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Hugh Edwin Rodham
Born 1950
Chicago, Illinois
Known for Brother of Hillary Rodham Clinton; Senate candidate
Spouse(s) Maria Victoria Arias

Hugh Edwin Rodham (born 1950[1]) is an American lawyer, businessman and Democratic Party politician who is the brother of former New York Senator and First Lady and current Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.


Early life and education

Rodham is the son of Hugh Ellsworth Rodham, a Chicago textile wholesaler, and Dorothy Emma Howell. He has one younger brother, Tony Rodham. Like Hillary, he was born in Chicago but grew up in suburban Park Ridge, Illinois. He graduated from Maine South High School in 1968, playing on the football, wrestling, and baseball teams.[2] Like his father, Rodham attended Pennsylvania State University, graduating in 1972 with a Bachelor of Science degree from the College of Health and Human Development. While attending Penn State he was backup quarterback on the Penn State Nittany Lions football team.[3] Rodham was also an active member of the Sigma Triton charge of Theta Delta Chi fraternity at Penn State.[4] He served in the Peace Corps in Colombia[3] for over a year, training teachers; he later called it the most rewarding experience of his life.[5] He then gained advanced degrees in education and law at the University of Arkansas,[3] the latter occurring while Bill Clinton was governor of the state.[2]

Public defender

Rodham moved to Miami, where he began to practice criminal law;[3] from around 1980 he became a public defender in Dade County.[5][6] Rodham married Maria Victoria Arias, a Cuban immigrant lawyer whom he met while she was interning at the public defender's office, in 1986; they lived in Coral Gables, Florida.[3][2]

In 1989 the groundbreaking, much imitated Miami Drug Court was co-founded by State Attorney Janet Reno,[3][2] Chief Judge Gerald Wetherington, and Public Defender Bennett Brummer. Seeking to combat the crack cocaine epidemic of the time, it sought to find nonviolent drug users and give addicts structured programs to overcome addiction, often in lieu of a jail sentence. Rodham became Assistant Public Defender in the court.[7] In this work Rodham was praised by local officials for effective, tireless work for long hours at low wages;[7] Rodham himself would later say, "Public Defenders are the last bastion for liberty ... we provide a strong defense for every citizen accused."[5] Reno would later credit Rodham for making the Drug Court a success: "That drug court could never have been established without the cooperation of the public defender ... [who] was a fellow by the name of Hugh Rodham, the assistant public defender. And we didn't know who Hugh Rodham was in those days, but one thing he did was get his clients in the back room, and every now and then you could hear him raise his voice and tell them to get with it and let's go. ... He was assiduous in protecting his clients' rights, but he was also extraordinarily helpful in making sure his clients understood that here was a real chance to solve their problems."[8]

In 1993, Hugh Rodham and his brother Tony ignited a small controversy when they tried to solicit corporate donations for Clinton's inaugural parties; they dropped the effort after a public outcry.[9] Once the Clintons entered the White House, Rodham became a sometime golfing buddy of the President[10] and he and Maria often joined family get-togethers at Camp David.[11] When Clinton was having trouble with his cabinet nominations, Rodham recommended Reno to the president for appointment as U.S. Attorney General.[12][2]

Politics, hazelnuts, and pardons

Rodham left the public defenders office to run for the United States Senate in Florida in 1994. He won the Democratic Party nomination by defeating Mike Wiley, a talk radio personality and advocate of UFO conspiracy theories, by a margin of 58 to 42 percent in a runoff election,[10][13] after earlier finishing first in a four-person primary field with 34 percent.[13] After the first primary, the third-place finisher, flamboyant Miami lawyer and perennial losing candidate Ellis Rubin,[14] joined forces with Rodham as an "senior executive consultant" and hatchet man.[15] In the presence of Rodham at a press conference, Rubin levelled the accusation that Wiley was hiding his Jewish faith by changing his name from his birth name, Michael Schreiber,[13][14] and that Wiley "changed his name before the campaign to deceive voters about his Jewish religion." Wiley accordingly refused to endorse Rodham after the runoff.[13] Rodham then lost by a 70%-30% margin to incumbent Senator Republican Connie Mack III in the general election.[3] Although Bill and Hillary Clinton both campaigned for him, his organization was unable to take advantage of their help,[16] he had few funds, almost no television commercials, and little support from the Florida Democratic party establishment in a year that saw Republican gains everywhere.[3][2] After the election, Rubin switched allegiance again and charged Rodham with election law violations in the first primary; the Federal Elections Commission eventually dismissed the allegations.[17] Rodham subsequently tried to unseat the Dade County Democratic Party Chairman; after badly losing that race, he disappeared from the Florida political scene.[2]

Rodham tried his hand at hosting a syndicated talk radio show around 1996.[3][5] During 1995 through 1997 Rodham started working on a very large tobacco lawsuit with other attorneys; observers were puzzled as to Rodham's involvement, given his limited experience in the area, and speculated that influence peddling might be the reason.[6][2] The massive case eventually failed to gain Congressional approval.[10]

