Sheldon Whitehouse (born October 20, 1955) is an American lawyer and politician serving as the junior United States Senator from Rhode Island since 2007. He is a member of the Democratic Party and previously served as a United States Attorney from 1993 to 1998 and as the Attorney General of Rhode Island from 1999 to 2003.
Early life and education
Whitehouse was born in New York City, New York, the son of Mary Celine (née Rand) and career diplomat Charles Sheldon Whitehouse, and grandson of diplomat Sheldon Whitehouse (1883–1965). Among his great-great-grandfathers were Episcopalian bishop Henry John Whitehouse and railroad magnate Charles Crocker, who was among the founders of the Central Pacific Railroad. Whitehouse graduated from St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, and from Yale College in 1978. He received his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1982.
Whitehouse worked as a clerk for Judge Richard F. Neely of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia from 1982 to 1983. He also worked in the Rhode Island Attorney General‘s office as a special assistant attorney general from 1985 to 1990, chief of the Regulatory Unit (which oversaw utilities) from 1988 to 1990, and also an assistant attorney general from 1989 to 1990.
Whitehouse worked as Rhode Island Governor Bruce Sundlun’s Executive Counsel beginning in 1991, and was later tapped to serve as Director of Policy. He oversaw the state’s response to the Rhode Island Share and Deposit Indemnity Corporation (RISDIC) banking crisis, which took place right after Sundlun took office. Whitehouse was appointed by Sundlun to be the state’s Director of Business Regulation in 1992, where he oversaw a drastic reform in the state’s workers’ compensation insurance system.
Early political career
President Bill Clinton appointed Whitehouse United States Attorney for Rhode Island in 1994. Whitehouse held the position for four years. With the 1996 extortion conviction of mobster Gerard Ouimette, he was the first prosecutor to convict a member of organized crime under Clinton’s “three strikes law“. Whitehouse also initiated the investigation into municipal corruption in Rhode Island that led to Operation Plunder Dome, in which Mayor of Providence Vincent “Buddy” Cianci was eventually convicted on conspiracy charges. As US Attorney for Rhode Island, Whitehouse oversaw an increase in environmental protection efforts, including an investigation into a Narragansett Bay oil spill that yielded the largest fine in state history.
State Attorney General
In 1998, Whitehouse was elected Rhode Island Attorney General. He initiated a lawsuit against the lead paint industry that ended in a mistrial; the state later won a second lawsuit against former lead paint manufacturers Sherwin Williams Co., Millennium Holdings, and NL Industries that found them responsible for creating a public nuisance. This decision, however, was unanimously overturned by the Rhode Island Supreme Court on July 1, 2008. The Court found that under Rhode Island law it is the responsibility of property owners to abate and mitigate lead hazards.
Whitehouse also founded the Rhode Island Quality Institute, “an organization dedicated to improving health care quality in the State of Rhode Island”. He also authorized the first Rhode Island State Police wiretap to investigate public corruption.
When black Providence police officer Cornel Young Jr. was shot and killed by two fellow officers while he was off-duty in January 2000, Whitehouse was criticized for not appointing an independent prosecutor to investigate the shooting. Later that year, Whitehouse was criticized when 15-year-old Jennifer Rivera, a witness in a murder case, was shot by a relative of the man she was to testify against later that year. After Rivera’s shooting, Whitehouse strengthened the state’s witness protection program.
2002 gubernatorial election
In 2006, Whitehouse ran for the seat occupied by Senator Lincoln Chafee, a Republican seeking a second full term. After winning the Democratic primary by a large margin, Whitehouse went on to defeat Chafee with 53 percent of the vote.
On November 6, 2012, Whitehouse won reelection to a second term in office, easily defeating Republican challenger Barry Hinckley, “both in state results and in local towns. Whitehouse won by 30 points, with 64.9 percent of the vote in Rhode Island”.
On November 6, 2018, Whitehouse was reelected to a third term, defeating Republican Robert Flanders by 23 points.
Whitehouse voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Budget Control Act. He voted against Cut, Cap and Balance and the debt ceiling increase. Earlier in his first term, he voted for the Stimulus package and the TARP. He voted against cap and trade, but sponsored Offshoring Prevention and supported the Global Warming Reduction Act.
In traditionally liberal Rhode Island, both the Democratic Whitehouse and his predecessor, Republican Lincoln Chafee, hold liberal political positions. But Whitehouse has been to the left of Chafee on economic issues, a position that separated him from his opponent in the last election. In 2007, Whitehouse was ranked the second-most liberal senator by the National Journal.
