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Bob Corker

Assumed office 
January 3, 2007
Serving with Lamar Alexander
Preceded by Bill Frist

In office
Preceded by Jon Kinsey
Succeeded by Ron Littlefield

Born August 24, 1952 (1952-08-24) (age 57)
Orangeburg, South Carolina
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Elizabeth
Children Julia, Emily
Residence Chattanooga, Tennessee
Alma mater University of Tennessee (B.S.)
Profession Construction executive
Real-estate magnate
State commissioner of finance
Mayor of Chattanooga
Religion Presbyterian[1]

Robert Phillips "Bob" Corker, Jr.[2] (born August 24, 1952), is the junior United States Senator from Tennessee. Before his election to the Senate in 2006, he served as state commissioner from 1995 to 1996 and as mayor of Chattanooga from 2001 to 2005. Corker was an unsuccessful candidate for the Senate in 1994, and a successful businessman as construction company owner and commercial real estate developer, prior to holding public office. He is second Republican US Senator from Chattanooga following Bill Brock. He serves as the ranking member on the Senate Aging Committee.


Early life and family

The Corker Family: his wife, Elizabeth, their daughters Julia and Emily, and Bob Corker.

Born in Orangeburg, South Carolina,[3] Corker moved to Tennessee at the age of 11.[4] He graduated from Chattanooga High School in 1970. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Management from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1974. He and his wife Elizabeth, whom he married on May 18, 1987, have two daughters. The family's permanent residence is at the Anne Haven mansion built by Coca-Cola Bottling Company heirs Anne Lupton and Frank Harrison.[5]

After working four years as a construction superintendent, he started his own construction company, Bencor, which he sold in 1990. In 1999, he purchased the two largest real estate companies in Chattanooga, Osborne Building Corporation and the Stone Fort Land Company, making him the largest private land owner in Hamilton County, Tennessee. He sold most of these holdings in 2006 to Henry Luken. His business successes have made Corker a multimillionaire.[6] Corker's assets were estimated at $19.19 million in 2008.[7]

Early political career

Corker first ran for the United States Senate in 1994, losing the Republican primary to eventual winner Bill Frist.[6]

In 1995, Corker was appointed Commissioner of Finance and Administration for the State of Tennessee, working for Governor Don Sundquist.

Although Chattanooga's mayors are generally Democrats, as Republican mayor of the fourth-largest city in Tennessee from 2001 to 2005, Corker oversaw a $120 million renovation project, including an expansion of the Hunter Museum, a renovation of the Creative Discovery Museum, an expansion of Chattanooga's River Walk, and the addition of a new salt water building to the Tennessee Aquarium.

2006 United States Senate race

In 2004, Corker announced that he would seek the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by incumbent Republican Senator Bill Frist, who had announced that he would not run for reelection. In the Republican primary election, he ran against two former congressmen, Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary. Both of his opponents ran as strong conservatives, denouncing Corker as a moderate and eventually labelling him a leftist.[8] In the course of his primary campaign, Corker spent $4.2 million on television advertising, especially in the western portion of the state, where he was relatively unknown before the primary.[6] In the August primary election, he won with 48% of the vote over Bryant's 34% and Hilleary's 17%.

For the general election campaign, his Democratic opponent, Harold Ford, Jr., challenged Corker to seven televised debates across the state. In response, Corker said he would debate Ford, though he did not agree to seven debates.[9] The two candidates eventually participated in three televised debates: in Memphis on October 7,[10] in Chattanooga on October 10,[11] and in Nashville on October 28.[12]

In October 2006, as polls indicated that Ford was maintaining a slight lead over Corker,[13] - the Republican National Committee ran a television advertisement[14] that would provoke a nationwide outcry. In the 30 second television advertisement, sound bites of numerous "people in the street" pronouncing Ford wrong for Tennessee were interspersed with two shots of a white woman animatedly recalling meeting Ford—who is African-American and who was unmarried at the time—at "the Playboy party". The ad concludes with this woman leeringly inviting Ford to phone her. [15] The ad was denounced by many people, including former Republican Senator and Secretary of Defense under Bill Clinton, William Cohen, who called it “a very serious appeal to a racist sentiment.” Corker subsequently pulled ahead in the polls.[16] Corker went on to win the election by less than three percentage points. He was the only new Republican Senator in the 110th Congress.[17] Tennessee holds the distinction of being the only U.S. state to elect a new Republican to both houses of Congress in the 2006 mid-term elections.

