Alan K. Simpson

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The Honorable
Alan K. Simpson
Alan Kooi Simpson.jpg
Chairman of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform
In office
February 18, 2010 – December 1, 2010
Serving with Erskine Bowles
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Position abolished
Senate Minority Whip
In office
January 3, 1987 – January 3, 1995
Leader Bob Dole
Preceded by Alan Cranston
Succeeded by Wendell H. Ford
Senate Majority Whip
In office
January 3, 1985 – January 3, 1987
Leader Bob Dole
Preceded by Ted Stevens
Succeeded by Alan Cranston
United States Senator
from Wyoming
In office
January 1, 1979 – January 3, 1997
Preceded by Clifford Hansen
Succeeded by Mike Enzi
Personal details
Born Alan Kooi Simpson
(1931-09-02) September 2, 1931 (age 87)
Denver, Colorado, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Ann Schroll
Relations Milward L. Simpson
Peter K. Simpson
Children William
Alma mater Cody High School
University of Wyoming
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1954-1956
Rank Second Lieutenant
Unit 5th Infantry & 2nd Armored Division

Alan Kooi Simpson (born September 2, 1931) is an American politician and member of the Republican Party, who served from 1979 to 1997 as a United States Senator from Wyoming. His father, Milward L. Simpson, was also a member of the U.S. Senate from Wyoming (1962–1967), and served as a Wyoming governor (1955–1959).

In 2010, Simpson was appointed by President Obama to co-chair the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform with Democrat co-chair Erskine Bowles of North Carolina.[1]

Early life

Simpson was born in Denver, Colorado, the son of the former Lorna Kooi, and Milward Lee Simpson. His middle name, "Kooi", comes from his mother and maternal grandfather, whose parents were Dutch immigrants.[2] In his youth, Simpson was a Boy Scout, and once visited Japanese American Boy Scouts who, along with their families, had been interned near Ralston, Wyoming, during World War II. There, he developed a friendship with Norm Mineta, who later became a Democratic U.S. representative from California, and the United States Secretary of Transportation in the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush. Mineta and Simpson served together in Congress, and on the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, and remain close friends.[3]

Simpson has an older brother, Peter K. Simpson of Cody, a historian and a former administrator at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, who served in the Wyoming House of Representatives from 1981 to 1984, having represented Sheridan County, while he was then an administrator at Sheridan College. Pete Simpson was the 1986 Republican gubernatorial nominee, having sought the office while his younger brother was serving in the U.S. Senate.

One of the Simpsons' babysitters as a young boy was the future Lieutenant Governor and Education Superintendent of Louisiana, Bill Dodd, who played baseball for a time as a young man in Cody with team mate Milward Simpson.

Alan Simpson graduated from Cody High School in Cody, Wyoming, in 1949, and attended Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, in 1950 for a postgraduate year. He graduated in 1954 from the University of Wyoming with a Bachelor of Science degree, and in 1958 with a Juris Doctor. Like his brother, he was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity at the University of Wyoming.

In 1954 he married the former Susan Ann Schroll, who was a fellow UW student from Greybull, Wyoming. He served in the United States Army in Germany from 1955 to 1956, with the 10th Infantry Regiment, Fifth Infantry Division, and with the 12th Armored Infantry Battalion, Second Armored Division.

Simpson had several run-ins with the law during his youth. An amicus brief filed before the United States Supreme Court in the juvenile imprisonment cases Graham v. Florida and Sullivan v. Florida,[4] states:

In Simpson’s words to this Court, “I was a monster.”

In that brief, in support of the claimant in the Supreme Court case, Simpson admitted that, as a juvenile, he had been on federal probation for shooting mailboxes and punching a cop and that he "was a monster".[5]

One day in Cody, Wyoming, when Simpson was in high school, he and some friends “went out to do damage.” They went to an abandoned war relocation structure and decided to “torch” it. They committed arson on federal property, a crime now punishable by up to twenty years in prison if no one is hurt, and punishable by up to life in prison if the arson causes a person’s death. Luckily for Simpson, no one was injured in the blaze.

Simpson not only played with fire, but also with guns. He played a game with his friends in which they shot at rocks close to one another, at times using bullets they stole from the local hardware store. The goal of the game was to come as close as possible to striking someone without actually doing so. Again, Simpson was lucky: no one was killed or seriously injured, or caught by their parents.

Simpson and his friends went shooting throughout their community. They fired their rifles at mailboxes, blowing holes in several and killing a cow. They fired their weapons at a road grader. “We just raised hell,” Simpson says. Federal authorities charged Simpson with destroying government property and Simpson pleaded guilty. He received two years of probation and was required to make restitution from his own funds – funds that he was supposed to obtain by holding down a job.

