Dick Gephardt

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Dick Gephardt
Dick Gephardt.jpg
House Majority Leader
In office
June 6, 1989 – January 3, 1995
Speaker Tom Foley
Whip William H. Gray (1989–1991)
David E. Bonior (1991–1995)
Preceded by Tom Foley
Succeeded by Dick Armey
House Minority Leader
In office
January 3, 1995 – January 3, 2003
Whip David E. Bonior (1995–2002)
Nancy Pelosi (2002–2003)
Preceded by Robert H. Michel
Succeeded by Nancy Pelosi
Chairperson of the House Democratic Caucus
In office
January 3, 1985 – January 3, 1989
Preceded by Gillis W. Long
Succeeded by William H. Gray
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Missouri's 3rd district
In office
January 3, 1977 – January 3, 2005
Preceded by Leonor K. Sullivan
Succeeded by Russ Carnahan
Personal details
Born Richard Andrew Gephardt
(1941-01-31) January 31, 1941 (age 82)
St. Louis, Missouri
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Jane Gephardt
Alma mater Northwestern University (B.A.)
University of Michigan (J.D.)
Profession Lawyer, Businessman
Religion Baptist
Military service
Service/branch Missouri Air National Guard
Years of service 1965-1971

Richard Andrew "Dick" Gephardt (born January 31, 1941) is an American politician who served as a United States Representative from Missouri from 1977 to 2005. A member of the Democratic Party, he was House Majority Leader from 1989 to 1995 and Minority Leader from 1995 to 2003. He ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in 1988 and 2004. Gephardt was mentioned as a possible vice presidential nominee in 1988, 1992, 2000, 2004, and 2008.[1]

Since his retirement from politics, Gephardt has become a significant lobbyist. He founded a Washington-based public affairs firm, Gephardt Government Affairs, and an Atlanta-based labor consultancy, the Gephardt Group, as well as consulting for DLA Piper, FTI Consulting and Goldman Sachs.[2]

Early life

Gephardt was born into a family in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Loreen Estelle (née Cassell) and Louis Andrew Gephardt, a Teamster milkman; part of his ancestry is German.[3] He graduated from the former Southwest High School in 1958. Gephardt is an Eagle Scout and recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. He earned his B.S. at Northwestern University in 1962 where he was president of Beta Theta Pi, the student senate, and his freshman class. He earned his J.D. at the University of Michigan Law School in 1965.

In 1965, he was admitted to the Missouri Bar. He then entered the Missouri Air National Guard, where he served until 1971.

He and his wife Jane have three grown children, Matt, Katie, and Chrissy. His brother, Donald L. Gephardt, is the Dean of The College of Fine and Performing Arts at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey.

Political career

Gephardt was Democratic committeeman for the 14th ward in St. Louis between 1968 and 1971, moving up to become 14th ward alderman between 1971 and 1976, as part of a group of young aldermen known informally as "The Young Turks." [4]

House of Representatives

In 1976, Gephardt was elected to Congress from the St. Louis-based 3rd District, succeeding 24-year incumbent Leonor Sullivan. He was elected 13 more times, opting not to run for reelection in 2004. For most of his Congressional career, Gephardt's National Political Director was St. Louis-based political consultant Joyce Aboussie.

1988 campaign for president

Gephardt was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 1988 presidential election. Gephardt ran hard and early in 1987–88 and finally started moving ahead in Iowa after running the "Hyundai ad" that criticized what he thought were unfair trade barriers by Korea and Japan. Gephardt won the Iowa caucuses and South Dakota primary in February while finishing a strong second in New Hampshire which made him one of the serious contenders for the nomination.[5]

His campaign ran out of money after losing badly in the March "Super Tuesday" primaries, when he won only the Missouri primary. An ad aired by the campaign of Governor Michael Dukakis focused on Gephardt's "flip-flopping" voting record, and showed a Gephardt look-alike doing forward and backward flips for the camera. Many felt that the ad killed any chance Gephardt had of winning the nomination. Gephardt dropped out after winning only 13% in Michigan, despite support from the United Auto Workers. Dukakis considered Gephardt for his running mate, but chose Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen.

