy Department be granted maximum funding for carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), arguing that American job growth could be stimulated by investment in capturing carbon emissions and expressing disagreement with President Trump's 2020 budget request to combine the two federal programs that do carbon capture research.
Whitehouse has been a staunch critic of so-called "dark money", or political spending by nonprofit organizations that are not required to disclose their donors. According to The Washington Free Beacon , "Whitehouse has attempted to position himself as someone opposed to dark money in the Senate, but he has a long history of accepting dark money and turning his head when his Democratic colleagues accept money from dark money groups." He has said, "I don't think dark money is bad only on the Republican side, although it occurs mostly on the Republican side."According to Susan Crabtree, writing for RealClearPolitics in 2019, Whitehouse "has spent years railing against so-called 'dark money' conservative groups for what he regards as their outsized, improper political influence" but "now grudgingly concedes that it's a problem on both sides...[he] has had little choice as recent reports from groups calling for less money in politics, such as the Washington-based Issue One, have found that left-wing nonprofits far outspent conservative ones in the 2018 midterms."
Whitehouse "hasn't sworn off accepting political donations from some of the biggest and most powerful dark-money groups on the left. In fact, he's said he hopes groups like Demand Justice and the League of Conservation Voters donate to his campaign."He critiqued conservative dark money groups who backed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's nomination but "has been far quieter about liberal groups that actively opposed Kavanaugh's nomination in their own ad campaigns." Demand Justice, which organized opposition to Kavanaugh's nomination, is a project of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, which "makes it practically impossible to trace the source of funds that make its way to Demand Justice." The Washington Post's editorial board wrote that Demand Justice "is set up such that its funding is arguably even more opaque than the nonprofits against which it competes."
In May 2019, Whitehouse spoke about "the dangers of 'dark money' groups funding Congress" at an event funded by the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the American Constitution Society, both groups that have received funding from dark money organizations. CAP published a review by Whitehouse of 73 Supreme Court decisions that Whitehouse says the court "unfairly decided in favor of Republican interests." Major CAP donors include Democratic dark money groups the Democracy Alliance and the New Venture Fund, which was founded by Clinton appointee Eric Kessler. In 2017, upon the publication of Whitehouse's book Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy, Whitehouse went on a book tour with Gara LaMarche, the president of Democracy Alliance.
Whitehouse and fellow Democratic U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal submitted an amicus brief in Janus v. AFSCME , a U.S. Supreme Court case about the power of labor unions to collect fees from non-union members. Whitehouse and Blumenthal urged the Court to uphold the right of public sector unions to forcibly collect dues from non-members. Whitehouse expressed concern that the conservative Bradley Foundation had funded multiple organizations involved in the case and that none of those groups had disclosed that funding. Whitehouse did not himself disclose that the counsel of record for the defendant in Janus was one of his campaign contributors.
Whitehouse has received over $175,000 in campaign donations from the League of Conservation Voters, "one of the nation's strongest 'dark money' forces." Whitehouse has close ties to billionaire Tom Steyer, who has donated $17,300 directly to Whitehouse since 2006. Other donors to Whitehouse include the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
|Democratic||Antonio J. Pires||26,838||22.45|
|Democratic||Christopher F. Young||8,939||10.52|
|Republican||Lincoln Chafee (incumbent)||178,950||46.48%||-10.40%|
|Democratic gain from Republican||Swing|
|Democratic||Sheldon Whitehouse (incumbent)||60,223||100|
|Democratic||Sheldon Whitehouse (incumbent)||271,034||64.81%||+11.29%|
|Democratic||Sheldon Whitehouse (incumbent)||89,140||76.79%|
|Democratic||Patricia J. Fontes||26,947||23.21%|
|Democratic||Sheldon Whitehouse (incumbent)||231,477||61.45%||-3.36%|
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.
In February 2016, after the death of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, USA Today named Whitehouse as a possible nominee to fill the vacancy. Whitehouse's service as a U.S. Attorney and as Attorney General of Rhode Island gives him both legislative experience and experience as a legal official, though not as a judge.Whitehouse was ultimately not nominated.
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.
Among Whitehouse's distant ancestors are William Bradford, colonial governor of Massachusetts, and theologian Archibald Alexander.
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.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".
Claiborne de Borda Pell was an American career politician and writer who served as a U.S. Senator from Rhode Island for six terms from 1961 to 1997. He was the sponsor of the 1972 bill that reformed the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant, which provides financial aid funding to American college students; the grant was later given Pell's name in honor of his work in education legislation. A member of the Democratic Party, Pell is the longest serving U.S. Senator from Rhode Island.
