|Member of the|
U.S. House of Representatives
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 2021
|Preceded by||Bob Kasten|
|Succeeded by||Scott L. Fitzgerald|
|Constituency||9th district (1979–2003)|
5th district (2003–2021)
|Chair of the House Judiciary Committee|
January 3, 2001 – January 3, 2007
|Preceded by||Henry Hyde|
|Succeeded by||John Conyers|
|Chair of the House Science Committee|
January 3, 1997 – January 3, 2001
|Preceded by||Bob Walker|
|Succeeded by||Sherwood Boehlert|
|Member of the Wisconsin Senate|
from the 4th district
April 2, 1975 – January 3, 1979
|Preceded by||Bob Kasten|
|Succeeded by||Rod Johnston|
|Member of the Wisconsin State Assembly|
January 1, 1973 – April 2, 1975
|Preceded by||District established|
|Succeeded by||Rod Johnston|
1969 – January 1, 1973
|Preceded by||Nile Soik|
|Succeeded by||District abolished|
|Constituency||25th Milwaukee County|
Frank James Sensenbrenner Jr.
June 14, 1943
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
(m. 1977; died 2020)
|Relatives||John C. Pritzlaff (great-great-grandfather)|
James C. Kerwin (great-grandfather)
F. Joseph Sensenbrenner Jr. (2nd cousin)
|Education||Stanford University (BA)|
University of Wisconsin, Madison (JD)
Frank James Sensenbrenner Jr. (//; 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 (numbered as the 9th district until 2003). He is a member of the Republican Party.
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). 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.
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. His grandfather, John S. Sensenbrenner, also spent his entire career working for Kimberly-Clark. 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.
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.
When 9th District Congressman Bob Kasten vacated his seat to run for governor in 1978, Sensenbrenner ran in the election to succeed him in what was then the 9th District, which covered most of Milwaukee's northern and western suburbs. He defeating his primary opponent, State Assemblywoman Susan Engeleiter, by 589 votes with a plurality of 43%. He defeated Democratic lawyer Matt Flynn in November 1978 with 61%  and was reelected 20 more times with no substantive opposition, sometimes running unopposed in what has long been the most Republican district in Wisconsin. His district was renumbered as the 5th after the 2000 census, when Wisconsin lost a district. He 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, and in 2006 defeated him in a rematch with 62%.
In the 2016 election, he defeated Democratic nominee Khary Pennebaker.
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.
In 1998, Sensenbrenner was one of the acting House managers in the impeachment of U.S. President Bill Clinton.
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, Sensenbrenner has been recognized as "one of the architects of the Patriot Act". 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.
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 the Senate passed without debate.
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. Democrats have claimed that his walkout was contrary to House parliamentary procedure, which is to adjourn either on motion or without objection.
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.
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."
He also criticized the PRISM program, stating that the Patriot Act did not authorize the program.
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.
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.
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.
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. Sensenbrenner, in spite of unanimous Congressional support, attempted to delay a bill 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.
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.
On September 8, 2005, Sensenbrenner voted against a bill to provide $50 billion in emergency aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina. The bill passed and was signed into law by President George W. Bush.
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.
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. One year before, on May 9, 2005, he suggested the creation of an "inspector general" on the federal Judiciary.
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.
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. 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."
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.
Sensenbrenner received important international recognitions. In 2014, the Japanese Government awarded him the Order of the Rising Sun, gold and silver stars. He is only the second American to receive the Robert Schuman Medal (2015) after President George H. W. Bush (2014).
Sensenbrenner believes in criminal prosecution of broadcasters and cable operators who violate decency standards, in contrast to the FCC regulatory methods. In July 2012, Sensenbrenner advocated amending the Espionage Act of 1917 to enable the prosecution of journalists involved in publishing leaks of state secrets.
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. 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.
Sensenbrenner has received high marks from the National Taxpayers Union, a non-profit organization that supports low taxes.
