Gary Ackerman: Wikis


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Gary Ackerman

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 5th district
Assumed office 
January 3, 1993
Preceded by Raymond J. McGrath

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 7th district
In office
March 1, 1983 – January 3, 1993
Preceded by Benjamin S.Rosenthal
Succeeded by Thomas J. Manton

In office

Born November 19, 1942 (1942-11-19) (age 67)
Brooklyn, New York
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Rita Gale Tewel
Residence Roslyn Heights, New York
Alma mater Queens College
Occupation high school teacher, newspaper publisher
Religion Jewish

Gary Leonard Ackerman (born November 19, 1942) is an American politician, presently serving his thirteenth term in the United States House of Representatives. Ackerman represents the Fifth Congressional District of New York, encompassing the North Shore of Long Island, including West and Northeast Queens and Northern Nassau County (map). It includes areas like Corona, Flushing, Jamaica Estates, Bayside, Whitestone, Douglaston, and Little Neck in Queens, as well as Great Neck, Sands Point, Port Washington, Searingtown, Albertson, Manhasset, and Roslyn in Nassau County.



Congressman Ackerman was first elected to Congress in a special election of 1983. Born in Brooklyn to Eva and Max Ackerman,[1] he was raised in Flushing, Queens. He attended local public schools, Brooklyn Technical High School and graduated from Queens College in 1965. After college, Ackerman became a New York City School teacher where he taught social studies, mathematics, and journalism to junior high school students in Queens.

Following the birth of his first child in 1969, Ackerman petitioned the New York City Board of Education for an unpaid leave of absence to spend time with his newborn daughter. But his request was denied under then existing policy which reserved unpaid "maternity-child care" leave to women only.

In what was to be a forerunner of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, then teacher Ackerman successfully sued the Board in a landmark case which established the right of either parent to receive unpaid leave for child care. A quarter of a century later, now a Congressman, Ackerman in the House-Senate Conference Committee, signed the report of the Family and Medical Leave Act which became the law of the land.

Ackerman's second career move occurred in 1970, when he left teaching to start a weekly community newspaper in Queens called The Flushing Tribune which soon became the Queens Tribune. Ackerman served as its editor and publisher.

Ackerman was first elected to public office — the New York State Senate — in 1978. State Senator Ackerman was then elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1983 in a special election. Ackerman represented the central Queens area until 1992, when reapportionment reconfigured his district to the north shore of Queens, Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Then redistricting in 2002 slightly redrew the boundaries again to its present configuration of communities in Queens and Nassau County.

Ackerman, who sports a white carnation boutonnière each day, lives on a houseboat named the Unsinkable II while in Washington, D.C. and otherwise resides in Roslyn Heights in Nassau County with his wife Rita, having moved there from a home in Jamaica Estates, Queens that sold for US$1 million in 2008.[2] The Ackermans have three children: Lauren, who married Paul; Corey, who married Lena; and Ari.[citation needed] Representative Ackerman is an amateur photographer, an avid stamp collector and a boating enthusiast. Ackerman is an Eagle Scout.

At the 2006 meeting of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians (ICJP), Ackerman was unanimously elected to serve as the executive of the organization.

Congressman Ackerman was named an honorary graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy for his continued support of the service academy located in Kings Point, New York.

He voted for the Affordable Health Care for America Act on November 7, 2009.

Committee assignments

A Representative’s representative, he was also Congress’ delegate to the United Nations. In addition, he is the Present Chairman of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans. In 2002, he was awarded India's third highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan for his contributions as member of the India Caucus in the Congress.

Legislative highlights

Among Ackerman's significant legislative undertakings, was the passage of his Baby AIDS legislation. The measure requires mandatory HIV testing of newborns and disclosure of the results to the mother. It also forbids insurance companies from terminating the health insurance of anybody who undergoes an AIDS test, regardless of the results.

Ackerman championed the issue of newborn testing after discovering that 45 states, including New York, tested babies for HIV but did not disclose the results to the mothers, using the data for mere statistical purposes. As a result, thousands of mothers brought their infants home from the hospital, never aware that their children had tested positive for HIV. This legislation, which became the subject of profound debate nationwide, garnered such support that it was the only bill that session of Congress to have a majority of all the House Democrats and Republicans as cosponsors. In addition, Ackerman stopped the anonymous testing from being reinstated in years that followed.

White House photo of March 11, 2002, unveiling of "Heroes" stamp. From left: Postmaster General John E. Potter; Firefighters Billy Eisengrein and George Johnson; George W. Bush; Gary Ackerman; Firefighter Dan McWilliams; and Record photographer Thomas E. Franklin, who took the photo featured on the stamp.

The Congressman was also successful in getting enacted, his bill that created the "Heroes" postage stamp, the revenue from which helps the families of rescue workers killed or permanently disabled while responding to the September 11 attacks. The stamp was based on a photograph entitled Ground Zero Spirit.

Ackerman also scored a victory in his efforts to ban downed animals from being sold as meat in supermarkets, restaurants and butcher stores. For a decade, Ackerman warned that use of such livestock was not only inhumane treatment of animals but also risked causing a Mad Cow disaster in the United States. His legislation fell on deaf ears until December 2003, when his warning became prophetic and the Bush Administration — among those who had opposed the bill — finally imposed his ban through regulation.

