About Michael Farrand Bennet
Michael Farrand Bennet (born November 28, 1964) is an American businessman, lawyer, and politician. He is currently the junior United States Senator from Colorado, and a member of the Democratic Party. He previously worked as managing director for the Anschutz Investment Company, chief of staff to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, and the superintendent of Denver Public Schools.
Born in New Delhi, he is the son of Douglas J. Bennet, a former State Department official and college president. In high school Bennet worked as a Senate page on Capitol Hill. After graduating from Wesleyan University he worked for Ohio Governor Richard Celeste. He went on to receive his law degree from Yale Law School, where he was the Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Law Journal. He worked as a law clerk and later as Counsel to the U.S. Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton administration.
Bennet worked for six years with the Anschutz Investment Company in Denver. As Managing Director he led the reorganizations of four distressed companies, requiring the restructuring of over $3 billion in debt. As chief of staff to Mayor Hickenlooper, he worked on balancing budgets and negotiating collective-bargaining agreements. He became superintendent of the Denver public school system in July 2005, where he revised a merit pay proposal with the support of local teachers. Acknowledging his work in Denver, Time magazine listed him among the nation's eleven leading educational activists in 2011.
As one of President Barack Obama's early advisers on education issues, Bennet was speculated in late 2008 as a frontrunner for Obama's United States Secretary of Education. He was instead appointed by Governor Bill Ritter to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Ken Salazar when Salazar became Secretary of the Interior in January 2009. Bennet was elected in the 2010 Senate election where he defeated Republican Ken Buck. Now serving his first full term, he is the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry and Natural Resources.
Early life, family, and education
He was born in New Delhi while his father, Douglas J. Bennet, was serving as an aide to Chester Bowles, then the U.S. ambassador to India. The elder Bennet ran the United States Agency for International Development under President Jimmy Carter, served as President and CEO of National Public Radio (1983–1993), Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs in the Clinton Administration (1993–1995), and President of Wesleyan University (1995–2007). His grandfather, Douglas Bennet, had been an economic adviser in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration. His grandmother, Phoebe Bennet née Benedict, is a direct-line descendant of Edward Fuller, who crossed the Atlantic Ocean from England to Plymouth Colony on the Mayflower in 1620.
Bennet's mother, Susanne Christine (née Klejman), immigrated to the United States with her family in 1950. Her parents were Polish Jews and survived imprisonment in the Warsaw Ghetto. Bennet's mother is a retired school librarian who teaches English as a second language for a Washington nonprofit, and is also an art historian specializing in Roman antiquities. She is fluent in English, Polish, Swedish and Spanish.
His brother, James Bennet, is editor of The Atlantic and a former correspondent of The New York Times.
He grew up in Washington, D.C. as his father served as an aide to Vice President Hubert Humphrey, among others. Bennet was held back in second grade because of his struggle with dyslexia. He was enrolled at St. Albans School, an all-boys preparatory school, and served as a page on Capitol Hill. Bennet also served as a Coro Foundation fellow in New York city.
On October 26, 1997, he married Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund attorney Susan Daggett in Marianna, Arkansas. They have three daughters and reside in Denver's Congress Park neighborhood.
Bennet earned his B.A. in history with honors from Wesleyan University in 1987, where he was a member of Beta Theta Pi, and his law degree from Yale Law School, where he was the Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Law Journal.
Though not raised in an observant household, Bennet acknowledges his family's Jewish roots. Bennet has stated that he was "raised with two different heritages, one [that] was Jewish and one [that] was Christian," and that he believes in God.
Career before U.S. Senate
From 1988 until 1990, when he left to attend Yale, he served as an aide to Ohio Governor Richard Celeste. After law school he served as a law clerk for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. He then served as Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General during Bill Clinton's administration. His father, Douglas J. Bennet, worked in the Clinton White House as well, as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs.
Bennet then entered the business world, working for six years in Denver as Managing Director for the Anschutz Investment Company where he had direct responsibility for the investment of over $500 million. He led the reorganizations of four distressed companies, including Forcenergy (which later merged with Denver-based Forest Oil), Regal Cinemas, United Artists and Edwards Theaters, which together required the restructuring of over $3 billion in debt. Bennet also managed, on behalf of Anschutz, the consolidation of the three theater chains into Regal Entertainment Group, the largest motion picture exhibitor in the world.
