Jim Leach: Wikis

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Jim Leach


Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Iowa's 2nd district
In office
January 3, 1977 – January 3, 2007
Preceded by Edward Mezvinsky
Succeeded by David Loebsack

Born October 15, 1942 (1942-10-15) (age 67)
Davenport, Iowa
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Elisabeth "Deba" Leach
Residence Iowa City, Iowa
Alma mater Princeton University, Johns Hopkins University
Occupation Politician, Foreign Affairs Specialist
Religion Episcopalian

James Albert Smith "Jim" Leach (born October 15, 1942) is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Iowa. In August 2009, he became Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).[1]

Prior to his appointment as NEH chairman, Leach was the John L. Weinberg Visiting Professor of Public and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University.[2] He also served as the interim director of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University from September 17, 2007, to September 1, 2008, when Bill Purcell was appointed permanent director.

Previously, Leach served 30 years (1977-2007) as a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives, representing Iowa's 2nd congressional district (numbered as the 1st District from 1977 to 2003). In Congress, Leach chaired the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services (1995-2001) and was a senior member of the House Committee on International Relations, serving as Chair of the Committee’s Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs (2001-2006).[3] He also founded and served as co-chair of the Congressional Humanities Caucus.[2] He lost his 2006 re-election bid to Democrat Dave Loebsack of Mount Vernon, IA.

Leach authored legislation on a range of issues including:

The legislation he is perhaps best known for is the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, one of the seminal pieces of banking legislation of the 20th century.

Contents

Biography

Leach was born in Davenport, Iowa, and won the 1960 state wrestling championship at the 138-pound weight class for Davenport High School.[4] He was educated at Princeton University (where he became a member of The Ivy Club), Johns Hopkins University and the London School of Economics. Prior to entering the United States Foreign Service, he was a staffer for then U.S. Rep. Donald Rumsfeld.[2] While in the Foreign Service, he was a delegate to the Geneva Disarmament Conference and the U.N. General Assembly. In 1973, Leach resigned his commission in protest of the Saturday Night Massacre when Richard Nixon fired his Attorney General, Elliot Richardson, and the independent counsel investigating the Watergate break-in, Archibald Cox.

After returning to Iowa to head a family business, Leach was elected in 1976 to Congress (defeating two-term Democrat Edward Mezvinsky), where he came to be a leader of a small band of moderate Republicans. He chaired two national organizations dedicated to moderate Republican causes: the Ripon Society and the Republican Mainstream Committee. He also served as president of the largest international association of legislators—Parliamentarians for Global Action. He was reelected 14 times.

During his 15 terms in Congress, Leach's voting record was generally conservative on fiscal issues, moderate on social matters, and progressive in foreign policy. As Chairman of the Arms Control and Foreign Policy Caucus, he pressed for a Comprehensive Test Ban and led the first House debate on a nuclear freeze. He objected to military unilateralism as reflected in the Iran-Contra policy of the 1980s. He pushed for full funding of U.S. obligations to the United Nations, supported U.S. re-entry into UNESCO, and opposed U.S. withdrawal from the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

While he supported the first Gulf War in 1991, Leach voted against the authorization to use force against Iraq in 2002. He was one of only six House Republicans to vote against the resolution.[5] Once the Congress committed to war, however, he held that it would be folly to assume it could be funded with tax cuts and therefore he was the only Republican to vote against the 2003 tax cut.

Portrait of Jim Leach, 2002, collection of U.S. House of Representatives

Leach's position on the abortion issue upset activists on all sides. He supported the right of choice except during the third trimester but also held that public funding represented a complicit infringement on the values of too many Americans to be defensible. A supporter of stem cell research, he believed little could be more pro-life than invigorating science to advance cures to extend and ennoble life itself.

Leach's political career was hallmarked by concern for open government. He championed campaign reform and pressed unsuccessfully for a system of partial public financing of elections whereby small contributions could be matched by federal funds with accompanying limits on the amounts that could be spent in campaigns including the personal resources candidates could put in their own races. In his own campaigns Leach did not accept donations from outside of Iowa, and also did not accept money from political action committees. He also placed limits on what individuals might give.