House leadership

In part due to the visibility gained from his 1988 presidential bid, Gephardt was elected majority leader by his House colleagues in June 1989, making him the second-ranking Democrat in the House, behind then-Speaker Tom Foley. Gephardt served in that position until January 1995.

After Foley was unseated in the Republican landslide of 1994 that gave the Republicans a 52-seat majority, Gephardt became the leader of the House Democrats, as minority leader, initially opposite Newt Gingrich and then, from 1999 onwards, Dennis Hastert. When Gingrich faced a coup within his own party in 1997, there was a possibility of Gephardt becoming Speaker if there had been a floor vote and he could gain the support of Republican Congressman dissatisfied with Gingrich, however Gingrich refused to resign and no vote occurred. In the 1996, 1998, and 2000 elections, Gephardt led the Democrats to gains in the House,[6] although they did not retake the majority until 2006, after Gephardt had left Congress.

Gephardt was considered a keen politician who worked hard at passing legislation, defending traditional Democratic principles, and for his home district in St. Louis. He became a prolific financial supporter of Democrats around the country in the early 1990s when he assembled a team of top fundraising staff who helped him support hundreds of candidates for local and federal office. Although Gephardt worked hard for many of President Bill Clinton's programs, he and his union supporters strongly opposed NAFTA and other "free trade" programs, so Clinton required Republican support to pass these initiatives. During the Impeachment proceedings of President Clinton, Gephardt led a walkout in the House after a censure motion was ruled irrelevant to the impeachment debate.[7]

In 2000, Vice President Al Gore named Gephardt to his short list of possible vice presidential candidates. The other names on the short list were then-Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, then-North Carolina Senator John Edwards, then-Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, then-Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, and then-New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen.[8] Gore eventually selected Lieberman.

In the 2002 Congressional midterm elections, Gephardt campaigned on the issues of the economy and Social Security, however the continuing resonance of the September 11 attacks, the momentum for military action against Iraq, and President George W. Bush's popularity lead to Republican gains, with the Democrats losing four House seats. Harold Ford of Tennessee described the results an "absolute blowout" and called upon Gephardt to step down, saying that it was time for "new ideas and new faces". Due to his previous success, it has been said that Gephardt would have been easily returned as Minority Leader if he decided to stay on.[6][9][10] But Gephardt did not run for re-election as House Minority Leader, stepping down in January 2003. His leadership position was contested by the centrist Martin Frost, the outgoing Democratic Caucus Chair, and the liberal Nancy Pelosi, the Minority Whip, who was elected as Gephardt's successor. No longer having Congressional leadership duties freed up Gephardt to concentrate on a 2004 presidential bid.[11]

2004 campaign for president

Gephardt announced his second run for president on January 5, 2003. His successor as Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, endorsed his bid for president. His campaign was notable for the high-profile coming out of his daughter Chrissy in People magazine, when she was helping him on the campaign trail,[12][13] a subject they also discussed in interviews for the 2007 documentary film For the Bible Tells Me So;[14] he has continued to be an outspoken advocate for gay rights since the campaign, though still opposes same-sex marriage.[15]

Although Republicans considered him a formidable candidate, Gephardt was seen by many as too old fashioned and unelectable.[16] His fundraising efforts were behind that of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and Senators John Kerry and John Edwards, and tied with Joe Lieberman. Furthermore, Gephardt's support of the Iraq War resolution hurt him among liberal activists. Gephardt promoted a form of universal health care, and was backed by 21 labor unions, but did not have enough support to receive the endorsement of the AFL-CIO.[16]

Throughout early 2003, Gephardt was ahead in polling for the Iowa caucus, but, by August, Dean had taken the lead; his campaign fueled by anti-war activists. The Gephardt campaign was embarrassed by an early August St Louis Post-Dispatch article that revealed that 11 of 33 "Gephardt team leaders" listed on his Iowa campaign's web site were actually supporting other candidates or neutral.