Senate career

Corker was joined at his inauguration by Bill Frist, Howard Baker, and Lamar Alexander.

Corker was sworn in as Senator on January 4, 2007. At the ceremony he was accompanied by “two former Senate majority leaders from Tennessee, Howard Baker and Bill Frist”.[18]

Corker has become a defender of the Iraqi war since taking his seat in the 110th Congress. Despite frustration by the public, any further reduction in U.S. forces in Iraq must be based on improved conditions in the country, Corker said. He urged ultimate success will be determined by the Iraqi government, over which the U.S. has limited control, and the withdrawal of some of the troops that were added in 2007 has created some pressure on the Iraqi government, but warned that further cuts now could destabilize the country.[19]

Corker has voted against a cap-and-trade measure, but said he might accept a "rational" version of the legislation. Criticizing as “political stimulus” for electoral campaigns,[20] Corker became one of the only sixteen Senators who opposed the tax rebate stimulus plan.[21] Later, he had described the stimulus package that passed Congress as "silly".[22]

Corker was one of the original members of the Gang of 10, now consisting of twenty members, which is a bipartisan coalition seeking comprehensive energy reform. The group is pushing for a bill that would encourage state-by-state decisions on offshore drilling and authorize billions of dollars for conservation and alternative energy.[23]

In December 2008, Corker opposed a Democratic proposed federal bailout for the failing US automakers,[24] and expressed doubt that the companies would be salvaged.[25] Corker proposed that federal funds be provided for automakers only if accompanied by cuts in labor costs and other concessions from unions.[26] Negotiations regarding Corker's proposal broke down on the evening of December 11, 2008. The United Auto Workers, which had previously accepted a series of cuts in its current contract, sought to put off any further cuts until 2011, while Corker requested that cuts go into effect in 2009.[27] Republicans blamed the UAW for failure to reach an agreement, while the UAW claimed that Corker's proposal singled out "workers and retirees for different treatment and make[s] them shoulder the entire burden of restructuring."[28] On December 13, 2008, Businessweek reported that Corker was "one of those responsible for winning the new Volkswagen (VOWG) factory at a cost of $577 million in tax incentives" during his tenure as mayor of Chattanooga, raising questions about Corker's motivations during the bailout negotiations.[29] Economist Paul Krugman referred to him as “the Senator from Nissan.”[30] Nissan already has two plants and its North American headquarter near Nashville.

On January 12, 2009, The Politico reported that Corker has not so much over ideology, but is unpredictable, creative and has a knack for getting press.[31]

In September, 2009, Corker became a ranking member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, replacing former Sen. Mel Martinez.[32] On September 30th, 2009 Corker described Canada as being "parasitic" for siphoning U.S. dollars to that country with low prescription drug prices. He stated that "In essence, the Canadian government and its citizens are taking advantage of our citizens by virtue of setting prices that are lower than competitive prices."[33]

In February, 2010, Corker said that he is willing to be the lone Senate Republican vote in favor of bipartisan legislation on overhauling financial regulation,[34] despite warning from other colleagues about the perils of directly negotiating with the Banking Committee's chairman, Dems Sen. Chris Dodd. GOP Senate aide familiar with the meetings stated, "Corker may understand markets well, but he doesn't know how to count votes very well."[35] The less-experienced Corker acknowledged he breached the unwritten rules of etiquette in the Senate's clubby atmosphere because it made a unique situation by his bold move to leapfrog the committee's ranking Republican Sen. Richard Shelby.[36] Corker was in the face of social and political ostracization by some Republicans the past few weeks,[37] because he appeared to breach party unity just as Republicans were gaining momentum.[38]