Leach was never comfortable with the partisan confrontations that increasingly came to characterize Congress. He concentrated on issues rather than what he described as the game of politics and believed in working constructively with committee leadership as it existed rather than what he might have preferred. As a member of the minority for his first nine terms, he became known for the development of three unique, unusually substantive reports – one in the 1980s calling for a more progressive approach to Central American politics; a second in the early 1990s on reforming the United Nations written for a national commission he legislatively established and later chaired; and the third issued when he was ranking minority member of the Banking Committee on the challenges of regulating derivatives.

Leach had more differences on ethical issues with several of his own party leaders than Democratic Speakers like Tip O'Neill and Tom Foley. In the wake of a 1996 Ethics Committee probe of then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, which cited the Speaker for providing false information under oath to a House committee, Leach broke ranks with tradition and voted against his party's nominee for Speaker in the subsequent Congress. In one of the few occasions in the 20th century when any party division was recorded on the initial leadership organizing votes on the House floor, he voted for the former Republican leader, Bob Michel, and received two votes himself, causing Leach to take a distant third in the contest for Speaker of the 105th Congress behind Gingrich and the Democratic nominee, Dick Gephardt.

Leach played a pivotal role in the House's investigation of the Whitewater scandal. In the 1980s he had objected to political misjudgments that lengthened and deepened losses in the savings and loan industry. Accordingly, he felt there should be accountability outside and within the financial services industry. Because criminal referrals had been lodged by a federal agency against President Clinton, his wife, and their partners in a real estate venture for their role in the failure of a modest-sized Arkansas S&L, Leach as chairman of the House Banking Committee held four days of hearings (all in the same week) on the causes and consequences of the failure. While federal taxpayer losses (approximately $70 million) associated with this particular S&L were not as large as with bigger institutions around the country, no S&L anywhere failed with a higher percentage of losses relative to assets than the one in Arkansas.

In the end, the Independent Counsel brought more than 50 criminal convictions related to the failed S&L, including cases against Clinton’s successor governor, Jim Guy Tucker, and his business partners in Whitewater.

Leach believed in the appropriateness of public disclosure but never thought the crimes surrounding the failure of the Whitewater-tied S&L should have been considered in an impeachment framework because the Constitution precisely holds that the impeachment process relates to acts committed in federal office. Like many in Congress, he was surprised that the Justice Department chose to refer certain sex-related charges to Kenneth Starr, the Whitewater Independent Counsel, and even more so when Starr chose subsequently to refer certain of them to the Congress. But in what he described as a close judgment call, Leach voted for the article of impeachment that related to felonious lying under oath.

Leach was usually reelected without much difficulty (including an unopposed run in 1994), as his moderate social views served him well in an increasingly Democratic district. For most of his career, he represented the Democratic strongholds of Davenport and Iowa City. The district has not supported a Republican for president since 1984, and most of its state legislators are Democrats. The district became even more Democratic after the 2000 census, in which it was renumbered the 2nd District. This was despite the fact that Davenport was drawn into the 1st District (previously the 2nd District). Leach seriously considered running against fellow Republican Jim Nussle in the 1st District primary. Had he done so, it was considered very likely that the reconfigured 2nd would have been taken by a Democrat. However, Leach opted to move to Iowa City in the reconfigured 2nd and won reelection two more times. Still, it was considered very likely that Leach would be succeeded by a Democrat once he retired.

Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Services Modernization Act

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, also known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Services Modernization Act, Pub. L. No. 106-102, 113 Stat. 1338 (November 12, 1999), is an Act of the United States Congress which repealed part of the Glass-Steagall Act, opening up competition among banks, securities companies and insurance companies. The Glass-Steagall Act prohibited a bank from offering investment, commercial banking, and insurance services.

This act of deregulation has been cited as one reason for the sub-prime mortgage crisis.[6]

2006 election

Leach, after poll results came in, greeting the press on election night in Cedar Rapids, 2006

In 2006, however, Leach was toppled in a considerable upset by Democrat Dave Loebsack, a political science professor at Cornell College. Loebsack had only qualified for the Democratic primary as a write-in candidate, and Leach was not on many Democratic target lists. However, Loebsack managed to defeat Leach by a narrow 6,000-vote margin.