The race between Gephardt and Dean became negative, and took an ugly turn in October when a Gephardt staffer reportedly pushed a Dean staffer out of a meeting while calling him a "faggot".[17] Many press at the event claimed the Dean staffer was picking a fight and that the Gephardt staffer did not make the hurtful comment. Dean chairman Joe Trippi (who had previously worked for Gephardt in 1988) and Gephardt chairman Steve Murphy became involved in a war of words over that incident, as well as Murphy's allegation that the Dean campaign was bringing in out-of-state non-residents to participate in the caucus. In the final days of the Iowa campaign, both Dean and Gephardt faded and ultimately finished third and fourth, respectively. Gephardt ended his presidential campaign after that disappointing result.[18]

After he dropped out of the presidential race, Gephardt was mentioned as a possible running mate for John Kerry. On March 7, 2004, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, seen as a strong possibility for the position himself, endorsed Gephardt for the Vice Presidency. "I think he's the best candidate," Richardson said of Gephardt in an interview with the Associated Press. "There's a good regional balance with Kerry and Gephardt." Kerry announced on July 6, 2004, that he had chosen John Edwards as his running mate. On the same day, the New York Post published an incorrect headline stating that Gephardt had become Kerry's running mate. Shortly after this false story broke, the headline was compared to the 1948 "Dewey defeats Truman" front page of the Chicago Tribune, which incorrectly reported the presidential election results of that year. In 2007, it was revealed in the book No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner by Bob Shrum, who served as Kerry's campaign adviser in the 2004 U.S. presidential election, that Kerry wanted to choose Gephardt as his nominee for vice president but was convinced by Shrum and others to choose Edwards.

Political views

Since his election to the U.S. House in 1976, Gephardt's political views gradually moved to the left. Originally, Gephardt was strongly anti-abortion and was viewed as a social conservative. He was initially extremely critical of the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion. He wrote on the subject in 1984:

"Life is the division of human cells, a process that begins with conception. The (Supreme Court's abortion) ruling was unjust, and it is incumbent on the Congress to correct the injustice... I have always been supportive of pro-life legislation. I intend to remain steadfast on this issue.... I believe that the life of the unborn should be protected at all costs."

In 1987, when Gephardt decided to run for president, he announced that he would no longer support legislation to restrict abortion rights. He told the National Right to Life Committee; "I now do not support any Constitutional amendment pertaining to the legality of abortion."

Gephardt's views on economic policy also changed over the years. He voted for Ronald Reagan's tax cuts in 1981; in the 2000s, however, he became a staunch opponent of similar tax cuts by President George W. Bush, saying that the enormous surplus created during the administration of Bill Clinton should have been spent on health care instead. Gephardt is widely viewed as an economic populist. He supports universal health coverage, fair trade, and progressive taxation. Although he once chaired the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, Gephardt in his later years in Congress distanced himself from the organization, finding his pro-labor views at odds with the DLC's pro-business positions.

On October 10, 2002, Gephardt was among the 81 House Democrats who voted in favor of authorizing the invasion of Iraq. He was an early supporter of the war, and cosponsor of the authorization resolution. However, three years later Gephardt said of his support for the war that "It was a mistake ... I was wrong."[23]

Activities since leaving Congress

On January 3, 2005, Gephardt's three-decade political career ended with the expiration of his fourteenth term in the House of Representatives. That month, Gephardt started a consulting and lobbying firm, Gephardt Group; he is currently its president and CEO.[24] Gephardt also joined the international law firm DLA Piper as strategic advisor in the government affairs practice group between June 2005 and December 2009. [1]

In his new role as a Washington lobbyist, Gephardt, on behalf of the Republic of Turkey, has been actively lobbying against the House resolution condemning the Armenian genocide of 1915 in the Ottoman Empire. While supportive of the resolution while in Congress, he now contends that facts need to be better known before any position is taken over this historical controversy.[25]

Gephardt joined the EMBARQ Corporation Board of Directors in June 2007.[26]

In July 2007, Gephardt endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign for president, leading some to speculate that he was interested in running for vice president in 2008. DLA Piper become a major donor to Clinton's campaign, donating about $190,000.[27] Gephardt's name was mentioned by the media during the summer of 2008 as a possible vice presidential choice for eventual nominee Senator Barack Obama.