In late February 2010, Corker took a decidedly less bipartisan turn when he became the sole senator to back retiring Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky in filibustering a 30-day extension of expiring unemployment and COBRA benefits.[39]


Committee assignments

Sen. Corker's committee assignments

Republican Main Street Partnership controversy

On December 6, 2006, Roll Call reporter Nicole Duran reported that Senator-elect Corker and Dean Heller (Rep.-elect, NV) would be joining the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership, according to its executive director.[40] This caused a stir in conservative circles, since Corker ran in Tennessee as a conservative, and several bloggers attacked him for this apparent act of betrayal. By the end of the day, however, Corker's office responded to the report to say that not only was he was not joining the organization, but that he "only learned of the group’s existence when this story was reported today."[41] Roll Call subsequently reported that the group's executive director stated she had been "misinformed", and only Heller would be joining the group.[42]

Political positions and ideology

Corker with U.S. Representatives Jim Cooper, Bart Gordon and Zach Wamp

In the 2006 Senate race, Corker positioned himself as a conservative on most social and economic issues through television advertisements, his campaign website, and in debates. Corker supports broad Second Amendment rights, "appointing Federal judges who practice judicial restraint," making the 2001 tax cut and the 2003 tax cut permanent, and increasing security on U.S. borders by hiring more border agents and constructing barriers in high traffic areas.[43]

Corker has expressed skepticism regarding the claims of human-caused global warming; supports continued U.S. involvement in Iraq; and has shown interest in replacing the federal progressive income tax with a flat tax.[44] He favors imposing a tax on carbon.[45]

In the 2006 primary campaign, Corker's opponents pointed out that Corker has changed his view on abortion since his first Senate campaign in 1994.[46] Corker responded that he "was wrong in 1994" when he said that the government should not interfere with an individual's right to an abortion, stating that he now believes that life begins at conception.[46] Corker now says he opposes abortion rights except when the life of the mother is endangered or in cases of rape and incest.[46]

In the 2006 general election, Corker received the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee, but the state branch of the group, Tennessee Right to Life, refused to endorse Corker, calling him a "pro-abortion" politician.[47]

John McCain admitted he sharply disagrees with Corker, who did the hysterical reaction to oppose McCain's proposal for suspension of the 18-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax in 2008.[48]

After the 2008 U.S. presidential election, Corker released a statement expressing his desire to "put partisanship aside as we try to solve the many challenges facing our country."[49]

Despite his moderate image, Corker scored 83% on American Conservative Union’s 2008 Ratings of Congress.[50] According to National Journal’s 2009 Vote Ratings, he was ranked as the 34th conservative member in Senate.[51]

In one area of difference of political philosophy for the conservative, he voted in favor of the Wall Street bailout.[52] As a result, he fund-raised more money from the banking and securities industries than any of the committee's Republican members.[35]

Unlike many Republicans, he also favors a Barack Obama’s 18-month timetable for win-in-Afghanistan strategy.[53] Corker expressed concern that America's military mission in Afghanistan will last at least another 10 years, though he would support a bigger U.S. military presence if there is need.[54]

Group ratings

111th Congress

  • National Journal: 66% Conservative [1]
    • Economic: 29% Liberal, 69% Conservative
    • Social issue: 29% Liberal, 70% Conservative
    • Foreign-policy: 41% Liberal, 56% Conservative

110th Congress


The sale of protected wetlands

In 2003, Corker's real estate company sold protected wetlands near South Chickamauga Creek in Chattanooga to Wal-Mart for $4.6 million while he was mayor of Chattanooga.[55] According to Joe Prochaska, an attorney representing the Tennessee Environmental Council, "What they did was outrageous. They just ran roughshod over this public property for private gain."[55] Environmental educator Sandy Kurtz filed suit in 2003 to stop the land deal, but the lawsuit was dismissed.[55]