As he [Simpson] has described it, “The older you get, the more you realize . . . your own attitude is stupefying, and arrogant, and cocky, and a miserable way to live.” [6]

Simpson stated "I was just dumb and rebellious and stupid. And a different person." and then added, "You're not who are when you're 16 or 18. You're dumb, and you don't care and you think you are eternal."

Wyoming House of Representatives

Simpson served from 1965 to 1977 in the Wyoming House of Representatives from Park County, but he had already left the chamber four years before his brother entered it for a four-year stint.[7]

U.S. Senate

Simpson was elected to the U.S. Senate on November 7, 1978, but was appointed to the post early on January 1, 1979, following the resignation of Clifford P. Hansen. From 1985 to 1995, Simpson was the Republican whip, Assistant Republican Leader in the Senate, having served with then Republican Leader Bob Dole of Kansas. He was chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee from 1981 to 1985 and again from 1995 to 1997 when Republicans regained control of the Senate. He also chaired the Immigration and Refugee Subcommittee of Judiciary; the Nuclear Regulation Subcommittee; the Social Security Subcommittee and the Committee on Aging. In 1995, he lost the whip's job to Trent Lott of Mississippi, and he did not seek reelection to the Senate in 1996. From 1997 to 2000, Simpson taught at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and served for two years as the Director of the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School.

Simpson then returned to his home of Cody, and practices law there with his two lawyer sons (William and Colin) in the firm of Simpson, Kepler and Edwards. The three are also partners in the firm of Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh and Jardine of Englewood, Colorado. Colin M. Simpson, the third generation of his family in Wyoming politics, was a Republican member of the Wyoming House of Representatives who served as Speaker of the House for the 59th session of the Legislature, 2008 to March 2010. He was a candidate for governor, having finished fourth in the primary in 2010.

After Congressional service

Alan Simpson teaches periodically at his alma mater – the University of Wyoming at Laramie – with his brother Pete. He has completed serving as chairman of the UW capital "Campaign for Distinction", which raised $204 million. That success was celebrated by the gala event, "An Extraordinary Evening", featuring former President George H.W. Bush (who had reportedly considered Simpson for the vice presidency in 1988) and Vice President Dick Cheney – another UW alumnus – and his wife Lynne V. Cheney.

Simpson serves on the Continuity of Government Commission. He also serves as co-chairman of Americans for Campaign Reform with former Senate colleagues Bill Bradley of New Jersey, Warren Rudman of New Hampshire and Bob Kerrey of Nebraska; is active with the National Commission on Writing; is on the Advisory Board of Common Good (a legal reform coalition); is a former member of the American Battle Monuments Commission, and was a member of the Iraq Study Group.

Alan Simpson has been an outspoken advocate for access to abortion stating that the matter should not be a political issue in a party that believes in "government out of our lives" and "the right to be left alone" and "the precious right of privacy". He supports gay and lesbian rights, and equality regardless of race, color, creed, gender, or sexual orientation. In an article in The Washington Post, Simpson wrote an article criticizing the since ended "Don't ask, don't tell" policy stating "'Gay' is an artificial category that says little about a person. Our differences and prejudices pale next to our historic challenge."

In 2001, Simpson became Honorary Chairman of the Republican Unity Coalition (RUC), a gay/straight alliance within the Republican Party. In this capacity, Simpson personally recruited former U.S. President Gerald R. Ford, Jr., to serve on the RUC advisory board.

In 2002, Simpson was involved in the Republican gubernatorial primary on behalf of former Democrat Eli Bebout of Riverton. Simpson criticized Bebout's principal challengers Raymond Breedlove Hunkins of Wheatland, and Bill Sniffen of Lander in Fremont County. Bebout defeated the two but then lost the general election to the Democratic nominee Dave Freudenthal, a former United States Attorney appointed by U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Simpson is a partner, along with his two sons Colin Simpson and Bill Simpson, in the trial lawyers law firm Burg, Simpson, Eldredge, Hersh & Jardine, P.C., headquartered in Denver, Colorado. The firm is nationally known for its mass torts plaintiff practice against pharmaceutical companies.

Simpson was an honorary board member of the humanitarian organization Wings of Hope.[8]

In 2006, Simpson was one of ten member (five Democratic and five Republican) contributors to the Iraq Study Group Report.