Whitehouse supports stem cell research, abortion rights, LGBT rights and gay marriage, as well as affirmative action. He has publicly supported a reintroduction of the Equal Rights Amendment. Like Chafee, Whitehouse opposed intervention in Iraq (Chafee was the only Republican senator to vote against it).
Whitehouse supports a more progressive tax system and strongly opposed the Bush tax cuts and proposals to repeal the Estate Tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax. He is in favor of gun control and has spoken out against the Patriot Act. Whitehouse supported introducing a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, stating that the United States must use caution in the future and avoid engaging in military action in Iran.
Despite a generally pro-rehabilitation stance on crime, Whitehouse supports the federal use of the death penalty, but opposes its use at the state level in Rhode Island. Whitehouse also opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement and other similar proposals. He has styled himself as a supporter of fair trade and is opposed to using presidential authority to “fast-track” normalized trade relations.
In addition, Whitehouse has stated that he does not want torture abuse by the Bush administration to be “papered over”, and supports a commission to uncover its war crimes.
Whitehouse has faced some criticism for alleged insider trading, avoiding big losses by trading stocks after top federal officials warned congressional leaders of “the coming economic cataclysm” in September 2008.
PolitiFact determined that Whitehouse falsely claimed Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget blueprint “gets rid of Medicare in 10 years.” Whitehouse claimed to have meant that Ryan’s plan would have ended Medicare “as we know it”, turning it into a voucher program.
In a 2018 interview with the Providence Journal, Whitehouse expressed opposition to D.C. statehood. He was dismissive of efforts to give District residents representation in Congress, suggesting they should be satisfied with the amount of federal activity nearby.
Whitehouse supported a vote that would limit continuing US support for the War in Yemen. Initially, Whitehouse was one of the two Democratic holdouts in the Senate, but an activist effort, including mobilizing fans of the Rhode Island band Downtown Boys, contributed to changing his position.
During the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Whitehouse cautioned that conservative opposition to the bill was moving toward historical incidences of mob violence, saying, “Too many colleagues are embarked on a desperate, no-holds-barred mission of propaganda, obstruction and fear…cautions us of the excesses to which these malignant, vindictive passions can ultimately lead. Tumbrils have rolled through taunting crowds. Broken glass has sparkled in darkened streets. Strange fruit has hung from southern trees”.
In September 2017, Whitehouse announced he would co-sponsor the Medicare For All Act alongside sixteen of his Senate colleagues.
In November 2011, ThinkProgress reported Whitehouse’s introduction of a bill that would require federal natural resource agencies to be concerned with the long-term effects of climate change, and to encourage the preparation of natural resource adaptation plans by the states. The Safeguarding America’s Future and Environment Act (SAFE) Act also “would create a science advisory board to ensure that the planning uses the best available science”.
In reference to the proposed action on mandatory emissions curbs, Whitehouse told The Hill that “I am not hearing anybody on our side, even the people who are more economically concerned about the climate legislation who come from coal states, that sort of thing, saying, ‘What are we going to say about this, is this a problem?'”
In May 2011, Whitehouse introduced legislation to support coastal jobs and protect oceans. The National Endowment for the Oceans, Coasts, and Great Lakes Act (S.973) is pending.
Whitehouse has said that development of alternate energy sources, including solar power, will eliminate U.S. dependence on foreign oil. He has cited the installation of new solar panels on three new bank branches in Rhode Island, saying that the projects “created jobs, they put people to work, they lowered the cost for these banks of their electrical energy, and they get us off foreign oil and away, step by step, from these foreign entanglements that we have to get into to defend our oil supply”. In regard to these comments, PolitiFact investigated the economics of renewable energy and determined that solar and wind investments would not have a large effect on oil consumption, calling Whitehouse’s comments “mostly false” due to “this misimpression—and because of the other inaccuracies in Whitehouse’s speech”.
On November 14, 2013, Whitehouse gave his 50th weekly Senate speech on climate change. The series of speeches highlights the science of climate change and offers paths for the United States to take strong action.
In a May 29, 2015, Washington Post editorial, Whitehouse advocated prosecution of members of the fossil fuel industry under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), in order to investigate their interest in anti-global-warming advocacy.
In April 2019 Whitehouse was one of 12 senators to sign a bipartisan letter to top senators on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development advocating that the Energy Department be granted maximum funding for carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), arguing that American job growth could be stimulated by investment in capturing carbon emissions and expressing disagreement with President Trump’s 2020 budget request to combine the two federal programs that do carbon capture research.
