Ken Salazar

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The Honorable
Ken Salazar
Ken Salazar official DOI portrait.jpg
50th United States Secretary of the Interior
In office
January 20, 2009 – April 12, 2013
President Barack Obama
Deputy David Hayes
Preceded by Dirk Kempthorne
Succeeded by Sally Jewell
United States Senator
from Colorado
In office
January 3, 2005 – January 20, 2009
Preceded by Ben Campbell
Succeeded by Michael Bennet
36th Attorney General of Colorado
In office
January 12, 1999 – January 3, 2005
Governor Bill Owens
Preceded by Gale Norton
Succeeded by John Suthers
Personal details
Born Kenneth Lee Salazar
(1955-03-02) March 2, 1955 (age 66)
Alamosa, Colorado, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Hope Salazar
Alma mater Colorado College
University of Michigan Law School
Religion Roman Catholicism

Kenneth Lee "Ken" Salazar (born March 2, 1955) served as the 50th United States Secretary of the Interior, in the administration of President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2013. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously served as a United States Senator from Colorado from 2005 to 2009. He and Mel Martinez (R-Florida) were the first Hispanic U.S. Senators since 1977; they were joined by Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) in January 2006. Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate, he served as Attorney General of Colorado from 1999 to 2005.

On December 17, 2008, President-elect Obama announced he would nominate Salazar as U.S. Secretary of the Interior. The environmentalist movement's reaction to this nomination was mixed.[1][2] Previously, Salazar supported the nomination of Gale Norton to Secretary of the Interior,[3] President George W. Bush's first appointee who preceded Salazar as Colorado Attorney General. On January 20, 2009, Salazar was confirmed by unanimous consent in the Senate.

On January 16, 2013, it was reported that Salazar planned to resign his post as Secretary of the Interior in March 2013, but his resignation was delayed pending Senate confirmation of his successor, Sally Jewell.[4][5][6] On June 10, 2013 he became a partner in the major international law firm of WilmerHale, and was tasked with opening a Denver office for the firm.[7]

Early life and family

Ken Salazar was born in Alamosa, Colorado, the son of Emma M. and Henry (Enrique) S. Salazar. His elder brother is former Congressman John Salazar.[8] He grew up near Manassa, in the community of Los Rincones in the San Luis Valley area of south-central Colorado. Salazar attended St. Francis Seminary and Centauri High School in La Jara, graduating in 1973. He later attended Colorado College, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science in 1977, and received his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Michigan Law School in 1981. Later Salazar was awarded honorary degrees (Doctor of Laws) from Colorado College (1993) and the University of Denver (1999). After graduating, Salazar started private law practice.

Salazar has ancestors in the Southwestern United States dating back from the 16th century, when that region was part of New Spain.[9] He has identified as Mexican American and said: "I've been taunted, called names—from dirty Mexican to lots of other names—as I was growing up, and even now as a United States senator."[10]

Salazar and his wife, Hope, have two daughters and one granddaughter.

State Cabinet member

In 1986, Salazar became chief legal counsel to then Governor Roy Romer; in 1990, Romer appointed him to his Cabinet as Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. In this position, he authored the Great Outdoors Colorado Amendment, which created a massive land conservation program of which he became chairman. Salazar also created the Youth in Natural Resources program to provide for environmental education in public schools. In his cabinet role, he established reforms that forced mining and petroleum operations to better protect the surrounding environment.[11]

Colorado Attorney General

In 1994, Salazar returned to private practice. In 1998, he was elected state attorney general; he was reelected to this position in 2002. Police operations were streamlined under Salazar, and several new branches of law enforcement were created: the Gang Prosecution Unit, the Environmental Crimes Unit, and the General Fugitive Prosecutive Unit, which targeted murderers. He also worked to strengthen consumer protection and anti-fraud laws, as well as to protect children through new policy designed to crack down on sex offenders.[11]

U.S. Senator

File:Ken Salazar campaign logo 2004.png
2004 campaign logo. Salazar's slogan was "Fighting for Colorado's land, water, and people."

In 2004, Salazar declared his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell. Salazar considers himself a moderate and has at times taken positions that are in disagreement with the base of his party—for example, he opposed gay adoption for a number of years. Salazar fell behind to candidate Mike Miles early in the state's caucus process. The national Democratic Party backed Salazar with contributions from the DSCC, and Salazar came back to defeat Miles in the Democratic primary, going on to defeat beer executive Pete Coors of the Coors Brewing Company and win the general election for the Senate seat. His elder brother John also had an electoral victory in 2004, winning a race for the U.S. House of Representatives from Colorado's 3rd congressional district.