New allegations, however, surfaced in August 2006, and a suit was filed by Kurtz and the Tennessee Environmental Council over the alleged encroachment of Wal-Mart onto an adjacent protected nature area that is also held by a company owned by Corker.[55] The suit alleges that Corker did not fully disclose his interest in the property where the Wal-Mart was built or in the adjacent nature area at the time the deal was made.[55] The Corker campaign has countered that Corker's company filed papers to develop the wetlands in 2000, before Corker became mayor, and that it was widely known that Corker had an interest in the property.[55]

On September 18, 2006 a Memphis, Tennessee newspaper, The Commercial Appeal, reported that Corker's attorneys acquired city authorization to cut a road through the protected property owned by Corker in July 2003 while Corker was mayor.[56] City records show that Corker's attorneys won concessions from the city as details of the deal were worked out, much of which was done in private.[56]

Corker's campaign manager has said that a blind trust kept Corker from the details of the project.[56]

On October 13, 2006, lawyers involved in the case announced a settlement agreement. Details of the settlement were not announced, but court records indicate that a portion of the settlement involved a 45 day option for the Tennessee Environmental Council to purchase over 13 acres (53,000 m2) of the land in dispute that the Council hopes to dedicate for public use.[57]

Missing papers

On September 9, 2006, The Commercial Appeal reported that official records from both Corker's 2001 to 2005 service as mayor and his 1996 service as state finance commissioner are missing.[58] The missing records include letters written and received by Corker during a six month period in 1996 and e-mails written and received by Corker in his official capacity as mayor between 2001 and 2005.[58]

Some of the e-mails were discovered on his former assistant's computer by The Commercial Appeal in October.[59]

Blind trust

On October 11, 2006, The Commercial Appeal reported that the blind trust that Corker set up to run his businesses to avoid conflicts of interest while he was mayor "may not have been all that blind".[59] According to e-mails discovered by the Appeal (some of which had previously presumed to be lost):

"Corker met often with employees from his private companies while mayor from 2001 to 2005, and he shared business tips with others. Corker also got help organizing his 2001 mayoral campaign from City Hall, where a government secretary passed on voting lists and set up meetings for the millionaire commercial real estate developer."[59]

The e-mails show that Corker often met with officials from his private company, the Corker Group, which was part of the blind trust, while he was mayor.[59] When asked about these e-mails by the Appeal, Corker said that he thought the blind trust had "worked very well" and that he had sold most of his business holdings so that he could avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest in the Senate.[59]

Electoral history

2006 United States Senate election, Tennessee[60]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Bob Corker 929,911 50.7 -14.4
Democratic Harold Ford, Jr. 879,976 48.0 +15.8
Independent Ed Choate 10,831 0.6 n/a
Independent David "None of the Above" Gatchell 3,746 0.2 n/a
Independent Emory "Bo" Heyward 3,580 0.2 n/a
Independent H. Gary Keplinger 3,033 0.2 n/a
Green Chris Lugo 2,589 0.1 n/a
Majority 49,935 2.7
Turnout 1,833,693


