Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr. (born August 28, 1939) is an American lawyer, politician, and lobbyist who was chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1983 to 1989. Fahrenkopf is co-founder, and currently co-chairman, of the Commission on Presidential Debates, which conducts the United States general election presidential and vice presidential debates. In the private sector, Fahrenkopf most recently served as the American Gaming Association‘s first president, and retired from the position in 2013.
Early life and education
In 1962 he graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, where he was a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. In 1965 he graduated from the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.
Early legal work
After graduating from law school, Fahrenkopf was hired as an associate by the Reno law firm of Breen and Young. In 1967, he left that firm to become a partner in Sanford, Sanford, Fahrenkopf, and Mousel, another Reno law firm, and also taught criminal law at the University of Nevada. He remained a partner in the firm until 1975, when he founded Fahrenkopf, Mortimer, Sourwine, Mousel and Sloane. The new firm’s clients included hotels, casinos, liquor vendors, and construction companies. Also in the 1970s, Fahrenkopf was retained by the Washington law firm of Hogan & Hartson.
Politics prior to the RNC
In 1965, just out of law school, Fahrenkopf met all the members of the Nevada Young Republicans Club; a week later, Fahrenkopf was elected chairman of the club. Within two years the club had more than 500 members. In 1972, Fahrenkopf was the Northern Nevada co-chairman of President Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign. He was general counsel to the Nevada Republican Committee from 1972-75 and its chairman from 1975-83.
At the national level, Fahrenkopf became a member of the Republican National Committee in 1975. He was a delegate to the Republican National Conventions in 1972, 1976, and 1980. From 1977-79 he was a member of the Republican National Committee’s executive committee. From 1981-83, he was the national chairman of the Republican State Chairman’s Association.
In January 1983, Fahrenkopf was elected chairman of the Republican National Committee. Betty Heitman of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, served as his co-chairwoman from 1983-87. In 1983, Fahrenkopf was a founder of the National Endowment for Democracy, where he served as vice chairman and a board member from 1983-93. In 1984, he founded the International Republican Institute, on which he continues to serve as a board member. In 1986 he co-founded the Commission on Presidential Debates with Democratic National Committee chairman Paul G. Kirk.
Fahrenkopf served for many years as chairman of the Pacific Democrat Union and vice chairman of the International Democrat Union, a worldwide association of conservative political parties from the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Japan, Australia and twenty other nations.
In 1985, Fahrenkopf was again hired by the firm Hogan & Hartson, as a “special partner”, where he was paid at least $100,000 a year. While RNC head, he also worked for two Nevada law firms, and was a director of First Republic Bank Corporation of California.
Fahrenkopf was the longest-serving chairman of the RNC in the 20th century and the second-longest in the history of the Republican Party, leaving in 1989.
Post-RNC and other involvement
In 1989, Fahrenkopf became a full partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Hogan & Hartson, where he chaired the International Trade Practice Group. On June 1, 1995, he became the American Gaming Association‘s first chief executive. He is a member of the board of directors of the International Republican Institute.
Fahrenkopf also sits on the board of directors of six New York Stock Exchange public companies: First Republic Bank, Gabelli Equity Trust, Inc., Gabelli Utility Trust, Gabelli Global Multimedia Trust, Gabelli Dividend and Income Trust, and Gabelli Gold and Natural Resources.
His civic involvement includes service as chairman of the board of governors of the City Club of Washington, a member of the board of trustees of the E.L. Wiegand Foundation, The Economic Club of Washington and the Federal City Council. Fahrenkopf also served as a co-chairman of the Rivlin Commission, which investigated and reported on the government of the District of Columbia. He has been honored for his contributions, receiving the Junior Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Service Award in 1973, the Nevada Lung Association “Man of the Year” Award in 1983 and the National Humanitarian of the Year Award from the National Conference on Christians and Jews in 1985. He is a member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. He also serves as a trustee of the Culinary Institute of America and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA).
He has also been a frequent commentator on political and gaming issues on such network television programs as Crossfire, Inside Politics, Meet The Press, Hardball, Face the Nation, The Today Show, This Week and Good Morning America.
Fahrenkopf and his wife, the former Mary Bandoni, have three daughters: Allison, a Washington, D.C., attorney; Leslie, former associate White House Counsel to President George W. Bush; and Amy, the Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Health at the Department of Veterans Affairs He is an avid golfer, tennis player and sports enthusiast.
- “Reports and Other Projects – Private Parties – Republican National Committee Chairmen”. Center for Public Integrity. Archived from the original on 2010-08-31.
- International Republican Institute web site, accessed July 16, 2010. Archived April 28, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
- “About | The Institute of Politics”. Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
- Staff Bio at American Gaming Association website
- The Council on American Politics at GW’s Graduate School of Political Management
- Appearances on C-SPAN