Sheldon Whitehouse: Wikis


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Sheldon Whitehouse

Assumed office 
January 3, 2007
Serving with Jack Reed
Preceded by Lincoln Chafee

Rhode Island State Attorney General
In office
Preceded by Jeffery B. Pine
Succeeded by Patrick C. Lynch

In office
Preceded by Lincoln Almond
Succeeded by Margaret E. Curran

Born October 20, 1955 (1955-10-20) (age 54)
New York City, New York
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Dr. Sandra Thornton Whitehouse
Residence Providence, Rhode Island
Alma mater Yale University, University of Virginia
Occupation Politician, Attorney
Religion Episcopalian

Sheldon Whitehouse (born October 20, 1955) is the Junior Senator from the state of Rhode Island. A Democrat, he previously served as United States Attorney (1994–1998) and state Attorney General for Rhode Island. He is a descendent of William Bradford who was a colonial governor of Massachusetts.

Whitehouse was born in New York City, New York, the son of Mary Celine Rand and career diplomat Charles S. Whitehouse, and grandson of diplomat Sheldon Whitehouse. He graduated from St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, and from Yale University in 1978. He received his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1982.

In 1986 Whitehouse married Dr. Sandra Thornton Whitehouse, a marine biologist and granddaughter of James Worth Thornton and Elena Mumm Thornton Wilson. Her step-grandfather was prominent essayist and critic Edmund Wilson. They live in Rhode Island with their two children, Molly and Alexander.

Whitehouse defeated Republican incumbent Lincoln Chafee in the November 7, 2006 election to become the junior Senator from Rhode Island.


Early career

Whitehouse worked as a clerk for Judge Richard F. Neely in the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia from 1982 to 1983. He also worked in the Rhode Island Attorney General's office as a special assistant attorney general from 1985 to 1990, chief of the Regulatory Unit (which oversaw utilities) from 1988 to 1990, and also an assistant attorney general from 1989 to 1990.[1]

Whitehouse worked as Rhode Island Governor Bruce Sundlun's Executive Counsel beginning in 1991, and was later tapped to serve as Director of Policy. He oversaw the state's response to the RISDIC banking crisis,[2] which took place right after Sundlun took office. Whitehouse was appointed by Sundlun to be the state's Director of Business Regulation in 1992, where he oversaw a drastic reform in the state's workers's compensation insurance system.[1]

U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island

President Bill Clinton appointed Whitehouse to serve as United States attorney for Rhode Island in 1994. Whitehouse held the position for four years, and was the first prosecutor to convict a member of organized crime under Clinton's "three strikes law" for organized crime.[1] Whitehouse also initiated the investigation into municipal corruption in Rhode Island that led to Operation Plunder Dome, in which Providence Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci was eventually convicted on conspiracy charges.[3]

Political career


State attorney general

In 1998, Whitehouse was elected as attorney general. He initiated a lawsuit against the lead paint industry that ended in a mistrial; the state later won a second lawsuit against former lead paint manufacturers Sherwin Williams Co., Millennium Holdings and NL Industries that found them responsible for creating a public nuisance.[4] However, this decision was unanimously overturned by the Rhode Island Supreme Court on July 1, 2008. The Court found that it is the responsibility of the property owners to abate and mitigate lead hazards (as specified by Rhode Island statute).

Whitehouse also founded the Rhode Island Quality Institute, "an organization dedicated to improving health care quality in the State of Rhode Island,"[5] and authorized the first Rhode Island State Police wire tap to investigate public corruption.

Whitehouse's tenure as attorney general also saw some controversy. When black Providence police officer Cornel Young Jr. was shot and killed by two fellow officers while he was off-duty in January 2000,[6] Whitehouse was criticized for not appointing an independent prosecutor to investigate the shooting.[7] Later that year, Whitehouse was criticized when 15-year-old Jennifer Rivera, a witness in a murder case, was shot by a relative of the man she was to testify against later that year.[8] After Rivera's shooting, Whitehouse strengthened the state's witness protection program.

Gubernatorial candidate

Whitehouse was a candidate for governor in 2002. He was defeated in the Democratic primary by former State Senator and two time failed gubernatorial candidate Myrth York who went on to lose for a third time in the general election, against Republican Donald Carcieri.

U.S. Senate

Election campaign

In 2006, Whitehouse ran for the seat occupied by Senator Lincoln Chafee, a Republican seeking a second full term. After winning the Democratic primary by a large margin, Whitehouse went on to defeat Chafee with 53 percent of the vote.

U.S. Senator

Committee assignments

Whitehouse is a member of the following committees:[9][10][11]

On August 3, 2007, it was announced that Whitehouse would receive the Golden Gavel award, having presided over Senate debates for more than 100 hours in his first six months in office.