  1. ^ Belz, Joel (2006-10-28). "Religion-baiting". WORLD Magazine. 
  2. ^ "Bob Corker : U.S. Senate". 2006-07-02. Retrieved 2009-12-07. 
  3. ^ CORKER, Robert (Bob) - Biographical Information
  4. ^ Feldmann, Linda (2006-10-25). "All eyes on South's big race". Retrieved 2009-12-07. 
  5. ^ "The Spirit of the Luptons", Old Money, New South, Dean Arnold, 2006.
  6. ^ a b c Corker appreciates 1994 loss, Knoxville News Sentinel, Tom Humphrey, July 2, 2006.
  7. ^ Singer, Paul; Jennifer Yachnin and Casey Hynes (September 22, 2008). "The 50 Richest Members of Congress". 
  8. ^ "Unemployment Hitting Dixie". Southern Political Report. 2008-12-22. Retrieved 2009-12-29. 
  9. ^ Corker wins; Ford challenges him to debates, The Commercial Appeal, Richard Locker and Ruma Banerji Kumar, August 3, 2006.
  10. ^ Senate candidates spar over Corker's comments about Ford's Memphis 'political machine', by Richard Locker, The Commercial Appeal, October 8, 2006
  11. ^ Ford treads Corker's turf, by Beth Rucker, Associated Press, October 11, 2006
  12. ^ Corker silent on invitation to debate, The Commercial Appeal, Bartholomew Sullivan, September 7, 2006.
  13. ^ Tennessee Senate: Ford (D) 48%; Corker (R) 46%, Rasmussen Reports, October 13, 2006.
  14. ^ YouTube - Too Hot For Corker
  15. ^ Tennessee ad ignites internal GOP squabbling - Politics -
  16. ^ Emery, Theo (March 10, 2006). "Family ties could bind a political advancement". Boston Globe. 
  17. ^ "U.S. SENATE / TENNESSEE". CNN. 
  18. ^ "Corker sworn in as U.S. Senator". Associated Press. 2007-01-04.  Retrieved on January 7, 2007
  19. ^ THEOBALD , BILL (April 8, 2008). "Corker says further withdrawal will need to be 'measured'". The Leaf-Chronicle (Gannett News Service). 
  20. ^ Wang, Herman (May 12, 2008). "Washington: Sen. Corker stands firm on his positions". Chattanooga Times Free Press. 
  21. ^ BAKER, JACKSON (June 26, 2008). "The McCain Effect". Memphis Flyer. Retrieved 2008-11-15. 
  22. ^ DRIES, BILL (April 29, 2009). "Corker Decries Auto Industry Bailout, Other Federal Moves". Memphis Daily News. 
  23. ^ Anderson, Mitch (2008-09-12). "Klobuchar joins bipartisan energy group". Star Tribune. 
  24. ^ "Corker Disappointed In Initial Outline Of Auto Bailout Plan". Chattanooga Times Free Press. December 6, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-06. 
  25. ^ DAVIS, JULIE HIRSCHFELD (2008-12-05). "Carmakers' bailout pleas hit Senate skepticism". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-12-05. "No thinking person thinks that all three companies can survive" 
  26. ^ Wang, Herman (December 5, 2008). "Tennessee: Corker outlines proposal for Big Three rescue package: Conditions would include significant concessions by labor". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved 2008-12-05. 
  27. ^ U.A.W. at Center of Dispute Over Bailout Failure, by Micheline Maynard, The New York Times, December 12, 2008
  28. ^ White House Considers Use of Funds to Aid Automakers, by Edmund L. Andres and David M. Herszenhorn, The New York Times, December 12, 2008
  29. ^ Wallace, Ed (December 13, 2008). "Detroit: The Real Battle Is Politics". Businessweek. 
  30. ^ "“Bob Corker – The Senator from Nissan” –Paul Krugman". Auto Racing Daily. December 15, 2008. Retrieved 2009-02-21. 
  31. ^ Amie Parnes, Glenn Thrush (January 12, 2009). "Land Mines Ahead At Clinton Confirmation". CBS news (The Politico). 
  32. ^ "Corker replaces Martinez as ranking member on Senate Aging Committee". McKnight's Long Term Care News. September 24, 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-08. 
  33. ^ "U.S. senator slams 'parasitic' Canada over drug prices". CBC News. October 1, 2009. 