He took office on January 4, 2005.

Soon after arriving in the Senate, Salazar generated controversy within his party by introducing Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales and sitting by his side during Gonzales' confirmation hearings.

Ken Salazar as U.S. Senator from Colorado

On May 23, 2005, Salazar was among the Gang of 14 moderate senators to forge a compromise on the Democrats' use of the filibuster against judicial appointments, thus blocking the Republican leadership's attempt to implement the so-called "nuclear option". Under the agreement, the Democrats would retain the power to filibuster a Bush judicial nominee only in an "extraordinary circumstance", and the three most conservative Bush appellate court nominees (Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen and William Pryor) would receive a vote by the full Senate. Salazar has skirmished with Focus on the Family, a Colorado-based conservative Christian group of national stature, over his stance on judicial nominees.

In 2005, Salazar voted against increasing fuel-efficiency standards (CAFE) for cars and trucks, a vote that the League of Conservation Voters believes is anti-environment. In the same year, Salazar voted against an amendment to repeal tax breaks for ExxonMobil and other major petroleum companies.[12]

In August 2006, Ken Salazar supported fellow Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman in his primary race against Ned Lamont in Connecticut. Lamont, running primarily as an anti-war candidate, won the primary. Salazar's continued support of Lieberman, who successfully ran as an independent against Lamont, has rankled the anti-war wing of the Democratic Party.

In 2006, Salazar voted to end protections that limit offshore oil drilling in Florida's Gulf Coast.[13]

In 2007, Salazar was one of only a handful of Democrats to vote against a bill that would require the United States Army Corps of Engineers to consider global warming when planning water projects.[14]

According to Project Vote Smart, Ken Salazar received a 25 percent vote rating for 2007 by the Humane Society of the United States,[15] a zero percent vote rating for 2005-2006 by Fund for Animals,[16] a 60 percent vote rating for 2007 by Defenders of Wildlife,[17] and a zero percent vote rating on the Animal Welfare Institute Compassion Index.[18] He also supported the Bush Administration's release of lands in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for emergency haying in Colorado's Yuma and Phillips Counties.[19] Salazar has an 81 percent lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters, including a 100 percent rating for the year 2008.[20]

Salazar resigned his Senate seat on January 20, 2009, upon his confirmation by the Senate to become Secretary of the Interior under President Barack Obama.[21]

Electoral history

Colorado U.S. Senate Race 2004
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Ken Salazar 1,081,188 51.3
Republican Pete Coors 980,668 47.4
Democratic gain from Republican

Secretary of the Interior

Maria Burks, commissioner of the National Parks of New York Harbor, and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar at the Statue of Liberty in May 2009

Salazar accepted Obama's offer to join his cabinet as the Secretary of the Interior.[22] His appointment required a Saxbe fix by Congress.[23] On January 7, 2009, Congress approved a bill, S.J.Res. 3, and President George W. Bush signed it into law, providing such a fix by reducing the Secretary of Interior's salary to the level it was prior to the time Salazar took office in January 2009.

The Senate confirmed Salazar's nomination by voice vote on January 20, 2009, shortly after Obama was sworn in as President.[24] As Secretary of the Interior, Salazar is in charge of the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the United States Geological Survey, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other federal agencies overseen by the Interior Department.

Salazar was one of two Hispanics serving in Obama's Cabinet, along with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis of California. Salazar is the second Hispanic Interior Secretary after Manuel Lujan, Jr., who held the post from 1989 to 1993 under President George H. W. Bush.