U.S. Attorney controversy
|Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy|
In the spring of 2007, Whitehouse joined other Senators in pressuring for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s resignation. After Gonzales’s first appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee related to the controversy, Whitehouse told NPR, “[Gonzales] had a hard sell to make to me, and he didn’t make it.” He continued to question Gonzales’s service in the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy.
- Committee on Budget
- Committee on Environment and Public Works
- Committee on Finance
- Committee on the Judiciary
- Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
- International Narcotics Control Caucus
On August 3, 2007, it was announced that Whitehouse would receive the Golden Gavel award, having presided over Senate debates for more than 100 hours in his first six months in office.
- Healthy Kids Caucus
- International Conservation Caucus (Co-Chair)
- International Narcotics Control Caucus
- Senate Oceans Caucus (Co-Chair)
- Afterschool Caucuses
|Democratic||Antonio J. Pires||26,838||22.45|
|Democratic||Christopher F. Young||8,939||10.52|
|Republican||Lincoln Chafee (incumbent)||178,950||46.48%||-10.40%|
|Democratic gain from Republican||Swing|
|Democratic||Sheldon Whitehouse (incumbent)||60,223||100|
|Democratic||Sheldon Whitehouse (incumbent)||271,034||64.81%||+11.29%|
|Democratic||Sheldon Whitehouse (incumbent)||89,140||76.79%|
|Democratic||Patricia J. Fontes||26,947||23.21%|
|Democratic||Sheldon Whitehouse (incumbent)||231,477||61.45%||-3.36%|
U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Supreme Court speculation
In February 2016, after the death of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, USA Today named Whitehouse as a possible nominee to fill the vacancy. Whitehouse’s service as a U.S. Attorney and as Attorney General of Rhode Island gives him both legislative experience and experience as a legal official, though not as a judge. Whitehouse was ultimately not nominated.
In 1986 Whitehouse married Sandra Thornton, a marine biologist and granddaughter of James Worth Thornton and Elena Mumm Thornton Wilson. Her step-grandfather was prominent essayist and critic Edmund Wilson. They live in Rhode Island with their two children, Molly Whitehouse and Alexander “Xander” Whitehouse.
After meeting with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in September 2008, Whitehouse came under scrutiny due to possible insider trading, when he sold a number of positions, valued at least at $250,000, over the next six days. Whitehouse was trading anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of his net worth. In Senate candidate Barry Hinckley‘s book, he said that it was “implausible that much of someone’s net worth would be traded without someone’s knowledge”. A spokesperson for Whitehouse’s office explained that the senator “is not actively involved in the management” of the accounts implicated, and that he “neither directed his financial advisor to undertake any transaction during that time, nor ever took advantage of any exclusive or secret information”.
- “About Sheldon | U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island”. www.whitehouse.senate.gov. Retrieved July 21, 2017.
- “Sheldon Whitehouse for Governor, “About Sheldon” (cached 9/1/2002)”. Wasearch.loc.gov. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
-  Archived November 20, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
- Rhode Island Cancer Council, “Sheldon Whitehouse” Archived September 7, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
- Peter B. Lord, “3 companies found liable in lead-paint nuisance suit,” The Providence Journal, February 23, 2006.
- “Rhode Island Quality Institute, “Who We Are““. Riqi.org. Archived from the original on October 5, 2010. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
- Ken Mingis, “Off-duty Providence police officer shot, killed by 2 other officers,” The Providence Journal, January 28, 2000.“Archived copy”. Archived from the original on November 10, 2005. Retrieved September 9, 2005.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Jonathan D. Rockoff, “Minority leaders seek independent inquiry,” The Providence Journal, February 6, 2000.“Archived copy”. Archived from the original on June 28, 2011. Retrieved July 3, 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Mark Arsenault, “Grounded in law, Whitehouse builds his case on leadership,” The Providence Journal, August 25, 2002.
- “2012 Election Results”. NARRAGANSETT-SOUTH KINGSTOWN PATCH. November 7, 2012. Retrieved November 8, 2012.
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- “Sheldon Whitehouse On The Issues”. On The Issues. Retrieved March 12, 2012.
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- ““National Journal’s 2007 Vote Ratings““. Archived from the original on September 25, 2008. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
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- “Sen. Whitehouse mentioned in book on Congressional ‘insider’ trading”. The Providence Journal. Retrieved December 28, 2012.
