Jim Sensenbrenner
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Wisconsin
In office
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 2021
Preceded byBob Kasten
Succeeded byScott L. Fitzgerald
Constituency9th district (1979–2003)
5th district (2003–2021)
Chair of the House Judiciary Committee
In office
January 3, 2001 – January 3, 2007
Preceded byHenry Hyde
Succeeded byJohn Conyers
Chair of the House Science Committee
In office
January 3, 1997 – January 3, 2001
Preceded byBob Walker
Succeeded bySherwood Boehlert
Member of the Wisconsin Senate
from the 4th district
In office
April 2, 1975 – January 3, 1979
Preceded byBob Kasten
Succeeded byRod Johnston
Member of the Wisconsin State Assembly
In office
January 1, 1973 – April 2, 1975
Preceded byDistrict established
Succeeded byRod Johnston
Constituency10th district
In office
1969 – January 1, 1973
Preceded byNile Soik
Succeeded byDistrict abolished
Constituency25th district
Personal details
Born
Frank James Sensenbrenner Jr.

(1943-06-14) June 14, 1943 (age 77)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)
Cheryl Warren
(m. 1977; died 2020)
Children2
RelativesJohn C. Pritzlaff (great-great-grandfather)
James C. Kerwin (great-grandfather)
F. Joseph Sensenbrenner Jr. (2nd cousin)
EducationStanford University (BA)
University of Wisconsin, Madison (JD)
Net worth$11.1 million (2018)[1]

Frank James Sensenbrenner Jr. (/ˈsɛnsənˌbrɛnər/; born June 14, 1943) is an American politician who represented Wisconsin's 5th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1979 to 2021. He is a Republican. Wisconsin's 5th district, the most Republican-leaning in the state, includes many of Milwaukee's northern and western suburbs, and extends into rural Jefferson County. It was numbered as the 9th District until 2003.

He is the former chairman of the House Science Committee and the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; when the Republicans lost control of the House, he finished his six-year term as chairman, and was not chosen as the Judiciary Committee's ranking minority member (that honor went to Lamar S. Smith of Texas).[2] He served as the ranking Republican on the House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming from 2007 to 2011, before Republicans abolished the committee after regaining control of the House. At the time of his retirement, Sensenbrenner was the most senior member of the Wisconsin delegation, and the second most senior member in the House.

Sensenbrenner announced in September 2019 that he would not run for re-election in 2020.[3]

Early life, education, and early political career

Sensenbrenner was born in Chicago, Illinois. His great-grandfather, Frank J. Sensenbrenner, was involved in the early marketing of Kotex sanitary napkin and served as the second president of Kimberly-Clark.[4] His grandfather, John S. Sensenbrenner, also spent his entire career working for Kimberly-Clark.[5] Sensenbrenner was raised in Shorewood, Wisconsin, and attended the private Milwaukee Country Day School, from which he graduated in 1961. He matriculated at Stanford University, graduating with a B.A. in political science in 1965. He received a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1968. Sensenbrenner served as staff assistant to California U.S. Congressman J. Arthur Younger and Wisconsin State Senator Jerris Leonard.[6]

Wisconsin legislature

Sensenbrenner was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly in 1968, the same year he graduated from law school. He served in the State Assembly until 1975, and in the Wisconsin State Senate from 1975 to early 1979.[7]

U.S. House of Representatives

Elections

Sensenbrenner watches President George W. Bush signing the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, November 2003.
Sensenbrenner watches President George W. Bush signing the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, November 2003.

When 9th District Congressman Bob Kasten vacated his seat to run for governor in 1978, Sensenbrenner ran in the election to succeed him, defeating his primary opponent, Susan Engeleiter, by 589 votes with a plurality of 43%.[8][9] He defeated Democratic lawyer Matt Flynn in November 1978 with 61%,[10] and has been reelected 16 more times with no substantive opposition, sometimes running unopposed. His district was renumbered as the 5th after the 2000 census, when Wisconsin lost a district. He has never won re-election with less than 62% of the vote. In fact, his worst two re-elections were in 2004, when he defeated UW-Milwaukee professor Bryan Kennedy with 67% of the vote,[11] and in 2006 defeated him in a rematch with 62%.[12]

In the 2016 election, he defeated Democratic nominee Khary Pennebaker.[13]

On September 4, 2019, he announced that he would not seek a 22nd term in office and would retire from Congress at the conclusion of the 116th Congress.[14]