Several prominent environmentalist groups are wary of Salazar, noting his strong ties with the coal and mining industries. Kieran Suckling, executive director of Center for Biological Diversity, which tracks endangered species and habitat issues states "He [Ken Salazar] is a right-of-center Democrat who often favors industry and big agriculture in battles over global warming, fuel efficiency and endangered species."[25]

The nomination was praised, however, by Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters. Upon the nomination, Karpinski said, "Throughout his career, Senator Salazar has campaigned on a pledge of support for 'our land, our water, our people.' With a perfect 100% score on the 2008 LCV Scorecard, he has lived up to that pledge. As a westerner, Senator Salazar has hands on experience with land and water issues, and will restore the Department of the Interior's role as the steward of America's public resources. We look forward to working with him to protect the health of America's land, water, and people in the coming years."[26]

Although Senate Republicans were expected to raise questions concerning Salazar's stances on oil shale development and drilling in environmentally sensitive areas,[27] Salazar was one of several Obama Cabinet appointees confirmed in the Senate by voice vote on January 20, 2009, shortly after Obama's inauguration. Salazar became the 50th Secretary of the Interior succeeding Dirk Kempthorne, who praised Salazar's appointment.[28]

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter appointed Denver Superintendent of Schools Michael Bennet to replace Salazar and to finish his term in the Senate, which expired in January 2011.

On January 23, 2009, Salazar stated that he is considering reopening the Statue of Liberty's crown to tourists. The crown has been closed to the public since the September 11, 2001 attacks. "I hope we can find a way", Salazar said in a statement. "It would proclaim to the world—both figuratively and literally—that the path to the light of liberty is open to all."[29]

On March 6, 2009 Salazar agreed to move forward with the Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to remove the Rocky Mountain gray wolf from the Endangered Species List in Montana and Idaho, but not Wyoming. Minimum recovery goal for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains is at least 30 breeding pairs and at least 300 wolves for at least three consecutive years, a goal that was attained in 2002 and has been exceeded every year since. (There are currently about 95 breeding pairs and 1,600 wolves in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming.)[30] Salazar, a former rancher has come under criticism of groups like the Defenders of Wildlife for this decision, and lack of protection of wolves.

On May 9, 2009, Salazar announced the upholding of a Bush-era policy that prevents the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions via the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a policy he pledged to reevaluate when he took office in January. The policy states that, despite the apparent negative impact global warming has on polar bears, an endangered species, greenhouse gasses cannot be regulated with the ESA. Salazar stated in a conference call announcing the decision that "The single greatest threat to the polar bear is the melting of Arctic Sea ice due to climate change," but the Endangered Species Act "is not the appropriate tool for us to deal with what is a global issue." The decision was met with criticism from environmental groups and praise from energy groups including the American Petroleum Institute, some Democrats and many Republicans. Salazar contended in the same conference call that the ESA was never intended to be used for the regulation of climate change, while sidestepping questions of how this situation is different from that of the Clean Air Act, which is currently being used by the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate emissions.[31]

With Governor Bill Ritter's announcement on January 6, 2010, that he would not seek re-election as Governor,[32] speculation began to swirl about a possible Salazar candidacy that year. Congressman John Salazar, Secretary Salazar's brother, told local media that he thought his brother would likely seek the governor's mansion. Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper indicated that while he was considering a run himself, he would "do everything [he could] to help him get elected."[33] Both the Secretary's brother, John, and the Obama Administration urged him to run for Governor,[34] but he ultimately declined and endorsed Hickenlooper's campaign.[35]

On 28 April 2010, Ken Salazar approved the Cape Wind offshore wind farm.[36][37]

He has dealt with criticism after pushing to impose tougher leasing rules and cancel a series of planned drilling operations in Alaska and elsewhere. Salazar has dealt with criticism over his handling of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, both because of the way his agency handled the permitting process for underwater drilling, and also because of the way the aftermath of the spill has been handled by the government.[38]

As Secretary of the Interior, Salazar was the designated survivor for the 2011 State of the Union Address.

In 2012, Salazar spoke at the commencement ceremony for the 2012 class at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.[39]


In November, 2012, asked a question he did not like by a reporter for The Gazette of Colorado Springs regarding Salazar's association with hauler who shipped wild horses to slaughter plants, Salazar told the reporter, "If you do that to me again, I’ll punch you out". Salazar later apologized.[40][41]

In May, 2010 Salazar testified to Congress that he had issued a "hit the pause button" order and that no new permits had been issued since the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. However, a new deepwater well had been started in the Gulf since April 20, and the Department of the Interior under Salazar had "issued permits for at least seventeen other new offshore oil projects." [42]