Moving back into public service, Bennet served for two years as the Chief of Staff to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. Highlights of his accomplishments at the city include: closing an initial 10-percent budget gap in the first two months of office; balancing two consecutive budgets in Denver's worst recession in history while preserving city services; conducting five collective-bargaining negotiations; devising strategies to pass five ballot initiatives; and assembling a very diverse, widely acknowledged leadership team for the city.
Bennet was appointed superintendent of Denver Public Schools on June 27, 2005, taking office on the following July 1. During his tenure, he revised a merit pay proposal that earned the support of local teachers and he was initially opposed to closing the failing Manual High School, which was later reopened.
Bennet was among the many officials whose names were circulated for United States Secretary of Education in the Obama Administration, which was eventually filled by Arne Duncan. Bennet and his wife were early supporters of Barack Obama's presidential bid during the 2008 Democratic primaries and he was among those who advised Barack Obama on education issues.
On January 3, 2009, he was named by Colorado Governor Bill Ritter to fill the seat in the United States Senate vacated by United States Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on January 20. Upon taking office on January 21, 2009, he had stated that he would seek election at the end of his term in 2010.
Referencing Bennet's tenure as superintendent of Denver Public Schools, Time magazine listed Bennet among eleven leading educational activists for 2011. In a January 2011 article in Time entitled "Shaking Schools Up in an Already Tumultuous Year," the author of the article, Andrew J. Rotherham, said of Bennet: "If the federal No Child Left Behind Act is modified this year, or if anything else of significance happens in Washington on education policy, this Colorado Democrat will be at the center of it."
Main article: United States Senate election in Colorado, 2010
Bennet ran for re-election as Senator from Colorado in the 2010 election. On September 16, 2009, former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff announced his campaign to challenge Bennet for the Democratic nomination. Bennet received endorsements from President Barack Obama, U.S. Senator Mark Udall, and U.S. Representatives Betsy Markey, Jared Polis, and John Salazar of the Colorado congressional delegation.
On August 10, 2010, Bennet defeated Romanoff in the primary and won his party's nomination, facing Republican candidate Ken Buck. The campaign became one of the most expensive in the country, with the candidates spending a reported $15 million combined, and outside groups another $30 million. Bennet portrayed Buck as an extremist conservative opposed to abortion and direct election of Senators, while Buck and the groups supporting him characterized Bennet as a big-spending liberal.
On November 3, the day after polls closed, Bennet was declared the winner, and Buck conceded. Bennet returned to Washington in January 2011 to start a full six-year term.
Bennet is a co-sponsor of the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA).
Bennet voted in support of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. In November 2009, when the bill was still working its way through Congress, Bennet stated, during a CNN interview, that he would support health care reform even if it meant losing the election. In his speeches on the floor, Bennet emphasized reports by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office to argue that a vote for health care reform is fiscally responsible.
Bennet has been a strong supporter of immigration reform. In September 2009, Bennet cosponsored the DREAM Act (S. 729), which proposed amending the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 by giving residency to aliens enrolled in higher education programs or serving in the military. Bennet has also stated that the country is in need of comprehensive immigration reform and that even bills like DREAM will not be adequate to solve US immigration problems.
In February 2009, Bennet voted for the $787 billion stimulus package. In August 2009, Bennet sponsored a bill which placed spending caps on the federal government. Bennet is also a cosponsor, and outspoken supporter of the Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO, S.1600) Act, which would require Congressional proposals which requires spending to state in detail where the funds come from. Bennet has also been a strong supporter of financial regulatory reform, stating that he believes such reform is necessary to America’s future economic well-being, and that the proposed legislation recently unveiled by Senator Chris Dodd’s Banking Committee (of which Bennet is also a member) is a “strong start”.
In December 2009, Bennet cosigned a letter to Obama and Senate majority leader Harry Reid urging them to consider supporting the Solar Manufacturing Jobs Creation Act (S.2755). The letter, signed by the bill’s sponsor and cosponsors, explained that this bill could create as many as 10,000 new jobs. The letter further stated concern that China and other countries are passing the US in production of alternative energy, and that this bill would provide an opportunity to reduce that trend.