Impeachment of Bill Clinton

In 1998, Sensenbrenner was one of the acting House managers in the impeachment of U.S. President Bill Clinton.[15]

Security

Sensenbrenner introduced the USA PATRIOT Act to the House on October 23, 2001. Although the primary author was Assistant Attorney General of the United States Viet Dinh,[citation needed] Sensenbrenner has been recognized as "one of the architects of the Patriot Act".[16] In November 2004, Sensenbrenner and California Congressman Duncan L. Hunter objected to provisions of a bill that created a Director of National Intelligence, a key recommendation of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, known as the 9/11 Commission. In 2006, the NRA successfully lobbied Sensenbrenner to add a provision to the Patriot Act re-authorization that requires Senate confirmation of ATF director nominees.[17]

In 2005, Sensenbrenner authored the Real ID Act, which requires scrutiny of citizenship before issuing drivers' licenses to make it more difficult for terrorists and criminals to alter their identities by counterfeiting documents. He attached the controversial act as a rider on military spending bill HR418, which was passed by the Senate without debate.[18]

On June 17, 2005, Sensenbrenner, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, ended a meeting where Republicans and Democrats were debating the renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act and walked out in response to Democratic members discussing human rights violations at the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp and the ongoing Iraq War. He ordered the court reporter to halt transcription of the proceedings and C-SPAN to shut off its cameras. Sensenbrenner defended his actions by stating that the Democrats and witnesses had violated House rules in discussing issues unrelated to the subject of the meeting.[19] Democrats have claimed that his walkout was contrary to House parliamentary procedure, which is to adjourn either on motion or without objection.[20]

In June 2013, Sensenbrenner objected to the FBI and NSA's use of the PATRIOT Act to routinely collect phone metadata from millions of Americans without any suspicion of wrongdoing. He said:

The Bureau's broad application for phone records was made under the so-called business records provision of the Act. I do not believe the broadly drafted FISA order is consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act. Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American.[21]

He released a statement saying: "While I believe the Patriot Act appropriately balanced national security concerns and civil rights, I have always worried about potential abuses."[22][23]

He also criticized the PRISM program, stating that the Patriot Act did not authorize the program.[24][25]

Sensenbrenner supported the Amash–Conyers Amendment, a plan to defund the NSA's telephone surveillance program. "Never, he said, did he intend to allow the wholesale vacuuming up of domestic phone records, nor did his legislation envision that data dragnets would go beyond specific targets of terrorism investigations." The Amendment fell seven votes short of the number it needed to pass.[26][27]

In October 2013, he introduced the USA Freedom Act in the House, a bill designed to curtail the powers of the NSA and end the NSA's dragnet phone data collection program. The bill is supported by civil liberties advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union.[28]

Terri Schiavo case

In March 2005, Sensenbrenner sided with the parents and siblings in the Terri Schiavo case, who fought unsuccessfully in federal court to block the withdrawal of her feeding tube.[citation needed]

Sensenbrenner's official portrait, by George and Jim Pollard, 1998
Sensenbrenner's official portrait, by George and Jim Pollard, 1998

Immigration

Sensenbrenner was the main sponsor of H.R. 4437, a bill passed by the House in 2005 that would provide additional criminal penalties for aiding and abetting illegal immigration to the United States.[29] Sensenbrenner, in spite of unanimous Congressional support,[30] attempted to delay a bill[31] in December 2010 that would have been benefited Hotaru Ferschke, the Japanese-born widow of a United States Marine killed in combat. Congressman John Duncan was able to use "a loophole" to get the bill passed in spite of Sensenbrenner's objections. By adding language in the Senate indicating the bill would not impact the federal budget Sensenbrenner could no longer block the bill by himself according to House rules. The measure was passed unanimously.[32]

Health care

On May 9, 2019, Sensenbrenner was one of four Republicans who voted for HR 986, a measure supported by all voting House Democrats intended to maintain protections of those with pre-existing medical conditions to have continued access to affordable medical insurance under the existing provisions of the Affordable Care Act.[33]

Human services

On September 8, 2005, Sensenbrenner voted against a bill to provide $50 billion in emergency aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina.[34] The bill passed and was signed into law by President George W. Bush.