U.S. Attorney controversy

Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy

Whitehouse received notice in a June 2007 opinion piece from journalist (senior editorial writer) Michael McGough of the Los Angeles Times for Whitehouse's careful questioning and thoughtful statements, and his understanding that the less said, the more effective his efforts may be. McGough cites this statement by Whitehouse about President George W. Bush's "crony" (McGough's word) Attorney General Alberto Gonzales:

His [Gonzales'] stated definition of what is improper for him and his staff, believe it or not, tracks the legal standard for criminal obstruction of justice. Is that the kind of attorney general we want?


In May 2007, Whitehouse had joined other Senators in pressuring for Gonzales' resignation [13] and continued to question Gonzales' service in the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy.[14]

Political positions

In traditionally liberal Rhode Island, both the Democratic Whitehouse and his predecessor, Republican Lincoln Chafee, hold liberal political positions. However, Whitehouse has been to the left of Chafee on economic issues, a position that separated him from his opponent during the last election cycle.[15] For the 2007 year, Whitehouse was ranked second-most liberal senator by the National Journal.[16]

Whitehouse supports stem cell research, abortion rights, GLBT rights and gay marriage, as well as affirmative action. Whitehouse has publicly supported a reintroduction of the Equal Rights Amendment. Like Chafee, Whitehouse opposed intervention in Iraq (Chafee was the only Republican senator who voted against it) and the nomination of Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Whitehouse supports a more progressive tax system, strongly opposing the Bush tax cuts and proposals to repeal the Estate Tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax. He is in favor of gun control and has spoken out against the Patriot Act. Whitehouse supports introducing a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq and has stated that the US must use caution in the future and must avoid entering into military action in Iran.[15]

Despite a generally pro-rehabilitation stance on crime, Whitehouse supports the federal use of the death penalty (but supports it being illegal in Rhode Island).[17]. Whitehouse also opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement and other similar proposals. He has styled himself as a supporter of fair trade and is opposed to using presidential authority to "fast track" normalized trade relations.[17]

In addition, Whitehouse has stated that he does not want torture abuse by the Bush administration to be "papered over," and supports a commission to uncover war crimes by said administration.

Electoral history

Rhode Island U.S. Senate Election 2006
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Sheldon Whitehouse 205,274 53.5
Republican Lincoln Chafee (Incumbent) 178,548 46.5 -7.0


  1. ^ a b c Sheldon Whitehouse for Governor, "About Sheldon" (cached 9/1/2002)
  2. ^
  3. ^ Rhode Island Cancer Council, "Sheldon Whitehouse"
  4. ^ Peter B. Lord, "3 companies found liable in lead-paint nuisance suit," The Providence Journal, February 23, 2006.[1]
  5. ^ Rhode Island Quality Institute, "Who We Are"
  6. ^ Ken Mingis, "Off-duty Providence police officer shot, killed by 2 other officers," The Providence Journal, January 28, 2000.[2]
  7. ^ Jonathan D. Rockoff, "Minority leaders seek independent inquiry," The Providence Journal, February 6, 2000.[3]
  8. ^ Mark Arsenault, "Grounded in law, Whitehouse builds his case on leadership," The Providence Journal, August 25, 2002.[4]
  9. ^ Committee Assignments United States Senate. Retrieved June 20, 207.
  10. ^ Senate Judiciary Committee and Subcommittee membership United States Senate. Retrieved June 20, 2008.
  11. ^ Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and Subcommittee membership United States Senate. Retrieved June 20, 2008.
  12. ^ McGough, Michael (June 14, 2007). "Whitehouse takes Gonzales to the woodshed: How the freshman senator built the strongest case against the attorney general.". Los Angeles Times.,1,5118985.story. Retrieved 2007-06-17. 
  13. ^ Stout, David (2007-05-24). "Bush Backs Gonzales in Face of No-Confidence Vote". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ David Johnston and Scott Shane (2007-07-25). "Gonzales Denies Improper Pressure on Ashcroft". The New York Times. 
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^ "National Journal's 2007 Vote Ratings"
  17. ^ a b Sheldon Whitehouse on the Issues

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Lincoln Almond
United States Attorney for the District of Rhode Island
1993  – 1998
Succeeded by
Margaret E. Curran
Preceded by
Jeffrey B. Pine
Attorney General of Rhode Island
Succeeded by
Patrick C. Lynch
Political offices
United States Senate
Preceded by
Lincoln Chafee
United States Senator (Class 1) from Rhode Island
2007 – present
Served alongside: Jack Reed
United States order of precedence
Preceded by
Amy Klobuchar
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Jon Tester


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