Sensenbrenner was named the 2006 "Man of the Year" by the conservative publication Human Events because of his immigration policies. In contrast, in the same year he was rated the second-worst member of the House by Rolling Stone, which dubbed him "the dictator". 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.
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. 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.
When not in Washington D.C., Sensenbrenner resides in Menomonee Falls.
Sensenbrenner has a net worth of about $11.6 million. His net worth in 2010 was $9.9 million. He is an heir to the Kimberly-Clark family fortune, but no longer owns any Kimberly-Clark stock. 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. He has put his money into stocks, as detailed in the Congressional Record. Sensenbrenner has also won lottery prizes three times, the largest, $250,000, in 1997.
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.
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.
A former United Episcopalian, Sensenbrenner became a Catholic in August 2014.
Sensenbrenner's wife, Cheryl, died on June 15, 2020, in Alexandria, Virginia, after suffering a stroke six years earlier.
|1968||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||General||November 3||F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.)||Republican||12,802||73.44%||Margaret Rounseville||Dem.||4,631||26.56%||17,433||8,171|
|1972||General||November 7||F. James Sensenbrenner||Republican||17,483||71.88%||Barbara Ulichny||Dem.||6,840||28.12%||24,323||10,643|
|1974||General||November 5||F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.)||Republican||12,579||72.19%||Charles J. Sykes||Dem.||4,847||27.81%||17,426||7,732|
|1975||Special||April 1||F. James Sensenbrenner||Republican||16,605||72.63%||Robert A. Jakubiak||Dem.||6,258||27.37%||22,863||10,347|
|1976||General||November 2||F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.)||Republican||47,605||100.0%||47,605||47,605|
|1978||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||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||General||November 2||F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.)||Republican||111,503||100.0%||111,503||111,503|
|1984||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||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||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||General||November 6||F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.)||Republican||117,967||100.0%||117,967||117,967|
|1992||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||General||November 8||F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.)||Republican||141,617||100.0%||141,617||141,617|
|1996||General||November 5||F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.)||Republican||197,910||74.50%||Floyd Brenholt||Dem.||67,740||25.50%||265,650||130,170|
|1998||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||General||November 7||F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.)||Republican||239,498||74.04%||Mike Clawson||Dem.||83,720||25.88%||323,455||155,778|
|2002||General||November 5||F. James Sensenbrenner||Republican||191,224||86.13%||Robert R. Raymond||Ind.||29,567||13.32%||222,012||161,657|
|2004||General||November 2||F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.)||Republican||271,153||66.57%||Bryan Kennedy||Dem.||129,384||31.77%||407,291||141,769|
|2006||General||November 7||F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.)||Republican||194,669||61.76%||Bryan Kennedy||Dem.||112,451||35.68%||315,180||82,218|
|Robert R. Raymond||Ind.||3,525||1.12%|
|2008||Primary||September 9||F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.)||Republican||47,144||78.27%||James Burkee||Rep.||13,078||21.71%||60,236||34,066|
|General||November 4||F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.)||Republican||275,271||79.58%||Robert R. Raymond||Ind.||69,715||20.15%||345,899||205,556|
|2010||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||General||November 6||F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.)||Republican||250,335||67.72%||Dave Heaster||Dem.||118,478||32.05%||369,664||131,857|
|2014||General||November 4||F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.)||Republican||231,160||69.45%||Chris Rockwood||Dem.||101,190||30.40%||332,826||129,970|
|2016||General||November 4||F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.)||Republican||260,706||69.45%||Khary Penebaker||Dem.||114,477||29.29%||390,844||146,229|
|2018||Primary||August 14||F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.)||Republican||73,397||81.15%||Jennifer Hoppe Vipond||Rep.||17,011||18.81%||90,442||56,386|
|General||November 6||F. James Sensenbrenner (inc.)||Republican||225,619||61.93%||Tom Palzewicz||Dem.||138,385||37.99%||364,288||87,234|
Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin who was one of the “managers” of President Bill Clinton's impeachment, criticized Democrats for lending support to a “character assassination squad running around this town” sullying innocent people.