Lincoln Davenport Chafee is an American politician. He was mayor of Warwick from 1993 to 1999, a United States Senator from 1999 to 2007, and the 74th Governor of Rhode Island from 2011 to 2015. He was a member of the Democratic Party from 2013–2019; in June 2019, The Boston Globe reported that he had become a registered Libertarian, having previously been a Republican until 2007 and an independent and then a Democrat in the interim.
John Francis Reed is an American politician serving as the senior United States Senator from Rhode Island, a seat he was first elected to in 1996. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously was the U.S. Representative for Rhode Island's 2nd congressional district from 1991 to 1997. Reed graduated from the United States Military Academy and Harvard University, serving in the U.S. Army as an active officer from 1971 to 1979. He is the current dean of Rhode Island's congressional delegation.
James Howard McGrath was an American politician and attorney from the U.S. state of Rhode Island. McGrath, a Democrat, served as U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island before becoming Governor, U.S. Solicitor General, U.S. Senator, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Attorney General of the United States.
The 2006 United States Senate election in Rhode Island was held November 7, 2006. Incumbent Republican Lincoln Chafee sought re-election to the seat he had held since 1999, when he was appointed to fill the vacancy created by the death of his father John Chafee. He lost to Democratic nominee Sheldon Whitehouse by a 7 point margin.
Margaret E. "Meg" Curran served as United States Attorney for Rhode Island from 1998 to 2003.
Prostitution in Rhode Island was outlawed in 2009. On November 3, 2009, Republican Governor Donald Carcieri signed into law a bill which makes the buying and selling of sexual services a crime.
Since the Great Depression, Rhode Island politics have been dominated by the Rhode Island Democratic Party. However, the Rhode Island Republican Party, although virtually non-existent in the Rhode Island General Assembly, occasionally puts forward statewide reform candidates. Former Governor Donald Carcieri of East Greenwich, and former Mayor Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci of Providence ran successfully as Republican reform candidates.
Ojetta Rogeriee Thompson, known commonly as O. Rogeriee Thompson, is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and a former Rhode Island Superior Court justice.
John James "Jack" McConnell Jr. is the Chief United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island.
The Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections Act or DISCLOSE Act is a federal campaign finance reform bill that has been introduced in the United States Congress since 2010. The bill would amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to provide for greater and faster public disclosure of campaign spending and to combat the use of "dark money" in U.S. elections.
The 2012 United States Senate election in Rhode Island was on November 6, 2012, alongside a presidential election, other elections to the United States Senate in other states, as well as elections to the United States House of Representatives and various state and local elections.
Robert G. Flanders Jr. is a Rhode Island attorney who served as an Associate Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court from 1996 to 2004. Flanders was the Republican Party nominee for the 2018 election for US Senator from Rhode Island. He lost the election to Democratic incumbent Sheldon Whitehouse.
Ryan W. Pearson is an American businessman and politician from Cumberland, Rhode Island. A Democrat, he serves in the Rhode Island Senate, representing the 19th district. He took office on January 1, 2013 and was named Senior Deputy Majority Leader on January 16, 2018.
Erin Patricia Prata is an American politician and a Democratic member of the Rhode Island Senate representing District 31 since January 2009. She is currently the Chairwoman on the Senate Committee on Judiciary as well as a member of the Senate Committee on Rules, Government Ethics & Oversight and the Senate Committee on Special Legislation & Veterans' Affairs. She focuses on issues including public education, economic development, job growth, health care and environmental protection.
Michael J. McCaffrey is an American politician and a Democratic member of the Rhode Island Senate representing District 29 since January 2003. McCaffrey served consecutively from January 1995 until January 2003 in the District 16 seat.
Peter F. Neronha is an American lawyer and elected official from Jamestown, Rhode Island who currently serves as the Attorney General of Rhode Island. He previously served as the United States Attorney for the District of Rhode Island under President Barack Obama from September 16, 2009 until March 10, 2017, after which he ran successfully as a Democrat for the office of Attorney General of Rhode Island in the 2018 elections.
The 2018 United States Senate election in Rhode Island took place on November 6, 2018, in order to elect a member of the United States Senate to represent the state of Rhode Island. Incumbent Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse was reelected to a third term, defeating Republican Robert Flanders by a margin of twenty-three percent.
A general election was held in the U.S. state of Rhode Island on November 6, 2018. The party primaries for the election occurred on September 12, 2018. All of Rhode Island's executive officers went up for election as well as Rhode Island's Class I U.S. Senate seat and both of Rhode Island's two seats in the United States House of Representatives.
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| U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island |
| Attorney General of Rhode Island |
|Party political offices|
| Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Rhode Island |
2006, 2012, 2018
| U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Rhode Island |
Served alongside: Jack Reed
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Senators by seniority |