Intellectual property

On December 16, 2005, Sensenbrenner introduced the Digital Transition Content Security Act. He helped lead the effort to pass the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2006, which was supported by large copyright holders and opposed by fair use activists.[35]

Separation of powers

In 2006, Sensenbrenner expressed outrage at the FBI raid of the congressional office of Democratic Representative William J. Jefferson, asserting constitutional concerns over separation of powers. He held Judiciary Committee hearings in May 2006 on this issue.[citation needed]. One year before, on May 9, 2005, he suggested the creation of an "inspector general" on the federal Judiciary.[36]

Animal rights

In fall 2006, the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act unanimously passed the Senate, but Sensenbrenner used his position to block final House consideration of the legislation, even though the bill had 324 co-sponsors. The act creates felony-level penalties for animal fighting activities.[citation needed]

Foreign relations

Sensenbrenner was the only Republican to join House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Congressional delegation to meet the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India during the March 2008 protests against China by Tibetans.[37] While there he said, "In the US Congress, there is no division between Democrats and Republicans on the issue of protecting Tibetan culture and eliminating repression against Tibetans around the world."[38]

Following the death of Nelson Mandela, Sensenbrenner objected to the executive proclamation by President Barack Obama to lower the flags to half-staff to honor Mandela. He stated it was his belief that the American flag should only be flown at half-staff for Americans.[39]

Defense

Communications standards

Sensenbrenner believes in criminal prosecution of broadcasters and cable operators who violate decency standards, in contrast to the FCC regulatory methods.[40] In July 2012, Sensenbrenner advocated amending the Espionage Act of 1917 to enable the prosecution of journalists involved in publishing leaks of state secrets.[41]

Comment about Michelle Obama

In December 2011, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Sensenbrenner referred to First Lady Michelle Obama's "big butt" while talking to church members at a Christmas bazaar at St. Aidan's church in Hartford.[42] Church member Ann Marsh-Meigs told the newspaper that she heard Sensenbrenner's remarks. She said the congressman was speaking about the first lady's efforts to combat childhood obesity, and added, "And look at her big butt." On December 22, Sensenbrenner's press secretary said Sensenbrenner had sent Obama a personal note and released a statement saying he regretted his "inappropriate comment". Sensenbrenner's office would not release the text of the note.[43]

Rankings

Sensenbrenner has received high marks from the National Taxpayers Union, a non-profit organization that supports low taxes.[44]

Sensenbrenner was named the 2006 "Man of the Year" by the conservative publication Human Events because of his opposition to open-borders[unbalanced opinion?] immigration policies.[45] In contrast, in the same year he was rated the second-worst member of the House by Rolling Stone, which dubbed him "the dictator".[46] Also in 2006, the NRA lobbied Sensenbrenner to add a provision to the Patriot Act re-authorization that requires Senate confirmation of ATF director nominees.[17]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Personal life

In 1977, Sensenbrenner married Cheryl Warren, daughter of former state attorney general and U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Warren. The couple have two sons, Frank (born 1981), and Bob (born 1984). Frank worked as a lobbyist for the Canadian embassy in Washington D.C. starting in 2007, although he didn't register with the U.S. as an agent for a foreign government.[49] He is currently a Visiting Fellow at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, his research focusing on Eurozone financial markets, and has blogged for the Huffington Post on Italian politics and the Vatican.[50][51]

When not in Washington D.C., Sensenbrenner resides in Menomonee Falls.

Sensenbrenner has a net worth of about $11.6 million.[52] His net worth in 2010 was $9.9 million.[53] He is an heir to the Kimberly-Clark family fortune,[54] but no longer owns any Kimberly-Clark stock.[53] His great-grandfather, Frank J. Sensenbrenner, who served as Kimberly-Clark's second president and CEO during the period Kimberly Clark developed Kotex and numerous other consumable goods, but the congressman has never served on the board or been directly involved with the company.[53] He has put his money into stocks, as detailed in the Congressional Record.[9] Sensenbrenner has also won lottery prizes three times, the largest, $250,000, in 1998.[52][55]

Other notable ancestors of Sensenbrenner's include maternal great-great-grandfather John C. Pritzlaff, founder of Milwaukee-based John Pritzlaff Hardware Company, and paternal great-grandfather James C. Kerwin, a justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. His ancestry includes German, Irish, and Alsatian.[56]

In August 2009, Sensenbrenner announced that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. His doctor said the cancer was caught in the early stages when the cure rate is between 85 and 95 percent.[57]

A former United Episcopalian, Sensenbrenner became a Catholic in August 2014.[58]

Sensenbrenner's wife, Cheryl, died on June 15, 2020, in Alexandria, Virginia, after suffering a stroke six years earlier.[59]

Electoral history

Wisconsin Assembly, Milwaukee 25th district (1968, 1970)

