Joseph Lieberman — Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee

“Independent Democrat” At Helm of Oversight Committee Prefers Legislating to Investigating

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 Updated:

If the results of the closely contested 2000 election had gone slightly differently, Joseph I. Lieberman might have spent at least four years helping to run the executive branch of government. But, instead of becoming the 46th Vice President of the United States, the junior senator from Connecticut has been overseeing the operations of the executive branch as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

Though a member of the Senate’s Democratic caucus — and, of course, the party’s 2000 vice presidential nominee — Lieberman, 68, has officially identified as an “Independent Democrat” since the start of his fourth term in 2007. This change came after the then-Democrat lost his party’s nomination in the 2006 primary to challenger Ned Lamont and proceeded to beat Lamont in the general election by instead running on the Connecticut for Lieberman Party ticket.

Lieberman began his political career in the Connecticut Senate in 1970 and was elected state attorney general in 1982. In 1988, he was narrowly elected to the U.S. Senate over incumbent Republican Lowell Weicker (50 percent to 49). He was re-elected easily in 1994 and 2000. A defense hawk, Lieberman was one of just 10 Democrats in the Senate to vote to authorize the 1991 Gulf War and was the most forceful Democratic proponent of the 2003 Iraq War effort. He also earned significant notice in September 1998 for his Senate floor speech blasting President Clinton for his extramarital affair with a White House intern.

After serving as Al Gore’s running-mate in 2000, he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination in 2004. Four years later, he crossed the aisle to endorse Republican John McCain’s presidential bid and reportedly was strongly considered to be the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee.

In January 2001 and again from the summer of 2001 through the start of 2003, Lieberman chaired what was then the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. He used the committee to focus on corporate accountability and environmental regulation, and to help create the Department of Homeland Security. In 2005, the committee was renamed to emphasize its homeland security jurisdiction and, two years later, Lieberman replaced Republican Susan Collins as its chair. Lieberman and Collins, both New England moderates, have worked closely together; in 2006, the pair unsuccessfully sought to create an independent office to oversee Senate ethics.

Lieberman shied away from using the committee to launch inquiries into the Bush administration, saying, “We like to do legislation. We don’t like investigations.” Among the committee priorities highlighted on his website are examining “homegrown terrorism and violent Islamist radicalization,” cyber-network security, pandemic preparation, and domestic partner benefits for federal employees.

Lieberman’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Top PAC Contributors

  • AT&T Inc., the telecommunications giant — at least $20,500
  • Northrop Grumman Corp., a major defense contractor — at least $15,000
  • Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., a prominent life insurance and financial services company — at least $15,000
  • Verizon Communications Inc., another telecommunications behemoth — at least $14,000
  • International Association of Fire Fighters, the labor union representing more than 298,000 professional fire fighters and paramedics — at least $12,500
  • The Travelers Companies Inc., a property casualty insurance company based in Hartford, Conn. — at least $12,500
  • PACs gave at least $370,000 to Lieberman’s campaign account and his Reuniting Our Country leadership PAC

Revolving Door

  • Maria L. Berthoud, a former Lieberman aide, is senior vice president at B&D Consulting and lobbies for Baxter Healthcare, Carbon Motors Corporation, FCCI Insurance Group, and the Environmental Defense Action Fund
  • Laird Burnett, a former health policy adviser to Lieberman, is now a lobbyist for the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan
  • Anne Saunders Fabry, special assistant to Lieberman’s chief of staff from 1989 to 1992, is director of the government law and strategies practice at Brown Rudnick’s DC office, where she lobbies for Mutual of Omaha, Phoenix Companies, Oracle Corporation, and Toyota Motor North America
  • Kenneth Glueck, former Lieberman aide, is senior vice president at Oracle Corporation
  • Michael Lewan, Lieberman’s chief of staff from 1989 to 1993, is a principal at Brown Rudnick, where he lobbies for clients including Toyota Motor North America, New York Life, the American Gas Association, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, and the National Association of Dental Plans
  • John Nakahata, a telecom legislative aide to Lieberman from 1990 to 1995, is a partner at Wiltshire & Grannis LLP, where he lobbies on behalf of Arbitron
  • Joyce A. Rechtschaffen a former legislative and committee aide to Lieberman, is director of government affairs for Princeton University

Earmarks

  • Between 2008 and 2010, Liebermann obtained more than $448 million in earmarks, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense
  • In 2010, he obtained more than $115 million in earmarks including $3.6 million for Alion Science and Technology Inc. for Continuous Active Sonar for Torpedo DCL Systems, $4.4 million for General Dynamics Electric Boat for Future Dry Deck Shelter, and $4 million for United Technologies and Honeywell for their Advanced Affordable Turbine Engine Program

CORRECTION: 1/14/11 An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed Chris Andresen among Lieberman's former staff turned lobbyists.

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