Simpson was appointed in 2010 to co-chair President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform with co-chair Erskine Bowles.[1]

Simpson has spoken extensively about the burden being placed on future generations by the structure of current entitlement programmes. In an opinion piece "Young Americans get the shaft" published in The Washington Post on June 13, 2012, Matt Miller recounted asking Simpson (then a US Senator) in 1995 how to fix this problem. Miller stated that Simpson told him "nothing would change until someone like me could walk into his office and say, 'I'm from the American Association of Young People. We have 30 million members, and we're watching you, Simpson. You [mess with] us and we'll take you out.'"

In 2012, he was included in the 50 Most Influential list of Bloomberg Markets magazine.

In 2014, Simpson signed on as Co-Chair for the Advisory Board of Issue One, a nonprofit organization which seeks to reduce the role of money in politics.[9]

Simpson has been criticized for his speaking fees.[10]

In popular culture

The June 7, 1994, edition of the now-defunct supermarket tabloid Weekly World News reported that 12 U.S. senators were aliens from other planets, including Simpson. The Associated Press ran a follow-up piece which confirmed the tongue-in-cheek participation of Senate offices in the story. Then-Senator Simpson's spokesman Charles Pelkey, when asked about Simpson's galactic origins, told the AP: "We've got only one thing to say: Klaatu barada nikto".[11] This was a reference to the 1951 science fiction classic film, The Day the Earth Stood Still, in which an alien arrives by flying saucer in Washington, D.C.

Simpson also played himself in a cameo appearance for the 1993 film Dave.[12]

In December 2012, Simpson filmed a Gangnam Style video for a campaign, with a man in a tin can costume. The video, aimed at young people, is called "The Can Kicks Back," a reference to members of Congress tendencies to forever "kick the can down the road" in order to avoid making difficult decisions about lowering the nation's ballooning debt. In the video, Simpson admonishes younger Americans to make better use of their social media than "instagramming your breakfast and tweeting your first-world problems." He advises younger people to use their considerable social media skills and resources to rally their friends to join The Can Kicks Back. If younger Americans don't take heed, Simpson says, "These old coots will clean out the Treasury before you get there."


  • Right in the Old Gazoo: A Lifetime of Scrapping with the Press (William Morrow & Company, 1997, ISBN 0-688-11358-3)


  1. 1.0 1.1 Weisman, Jonathan (February 17, 2010). "Bowles, Simpson to Head Debt Commission". The Wall Street Journal.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Congressional Record, Volume 141 Issue 14 (Tuesday, January 24, 1995)". Retrieved 2015-12-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Matthews, Chris (2002). "A Pair of Boy Scouts". Scouting Magazine. Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved 2006-12-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Hudsn, David (2010). "Adult Time for Adult Crimes". ABA Journal online. American Bar Association. Retrieved 2010-05-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Nos. 08-7412 and 08-7621 IN The Supreme Court of the United States TERRANCE JAMAR GRAHAM Petitioner, v. FLORIDA Respondent. JOE HARRIS SULLIVAN Petitioner, v. FLORIDA Respondent. On Writs of Certiorari from the District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District, page 11. July 23, 2009.
  7. "Wyoming Legislator Database". Retrieved November 1, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Start Page". Retrieved 2015-12-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Campaign Finance Reform is Possible". Issue One. Retrieved 2015-12-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Green, Joshua (28 February 2013). "Why Won't Americans Listen to Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles?". Business Week. Retrieved 3 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Senators Jokingly Confirm Tabloid Claim They Are Space Aliens", Associated Press, May 25, 1994
  12. "Alan Simpson (II)". Retrieved 2015-12-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • "Call For Help". This American Life. 9 May 2014. WBEZ. Retrieved 11 May 2014. Unknown parameter |city= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> The story of how Simpson acted as relationship counsellor for a constituent.

External links

United States Senate
Preceded by
Clifford Hansen
United States Senator (Class 2) from Wyoming
Served alongside: Malcolm Wallop, Craig Thomas
Succeeded by
Mike Enzi
Preceded by
Alan Cranston
Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee
Succeeded by
Frank Murkowski
Preceded by
Ted Stevens
Majority Whip of the Senate
Succeeded by
Alan Cranston
Preceded by
Alan Cranston
Minority Whip of the Senate
Succeeded by
Wendell H. Ford
Preceded by
Jay Rockefeller
Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee
Succeeded by
Arlen Specter
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ted Stevens
Deputy Leader of the Republican Party in the Senate
Succeeded by
Trent Lott
Government offices
New office Chairman of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform
Served alongside: Erskine Bowles
Position abolished