Year Election Date Elected Defeated Total Plurality
1968[60] Primary September 10 F. James Sensenbrenner Republican 3,444 42.96% Rod Johnston (inc.) Rep. 2,772 34.58% 8,017 672
Richard W. Yeo Rep. 849 10.59%
Lewis B. Rheinsmith Rep. 820 10.23%
Thomas J. Aaron Rep. 132 1.65%
General November 5 F. James Sensenbrenner Republican 15,150 70.33% Richard J. Regan Dem. 6,390 29.67% 21,540 8,760
1970[61] General November 3 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 12,802 73.44% Margaret Rounseville Dem. 4,631 26.56% 17,433 8,171

Wisconsin Assembly, 10th district (1972, 1974)

Year Election Date Elected Defeated Total Plurality
1972[62] General November 7 F. James Sensenbrenner Republican 17,483 71.88% Barbara Ulichny Dem. 6,840 28.12% 24,323 10,643
1974[63] General November 5 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 12,579 72.19% Charles J. Sykes Dem. 4,847 27.81% 17,426 7,732

Wisconsin Senate, 4th district (1975, 1976)

Year Election Date Elected Defeated Total Plurality
1975[63] Special April 1 F. James Sensenbrenner Republican 16,605 72.63% Robert A. Jakubiak Dem. 6,258 27.37% 22,863 10,347
1976[64] General November 2 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 47,605 100.0% 47,605 47,605

U.S. House, Wisconsin 9th district (1978–2000)

Year Election Date Elected Defeated Total Plurality
1978[65] Primary September 12 F. James Sensenbrenner Republican 29,584 43.30% Susan Engeleiter Rep. 28,995 42.44% 68,325 589
Robert C. Brunner Rep. 9,746 14.26%
General November 7 F. James Sensenbrenner Republican 118,386 61.15% Matthew J. Flynn Dem. 75,207 38.85% 193,593 43,179
1980[66] General November 4 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 206,227 78.39% Gary C. Benedict Dem. 56,838 21.61% 263,065 149,389
1982[67] General November 2 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 111,503 100.0% 111,503 111,503
1984[68] General November 6 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 180,260 73.36% John Krause Dem. 64,145 26.11% 245,711 116,115
Stephen K. Hauser Const. 1,306 0.53%
1986[69] General November 4 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 138,766 78.22% Thomas G. Popp Dem. 38,636 21.78% 177,402 100,130
1988[70] General November 8 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 185,093 74.91% Thomas J. Hickey Dem. 62,003 25.09% 247,096 123,090
1990[71] General November 6 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 117,967 100.0% 117,967 117,967
1992[72] General November 3 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 192,898 69.70% Ingrid K. Buxton Dem. 77,362 27.95% 276,760 115,536
David E. Marlow Ind. 4,619 1.67%
Jeffrey Holt Millikin Lib. 1,881 0.68%
1994[73] General November 8 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 141,617 100.0% 141,617 141,617
1996[74] General November 5 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 197,910 74.50% Floyd Brenholt Dem. 67,740 25.50% 265,650 130,170
1998[75] General November 3 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 175,533 91.43% Jeffrey M. Gonyo Ind. 16,419 8.55% 191,976 159,114
Anthony E. Deiss (write-in) Tax. 24 0.01%
2000[76] General November 7 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 239,498 74.04% Mike Clawson Dem. 83,720 25.88% 323,455 155,778

U.S. House, Wisconsin 5th district (2002–2018)

Year Election Date Elected Defeated Total Plurality
2002[77] General November 5 F. James Sensenbrenner Republican 191,224 86.13% Robert R. Raymond Ind. 29,567 13.32% 222,012 161,657
2004[78] General November 2 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 271,153 66.57% Bryan Kennedy Dem. 129,384 31.77% 407,291 141,769
Tim Peterson Lib. 6,549 1.61%
2006[79] General November 7 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 194,669 61.76% Bryan Kennedy Dem. 112,451 35.68% 315,180 82,218
Bob Levis Grn. 4,432 1.41%
Robert R. Raymond Ind. 3,525 1.12%
2008 Primary[80] September 9 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 47,144 78.27% James Burkee Rep. 13,078 21.71% 60,236 34,066
General[81] November 4 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 275,271 79.58% Robert R. Raymond Ind. 69,715 20.15% 345,899 205,556
2010[82] General November 2 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 229,642 69.32% Todd P. Kolosso Dem. 90,634 27.36% 331,258 139,008
Robert R. Raymond Ind. 10,813 3.26%
2012[83] General November 6 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 250,335 67.72% Dave Heaster Dem. 118,478 32.05% 369,664 131,857
2014[84] General November 4 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 231,160 69.45% Chris Rockwood Dem. 101,190 30.40% 332,826 129,970
2016[85] General November 4 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 260,706 69.45% Khary Penebaker Dem. 114,477 29.29% 390,844 146,229
John Arndt Lib. 15,324 3.92%
2018 Primary[86] August 14 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 73,397 81.15% Jennifer Hoppe Vipond Rep. 17,011 18.81% 90,442 56,386
General[87] November 6 F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.) Republican 225,619 61.93% Tom Palzewicz Dem. 138,385 37.99% 364,288 87,234