In conjunction with a Democratic tide which swept Eastern Iowa in the election, there were two tipping factors in Leach’s defeat. The first was his refusal to allow Republican Party activists to distribute an anti-gay mailing. When Leach told the Republican National Committee that he would leave the Republican caucus if they proceeded with such divisive tactics, social conservatives were offended and refused to back him.

The second related to his success just before adjournment in passing H.R. 4411. Gambling interests opposed him during the election and contended the bill had passed without hearings. The bill had been subject to extensive hearings over several Congresses, especially on the House side where both the Financial Services and the Judiciary committees had shared jurisdiction.[7] Leach argued that Internet gambling weakened the economy and jeopardized the social fabric of the family.

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Post-congressional career

After his defeat, Leach’s name was floated as a potential replacement to John Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations. On December 8, 2006, Leach’s House colleagues Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) and Jim Walsh (R-New York) sent a letter to President George W. Bush urging the President to nominate Leach for the post. However, the nomination instead went to the United States Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad.

Leach then taught at Princeton and served on the board of several public companies and four non-profit organizations, including the Century Foundation, the Kettering Foundation and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and formerly served as a trustee of Princeton University.

Leach holds eight honorary degrees and has received decorations from two foreign governments. He is the recipient of the Wayne Morse Integrity in Politics Award, the Woodrow Wilson Award from Johns Hopkins, the Adlai Stevenson Award from the United Nations Association, and the Edger Wayburn Award from the Sierra Club. A three-sport athlete in college, Leach was elected to the Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and the International Wrestling Hall of Fame in Waterloo, Iowa.

Leach speaks during the first night of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.

On September 17 2007, Leach was named as Interim Director of the Institute of Politics (IOP) at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government after former director Jeanne Shaheen left to pursue a U.S. Senate seat in New Hampshire.

Leach resides in Iowa City and Princeton with his wife Elisabeth (Deba), son Gallagher, and daughter Jenny.

On August 12, 2008, Leach broke party ranks to endorse Democrat Barack Obama over fellow Republican John McCain in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. He spoke at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, on the night of August 25, 2008.[8] He was introduced by Senator Tom Harkin, a fellow Iowan.

On November 14 and 15, 2008, Leach and former Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright served as emissaries for President-elect Obama at the international economic summit being held in Washington, D.C.[9]

On June 3, 2009, President Obama announced that he intended to nominate Leach as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.[10] The appointment was confirmed in August.[1]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Robin Pogrebin, "Rocco Landesman Confirmed as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts", New York Times, August 7, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c Trescott, Jacqueline (June 3, 2009). "GOP's Leach Picked to Run Humanities Endowment". Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/03/AR2009060302839.html. Retrieved June 4, 2009.  
  3. ^ "President Obama Announces Intent to Nominate former GOP Congressman Jim Leach as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities". White House. June 3, 2009. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/President-Obama-Announces-Intent-to-Nominate-former-GOP-Congressman-Jim-Leach-as-Chairman-of-the-National-Endowment-for-the-Humanities/. Retrieved June 4, 2009.  
  4. ^ http://www.wrestlingmuseum.org/gbhofinductions_03.html
  5. ^ "House lawmakers promote colleague for U.N. post", USA Today, November 14, 2006.
  6. ^ http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=the_bubble_economy
  7. ^ http://www.thomas.gov
  8. ^ Mary Ann Akers (2008-08-24). "Surprise GOP Speaker at Dem Convention: Jim Leach". http://voices.washingtonpost.com/sleuth/2008/08/surprise_gop_speaker_at_dem_co.html. Retrieved 2008-08-25.  
  9. ^ Julianna Goldman (2008-11-12). "Obama Sending Albright, Leach to Economic Summit". http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=aaaP4eqKLmYg&refer=us. Retrieved 2008-11-14.  
  10. ^ Carol E. Lee (2008-06-03). "Jim Leach nominee for chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities". http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0609/23291.html. Retrieved 2009-06-03.  

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Edward Mezvinsky
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Iowa's 1st congressional district

1977–2003
Succeeded by
Jim Nussle
Preceded by
Jim Nussle
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Iowa's 2nd congressional district

2003–2007
Succeeded by
Dave Loebsack
Political offices
Preceded by
Henry Gonzalez
Texas
Chairman of the House Banking and Financial Services Committee
1995–2001
Succeeded by
Mike Oxley
Ohio

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