In 1999, Hugh and brother Tony Rodham entered into a $118 million venture to grow and export hazelnuts from the Republic of Georgia.[10] The U.S. State Department and National Security Advisor Sandy Berger became upset, however, when the Rodhams' local business connection in Batumi turned out to be Aslan Abashidze, a major political opponent of Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, then a key U.S. ally in the region.[12][10][18] After initial resistance,[12] Berger and the Clintons prevailed upon the Rodham brothers to drop the deal.[10][2] Hugh Rodham stated that he was only acting as a lawyer for the venture and did not have money invested in it.[12]

Episodes such as these led Hillary Clinton's White House staff to refer to Hugh and Tony as "the Brothers Rodham",[19] extending the American tradition of troublesome presidential siblings to the brother-in-law category;[12] one senior White House official would be quoted as saying, "You never wanted to hear their name come up in any context other than playing golf."[19]

As the Clinton administration came to a close in early 2001, it was discovered that Hugh Rodham received around $400,000 for legal services regarding gaining the Presidential pardon of fraudulent businessman Glenn Braswell and the sentence commutation of drug trafficker Carlos Vignali.[7] While legal experts said that Rodham may well not have done anything wrong, the appearance of possible impropriety certainly existed.[7] Moreoever, coming while the Bill Clinton pardons controversy was already in full force, this was a further embarrassment for the former administration and even got the attention of the Congressional House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.[2] Hillary Clinton, now a newly-sworn-in Senator, said, "He's my brother. I love my brother ... I'm just extremely disappointed in this terrible misjudgment that he made ... I knew nothing about my brother's involvement in these pardons. I knew nothing about his taking money for his involvement."[2] Both Clintons pressured Rodham to return the $400,000, which he promptly did.[10] During this time, Rodham additionally collected media criticism for being overweight and a poor dresser.[10][18]

Subsequently, Hugh Rodham stayed out of the public eye. When his sister's 2008 presidential campaign came to the family summer home of Scranton, Pennsylvania for the state primary, he hosted a reception for campaign workers.[20]

See also


  1. ^ "First Lady Biography: Hillary Clinton". Accessed via Google cache July 10, 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Lynn Sweet (2001-02-23). "Politics thicker than blood?". The Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2007-07-08.  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "The Rodham Family Biography". Retrieved 2007-07-08.  
  4. ^ "The Pillars of Prospect: Sigma Phi Sigma/Theta Delta Chi Alumni Association". Retrieved 2008-10-20.  
  5. ^ a b c d "Looking Back on Interviews With the Rodhams and Roger Clinton", Larry King Live, February 24, 2001. Accessed July 11, 2007.
  6. ^ a b Barry Meier, " First Brother-in-Law Has Tobacco Talks Role", The New York Times, April 23, 1997. Accessed July 10, 2007.
  7. ^ a b c d "Hillary Clinton Addresses Presidential Pardons; Are Clinton Controversies Stifling Bush Agenda?",, February 22, 2001. Accessed July 11, 2007.
  8. ^ "Town Hall Forum with the Attorney General", U.S. Department of Justice, March 9, 1998. Accessed July 11, 2007.
  9. ^ Priscilla Painton, "Guess Who's Paying for Dinner", Time, January 25, 1993. Accessed July 19, 2007.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Jessica Reaves (2002-02-22). "The Rumpled, Ragtag Career of Hugh Rodham". Time Magazine.,8599,100329,00.html. Retrieved 2006-03-26.  
  11. ^ Hillary Rodham Clinton, Living History, Simon & Schuster, 2003, ISBN 0-7432-2224-5, plate B-15.
  12. ^ a b c d e Viveca Novak and Jay Branegan, "Are Hillary's brothers driving off course?",, November 1, 1999. Accessed July 10, 2007.
  13. ^ a b c d "Florida Vote Goes to Brother Of First Lady". New York Times. October 5, 1994. Retrieved 2008-01-29.  
  14. ^ a b "More Anti-Semitism in Hillary's Closet". NewsMax. October 16, 2000. Retrieved 2008-01-29.  
  15. ^ Tom Fielder (1994-09-22). "Rubin Joins Rodham Campaign, Rips Wiley" (fee required). The Miami Herald.  
  16. ^ Michael Wines, "Clinton Finds Few Listeners at Rally in Miami", The New York Times, October 16, 1994. Accessed July 10, 2007.
  17. ^ Tom Fielder (1996-04-06). "FEC Dismisses Allegations Against Rodham Campaign" (fee required). The Miami Herald.  
  18. ^ a b "Best Local Boy Gone Bad (2001)", Miami New Times. Accessed July 10, 2007.
  19. ^ a b Todd S. Purdum, "Siblings Who Often Emerge In an Unflattering Spotlight", The New York Times, February 23, 2001. Accessed July 28, 2007.
  20. ^ Katherine Q. Seelye (2008-03-10). "Pennsylvania Ties Could Help Clinton". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-14.  
Party political offices
Preceded by
Buddy MacKay
Democratic nominee for United States Senator from Florida
(class 1)

1994 (lost)
Succeeded by
Bill Nelson


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