References

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  68. ^ Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau (1987). "Elections" (PDF). In Theobald, H. Rupert; Barish, Lawrence S. (eds.). The state of Wisconsin 1987-1988 Blue Book (Report). State of Wisconsin. pp. 884, 902. Retrieved January 27, 2021.
  69. ^ Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau (1989). "Elections" (PDF). In Barish, Lawrence S.; Theobald, H. Rupert (eds.). State of Wisconsin 1989-1990 Blue Book (Report). State of Wisconsin. pp. 907, 921. Retrieved January 27, 2021.
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  73. ^ Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau (1997). "Elections" (PDF). In Barish, Lawrence S. (ed.). State of Wisconsin 1997-1998 Blue Book (Report). State of Wisconsin. pp. 880, 883. Retrieved January 27, 2021.
  74. ^ Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau (1999). "Elections" (PDF). In Barish, Lawrence S.; Meloy, Patricia E. (eds.). State of Wisconsin 1999-2000 Blue Book (Report). State of Wisconsin. pp. 861, 864. Retrieved January 27, 2021.
  75. ^ Results of Fall General Election - 11/07/2000 (PDF) (Report). Wisconsin State Elections Board. May 10, 2001. p. 5. Retrieved January 27, 2021.
  76. ^ Results of Fall General Election - 11/05/2002 (PDF) (Report). Wisconsin State Elections Board. December 2, 2002. p. 5. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  77. ^ Results of Fall General Election - 11/02/2004 (PDF) (Report). Wisconsin State Elections Board. December 1, 2004. p. 4. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  78. ^ Results of Fall General Election - 11/07/2006 (PDF) (Report). Wisconsin State Elections Board. December 5, 2006. p. 5. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  79. ^ Results of Fall Primary Election - 09/09/2008 (PDF) (Report). Wisconsin State Elections Board. September 29, 2008. p. 4. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  80. ^ Results of Fall General Election - 11/04/2008 (PDF) (Report). Wisconsin State Elections Board. December 1, 2008. p. 3. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  81. ^ 2010 Fall General Election Results Summary (PDF) (Report). Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. December 1, 2010. p. 4. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  82. ^ Canvass Results for 2012 Presidential and General Election - 11/6/2012 (PDF) (Report). Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. December 26, 2012. p. 3. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  83. ^ Canvass Results for 2014 General Election - 11/4/2014 (PDF) (Report). Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. November 26, 2014. p. 4. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  84. ^ Canvass Results for 2016 General Election - 11/8/2016 (PDF) (Report). Wisconsin Elections Commission. December 22, 2016. p. 4. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  85. ^ Canvass Results for 2018 Partisan Primary - 8/14/2018 (PDF) (Report). Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. August 31, 2018. p. 13. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  86. ^ Canvass Results for 2018 General Election - 11/6/2018 (PDF) (Report). Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. February 22, 2019. pp. 4–5. Retrieved January 28, 2021.

Further reading

Wisconsin State Assembly
Preceded by
Nile Soik
Member of the Wisconsin Assembly
from the Milwaukee 25th district

1969–1973
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of the Wisconsin Assembly
from the 10th district

1973–1975
Succeeded by
Rod Johnston
Wisconsin State Senate
Preceded by
Bob Kasten
Member of the Wisconsin Senate
from the 4th district

1975–1979
Succeeded by
Rod Johnston
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Bob Kasten
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wisconsin's 9th congressional district

1979–2003
Constituency abolished
Preceded by
Robert S. Walker
Chair of the House Science Committee
1997–2001
Succeeded by
Sherwood Boehlert
Preceded by
Henry Hyde
Chair of the House Judiciary Committee
2001–2007
Succeeded by
John Conyers
Preceded by
Tom Barrett
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wisconsin's 5th congressional district

2003–2021
Succeeded by
Scott L. Fitzgerald