  34. ^ CRITTENDEN, MICHAEL R. (FEBRUARY 12, 2010). "Corker Willing to Be Lone GOP Vote on Financial Overhaul". Wall Street Journal. 
  35. ^ a b PALETTA, DAMIAN (FEBRUARY 12, 2010). "Republican Breaks Rank on Finance Bill". Wall Street Journal. 
  36. ^ Flory, Josh (February 15, 2010). "Corker talks reform at UT". Knoxville News Sentinel. 
  37. ^ Pearlstein, Steven (February 24, 2010). "Senators, finally, near an attractive deal on financial regulation". Washington Post. 
  38. ^ HARWOOD, JOHN (March 14, 2010). "A Brief, but Failed, Pass at Bipartisanship". The New York Times. 
  39. ^ "Unemployment Benefits to Expire Sunday After Senate Stalemates On Extension". Fox News. February 27, 2010. 
  40. ^ "Elections Jolted GOP Main Street Group", Roll Call, Nicole Duran, December 6, 2006.
  41. ^ Bluey, Robert B. (12-06-2006). "Pathetic Moderates Resort to Lying". The Right Angle @ 
  42. ^ "Director: Corker Won't Join Main Street Group", Roll Call, Nicole Duran, December 11, 2006.
  43. ^ Corker campaign website, issues
  44. ^ Knoxville News Sentinel, Scott Barker, June 30, 2006.
  45. ^ "Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) | Tracking where senators stand on climate legislation". Grist. Retrieved 2009-12-07. 
  46. ^ a b c GOP Senate candidates conclude debates ahead of August 3 primary, The Commercial Appeal, Richard Locker, July 17, 2006.
  47. ^ National right to life supports corker, but state affiliate does not, The Commercial Appeal by the Associated Press, August 8, 2006.
  48. ^ Humphrey, Tom (June 3, 2008). "McCain enlists state's GOP stalwarts for help". Knoxville News Sentinel. 
  49. ^ "Corker Comments On National, State Elections". Chattanooga Times Free Press. November 5, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-15. 
  50. ^ 2008 Votes by State Delegation Retrieved on 2009-04-13.
  51. ^ "2009 VOTE RATINGS". National Journal. Feb. 27, 2010. 
  52. ^ "Sen. Corker: This Vote is Not about Wall Street". October 1, 2008. 
  53. ^ South, Todd (December 2, 2009). "30,000 troops; pullback in 2011". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved 2010-01-08. 
  54. ^ Flessner, Dave (Aug. 26, 2009). "U.S. to be in Afghanistan for 'at least a 10 years'". Chattanooga Times Free Press. The Associated Press. 
  55. ^ a b c d e f Old lawsuit back to haunt Corker in race, The Commercial Appeal, Marc Perrusquia and Richard Locker, August 20, 2006.
  56. ^ a b c Land sale predates Corker as mayor, But road to Wal-Mart on site prompts questions of conflict, Marc Perrusquia, The Commercial Appeal, September 18, 2006.
  57. ^ Suit settlement aids Corker and nonprofit, by Marc Perrusquia, The Commercial Appeal, October 26, 2006
  58. ^ a b Commercial Appeal : Memphis News, Business, Homes, Jobs, Cars, & Information
  59. ^ a b c d e Corker saw to interests in 'blind' trust, records show, by Marc Perrusquia, The Commercial Appeal, October 11, 2006
  60. ^ Official election results

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Jon Kinsey
Mayor of Chattanooga
Succeeded by
Ron Littlefield
United States Senate
Preceded by
Bill Frist
United States Senator (Class 1) from Tennessee
2007 – present
Served alongside: Lamar Alexander
United States order of precedence
Preceded by
Jim Webb
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Claire McCaskill
Representatives to the 110–111th United States Congresses from Tennessee (ordered by seniority)
110th Senate: L. Alexander | B. Corker House: B. Gordon | J. Duncan, Jr. | J. Tanner | Z. Wamp | J. Cooper | M. Blackburn | L. Davis | S. Cohen | D. Davis
111th Senate: L. Alexander | B. Corker House: B. Gordon | J. Duncan, Jr. | J. Tanner | Z. Wamp | J. Cooper | M. Blackburn | L. Davis | S. Cohen | P. Roe


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