See also


  1. Brady, Jeff (16 December 2008). "Environmentalists Fuming Over Salazar's New Post". National Public Radio.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Broder, Jim M. (17 December 2008). "Environmentalists Wary of Obama's Interior Pick". The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. CNN Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  4. "AP Source: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Leaving". January 16, 2013. Retrieved January 16, 2013. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  5. "AP Source: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to leave administration in March". January 16, 2013. Retrieved January 16, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "AP source: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar leaving". January 16, 2013. Retrieved January 16, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Lynn Bartels (June 5, 2013). "Colorado's Ken Salazar joins top law firm, will open a Denver office". The Denver Post. Retrieved June 6, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Altman, Alex (December 18, 2008). "Interior Secretary: Ken Salazar". Time. Retrieved May 7, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Ken Salazar". Infoplease.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Johnson, Kirk (June 11, 2006). "At Fore on Immigration, Senator Has a Story to Tell". The New York Times. Retrieved February 4, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> "...I became the first Mexican-American in the history of our country to ever be elected outside the state of New Mexico."
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Biography of Senator Ken Salazar". U.S. Senator Ken Salazar. United States Senate.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "2005 National Environmental Scorecard" (PDF). League of Conservation Voters.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "2006 National Environmental Scorecard" (PDF). League of Conservation Voters.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "2007 National Environmental Scorecard" (PDF). League of Conservation Voters.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "The Humane Society of the United States". Project Vote Smart. 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Fund for Animals". Project Vote Smart.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund". Project Vote Smart. 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Compassion Index". Animal Welfare Institute.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "Sen. Salazar Lauds USDA's Decision to Allow CRP Haying in Yuma, Phillips Counties" (Press release). U.S. Senator Ken Salazar. 2008-08-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO)". League of Conservation Voters.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Ken Salazar Resigns From Senate". Associated Press. 2009-01-19. Retrieved 2009-01-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Lowery, Courtney (2008-12-17). "Salazar, Vilsack: The West's New Land Lords". NewWest.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "Congress to cut Cabinet salaries -- again". Yahoo! News. Yahoo! Inc. 2008-12-19. Retrieved 2008-12-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Abrams, Jim (2009-01-20). "Senate confirms 6 cabinet secretaries, puts off vote on Clinton". Associated Press. Archived from the original on January 22, 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-20. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Broder, Jim M. (17 December 2008). "Environmentalists Wary of Obama's Interior Pick". The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. "New Cabinet Choices Reaffirm Obama's New Direction on Energy and the Environment" (Press release). League of Conservation Voters. 2008-12-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Sprengelmeyer, M.E. (17 December 2008). "Interior Secretary Salazar: Confirmation outlook smooth". Yahoo! News. Yahoo! Inc.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. "Dirk Kempthorne says Sen. Ken Salazar will make a fine Interior secretary". Idaho Statesman. 17 December 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. "Salazar Visits Statue of Liberty, May Reopen Crown". 2009-01-23. Retrieved 2009-01-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. "Secretary Salazar Affirms Decision to Delist Gray Wolves in Western Great Lakes, Portion of Northern Rockies". 2009-03-06. Archived from the original on March 11, 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-05. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. Tankersley, Jim (2009-05-09). "No global warming crackdown for polar bears". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-05-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. Riley, Michael (January 6, 2010). "Salazar gets White House OK for run". Denver Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. Krasny, Ros. Cape Wind, first U.S. offshore wind farm, approved Reuters, 28 April 2010. Retrieved 2 May 2010
  37. Jackson, Derrick Z. The winds of change Boston Globe, 1 May 2010. Retrieved 2 May 2010
  38. Mason, Julie (2010-06-02). "Salazar may become fall guy in oil spill debacle". The Washington Examiner. Retrieved 2010-06-02. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  39. U.S. Secretary of Interior Headlines UMass Lowell Commencement
  40. "Colorado: Interior Secretary Apologizes to Reporter". The New York Times. Associated Press. November 14, 2012. Retrieved November 15, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  42. The Nation, Mark Hertsgaard, May 27,2010

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Gale Norton
Attorney General of Colorado
January 12, 1999–January 4, 2005
Succeeded by
John Suthers
Party political offices
Preceded by
Dottie Lamm
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Colorado
(Class 3)

Succeeded by
Michael Bennet
United States Senate
Preceded by
Ben Campbell
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Colorado
Served alongside: Wayne Allard, Mark Udall
Succeeded by
Michael Bennet
Political offices
Preceded by
Dirk Kempthorne
United States Secretary of the Interior
Succeeded by
Sally Jewell