- “U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse says budget proposed by vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan would eliminate Medicare in 10 years”. Tampa Bay Times Politifact. October 23, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2014.
- Gregg, Katherine (October 21, 2018). “Political Scene: Candidates weigh in on gambling, recession, Fane tower”. Providence Journal. Providence RI. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
- Ford, Matt (October 26, 2018). “Sheldon Whitehouse’s Frustrating, Illogical Remarks on D.C. Statehood”. Providence Journal. Providence RI. Retrieved July 20, 2019.
- Ford, Matt (October 26, 2018). “Senator Announces Support for Ending US Action in Yemen”. US News. Washington DC. Retrieved July 20, 2019.
- Miles Kampf-Lassin and Sarah Lazare (November 28, 2018). “The Senate Just Took the Biggest Step Yet Toward Ending U.S. Support for the Yemen War”. In These Times. Providence RI. Archived from the original on June 3, 2019. Retrieved July 20, 2019.
- Milbank, Dana (December 21, 2009). “An ugly finale for health-care reform”. The Washington Post.
- “Sen. Whitehouse: Foes of health care bill are birthers, right-wing militias, aryan groups”. Washington Times. December 20, 2009. Archived from the original on February 1, 2014. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
- “Whitehouse Backs Sanders’ Medicare for All Act | U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island”. www.whitehouse.senate.gov. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
- “Climate Hawk Sheldon Whitehouse Introduces Climate Resilience Legislation”. ThinkProgress. Archived from the original on March 23, 2012.
- “‘Climategate’ hasn’t swayed swing votes on climate change bill”. The Hill.[permanent dead link]
- “Climate Hawks Whitehouse And Franken Hold Climate Crisis Colloquy”. ThinkProgress. Archived from the original on May 6, 2015.
- “Environmental Defense Praises Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse for Working to Protect Wetlands”. Environmental Defense Fund. Retrieved October 30, 2014.
- “U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse says that the development of solar power and other forms of renewable energy will “get us off” foreign oil”. PoliFact.
- “The fossil-fuel industry’s campaign to mislead the American people”. WashingtonPost.
- Green, Miranda (April 5, 2019). “Bipartisan senators want ‘highest possible’ funding for carbon capture technology”. The Hill.
- Stout, David (May 24, 2007). “Bush Backs Gonzales in Face of No-Confidence Vote”. The New York Times.
- “Sen. Whitehouse: Gonzales Not Convincing”. WBUR. April 19, 2007.
- David Johnston and Scott Shane (July 25, 2007). “Gonzales Denies Improper Pressure on Ashcroft”. The New York Times.
- Committee Assignments Archived April 1, 2016, at the Wayback Machine United States Senate. Retrieved March 29, 2016.
- Senate Judiciary Committee and Subcommittee membership Archived June 25, 2007, at the Wayback Machine United States Senate Retrieved June 20, 2008.
- Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and Subcommittee membership Archived June 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine United States Senate Retrieved June 20, 2008.
- “Members”. Afterschool Alliance. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
- “Rhode Island Board of Elections: Elections & Voting”.
- “2006 Election Statistics”.
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- “RI.gov: Election Results”. www.ri.gov. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
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- Matt Apuzzo & Michael D. Shear (September 25, 2014). “Attorney General Eric Holder, Prominent Liberal Voice in Obama Administration, Is Resigning”. The New York Times. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
- Camia, Catalina (September 25, 2014). “After Eric Holder: Potential attorney general choices”. USA Today. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
- “Archived copy”. Archived from the original on February 16, 2016. Retrieved February 14, 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- “Coming Soon”. Jacpac.org. Archived from the original on April 13, 2014. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
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- “FULL DETAILS: How Congress Insider Traders Abused The Public’s Trust During The Financial Crisis”. Business Insider.
- “Open Secrets Report” (PDF). Retrieved September 10, 2019.
- “Hinckley jabs at Whitehouse over insider trading accusations”. WPRO. Archived from the original on November 23, 2011.
- “Breaking News | providencejournal.com | The Providence Journal”. News.providencejournal.com. April 9, 2014. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Ancestry[unreliable source?]
- Senator Sheldon Whitehouse official U.S. Senate website
- Sheldon Whitehouse for Senate
- Sheldon Whitehouse at Curlie
- Appearances on C-SPAN
| U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island
| Attorney General of Rhode Island
|Party political offices|
| Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Rhode Island
2006, 2012, 2018
| U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Rhode Island
Served alongside: Jack Reed
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Senators by seniority