A collection of Gephardt's congressional documents, dating from 1994 to 2004, was processed from 2006 to 2007 by the Missouri Historical Society for academic use, with a grant through the Institute of Museum and Library Services.[28] In 2005, Washington University in St. Louis inaugurated the Richard A. Gephardt Institute of Public Service, which promotes volunteerism and community activism. Since 2005, Gephardt has been a consultant to Goldman Sachs and DLA Piper.[2] Since 2007 he has been a consultant to FTI Consulting.[2]

Since 2007, Gephardt began serving on the advisory board of the Extend Health insurance company, and then became a member of its board of directors. In 2009, Gephardt advised UnitedHealth Group, one of America's largest private insurers, in waging a strong campaign against a public option for national health care.[29]

In 2010, Gephardt was elected chair of the Board of Trustees of The Scripps Research Institute, a nonprofit institute focusing on biomedical research.[30]

Gephardt has also been significantly involved with the pharmaceutical industry. In addition to a large lobbying contract with the Medicines Company,[31] Gephardt serves as chair of the Council for American Medical Innovation (CAMI), formed by and affiliated with PhRMA. In this capacity he hired his own firm to lobby for the organization, to push to extend patents and block generic drugs from the market.[32]

Gephardt has also served as a lobbyist for Boeing.[33] He is a labor consultant for Spirit Aerosystems and sits on its board of directors.[34] In these roles, Mr. Gephardt has presided over an aggressive anti-union campaign that has bewildered many of his traditional political allies. In July 2011, Spirit Aerosystems walked out of negotiations with the union that represents its engineering, technical and professional workforce.[35] The union subsequently voted the company's last contract offer receiving a 96.5% rejection vote. The company did not change its contract offer significantly after this rejection and relations with its workforce have been contentious ever since. With negotiations at a standstill, production schedules for 2011 and 2012 are threatened.[36][37]

In 2009, Gephardt was named to the Board of Directors of the Ford Motor Company.[38]

Gephardt previously served as a Senior Fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center.


  • "I never felt it was inevitable that we had to go to war." — on the invasion of Iraq
  • "It's a great day for our troops, for this administration, for the people of Iraq. My hope is that this will decrease the violence our troops will have to face." — on the capture of Saddam Hussein
  • "This president is a miserable failure on foreign policy and on the economy and he's got to be replaced." — in a presidential debate on September 4, 2003
  • "I want to say a special thank you to every member of every labor union in this country who has stood by my side... throughout my career. Your fight is my fight, and it will always be that way." — conceding defeat after winning no delegates in the Iowa Democratic caucus of 2004
  • "Politics is a substitute for violence." — at the 2004 Missouri Democratic Convention


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  12. No Secrets, people, June 2, 2003
  13. Gay Daughter Joins Gephardt Campaign, ABC News, June 9, 2003
  14. Chrissy and Dick Gephardt appear on CNN to promote new film, For The Bible Tells Me So, PageOneQ, October 16, 2007
  15. Home State Record: Dick Gephardt, New Hampshire Public Radio, December 30, 2003
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  30. "Business Executive and Former U.S. House Leader Richard A. Gephardt Elected to Lead Scripps Research Institute Board of Trustees" http://www.scripps.edu/newsandviews/e_20100222/trustees.html
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  33. Carney, Timothy (2011-02-24) Who were Boeing's lobbyists?, Washington Examiner
  34. "Richard A. Gephardt Joins Onex Team", Spirit Aero news release 2005-04-29 (PDF)
  36. SPEEA Members Reject Spirit Contract Offer, Wichita Eagle
  37. Work To Rule At Spirit Disputed , Wichita Business Journal
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External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Missouri's 3rd congressional district

Succeeded by
Russ Carnahan
Party political offices
Preceded by House Majority Leader
Succeeded by
Richard Armey
Preceded by House Minority Leader
Succeeded by
Nancy Pelosi
New title Chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council
Succeeded by
Chuck Robb
Preceded by House Democratic Leader
Succeeded by
Nancy Pelosi
  1. REDIRECT Template:1988 United States presidential election