Also law of the land is Congressman Ackerman’s measure requiring banks and financial companies to notify consumers when negative information is placed on their credit reports. The Congressman also sponsored legislation which is now law that in the wake of the Enron, WorldCom and other corporate scandals, prohibits accounting firms from consulting for the companies they audit.

Other highlights include the Congressman authoring legislation that required President George W. Bush to impose sanctions against the Palestinian Authority for not complying with peace agreements it signed with the U.S. and Israel. Ackerman was also successful in getting Medicare to cover testing for prostate cancer.

Enacted as well was his measure that prevents war criminals and human rights abusers who have perpetrated genocide, torture, terrorism or other atrocities, from entering the U.S. and deports those who have slipped in. In addition, Ackerman sponsored the first federal legislation to ban the use of handheld cell phones while driving.

On October 10, 2002, Gary Ackerman was among the 81 House Democrats who voted in favor of authorizing the invasion of Iraq.

On October 3, 2008 Rep. Ackerman voted in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program[3] believing that the enumerated powers grant congress the authority to "purchase assets and equity from financial institutions in order to strengthen its financial sector."

On January 8, 2009, Ackerman introduced a bill to order the Securities and Exchange Commission to re-institute the uptick rule, limiting the circumstances under which traders can sell stock short.

Congressional initiatives

In his capacity as the then Chairman of the Asia Subcommittee, Ackerman made history in the 1990s by traveling to North Korea to discuss non-proliferation. Upon his return to South Korea, Ackerman became the first person since the Korean War to cross the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone).

Ackerman is also well known for his many missions to feed the starving people of Ethiopia and the Sudan and for playing a leading role in the rescue of Ethiopian Jews and aiding their emigration to Israel. Active in the Middle East peace process, Ackerman has met with the current and most past Israeli prime ministers and the heads of all the Arab countries in an effort to help secure peace in the region. He also ventured to Kashmir enduring sub-freezing winter temperatures in an attempt to secure the release of four western hostages.

Among his many other initiatives, Ackerman helped to force the State of Hawaii to change its law that forbade blind individuals from bringing their guide dogs with them to the islands. The Congressman chaired an investigation and bipartisan hearing into whether New York City and Long Island officials properly utilized the spraying of Malathion during the West Nile virus outbreak. He also obtained federal funds to combat a return of the virus.

He convinced the German government to establish a US$110 million fund to compensate 18,000 Holocaust survivors and to investigate whether 3,300 former Nazi soldiers now living in the U.S. and collecting German pensions are war criminals.

Congressman Ackerman also convinced the Defense Department to stop garnishing wages from certain U.S. soldiers serving in the war against Iraq. Although troops who serve in combat zones are not required to pay federal taxes, many soldiers had failed to be granted the exemption.

In addition, the Congressman lobbied federal security officials — with the September 11, 2001 attacks in mind — to use retired law enforcement officers as screeners at New York airports and he pressed President Bush to make good on his promise to provide New York with US$20 billion in additional 9/11 disaster aid.

The Congressman has also not been without some controversial votes. He was one of only 22 Congressman and one of 2 Democrats from New York to vote against a resolution calling for the protection of the symbols and traditions of Christmas. The resolution, which did not include language that would protect the symbols of other religious holidays, passed 401-22 in the House in December 2005. This isn’t the first time the Congressman was labeled as anti-Christian; in April 2003 the Catholic League for religious and civil rights attacked Ackerman for voting against a non-binding resolution that would have declared a day of prayer in recognition of the U.S. war in Iraq. He was also criticized for calling on Bush to demand U.S. Secretary Rod Paige's resignation for stating that values taught in Christian schools are better than those learned in public schools.

Ackerman received an "A" on the Drum Major Institute's 2005 Congressional Scorecard on middle-class issues.[4] Ackerman is also a member of the Cuba Democracy Caucus and is currently the head of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians (ICJP).

Critique of SEC enforcement practices

On February 4, 2009, Gary Ackerman criticized SEC Officials over the handling of tips given to them about the Bernie Madoff scandal. Ackerman said "“I’m reflecting what the American public feels,” he said. “How are they supposed to have confidence that if somebody goes to you with a complaint—gives it to you on a silver platter with all the investigations, with all the numbers, with all of the data, telling you exactly what he did, how he did it, and why he did it and how he knows that—and after a period after half a dozen or eight years, you don’t know anything?”" [5]

Controversy and criticism

Ackerman has been rated "poor" compared to his peers with respect to being present during congressional voting.[6] According to a Washington Post database, Ackerman has missed voting on 80 occasions pertaining to a variety of issues, including the Pension Protection Act, the Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act, and the Honoring the Contributions of Catholic Schools.[7]

On May 22, 2008, Gary Ackerman submitted the controversial resolution H. Con. Res. 362 which opponents call a declaration of war against Iran.[8] Ackerman drew stern criticism from analysts who assert that he has adopted a hawkish stance against Iran largely because of pressures from AIPAC.[9]

On January 12, 2009, Gary Ackerman admitted to arranging a visit between Israeli officials and a defense contractor at the same time he was investing in that contractor.[10] Although the visit did not result in any official deal between the parties, questions regarding his ethics were raised. [11]


External links

New York State Senate
Preceded by
Jack Bronston
New York State Senate, 12th District
Succeeded by
Leonard Stavisky
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Benjamin S. Rosenthal
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 7th congressional district

Succeeded by
Thomas J. Manton
Preceded by
Raymond J. McGrath
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by


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