Byron Dorgan, U.S. Senator

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Byron Leslie Dorgan

Immediate Family:

Son of Emmett Patrick Dorgan and Dorothy Dorgan (Bach)
Brother of Darrell Dorgan and Private

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Immediate Family

About Byron Dorgan, U.S. Senator

Byron Leslie Dorgan (born May 14, 1942) is a former United States Senator from North Dakota and is now a senior policy advisor for a Washington, DC law firm. He is a member of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party, the North Dakota affiliate of the Democratic Party. In the Senate, he was Chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee and Chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs. Dorgan announced on January 5, 2010 that he would not seek re-election in the 2010 North Dakota senate election, and he was succeeded by North Dakota Governor John Hoeven. Dorgan is now co-chair of Government Relations Practice for the Washington, DC law firm Arent Fox. He also serves as a Senior Fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, where he focuses on issues related to energy policy. Dorgan is also a co-chair of BPC's Energy Project.

Early life, education, and business career

Dorgan was born in Dickinson, North Dakota, the son of Dorothy (née Bach) and Emmett Patrick Dorgan, and was raised in Regent, North Dakota. He graduated from Regent High School and earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of North Dakota in 1964 and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Denver in 1966. Dorgan worked in management for a Denver aerospace firm, eventually earning a position training others for high ranking company positions.

Early political career

Dorgan's public service career began at age 26, when he was appointed North Dakota State Tax Commissioner. He was the youngest constitutional officer in North Dakota's history. He was re-elected to that office by large margins in 1972 and 1976, and was chosen one of "Ten Outstanding State Officials" in the United States by the left of center Washington Monthly magazine. Dorgan served as tax commissioner of North Dakota from 1969 until 1980. His future Senate colleague Kent Conrad worked in the same office before succeeding Dorgan at this post. Dorgan ran unsuccessfully for a seat in Congress in 1974. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in his second bid in 1980. He was a member from 1981 until 1992, being re-elected five times.

U.S. Senate


In 1992, the Democratic incumbent, Kent Conrad opted not to run for re-election because of a campaign promise. Dorgan won the election for the seat. However, that September the state's other senator, Quentin Burdick, died and Conrad ran for the seat in the special election. Conrad took the new seat in 1992 and Dorgan assumed Conrad's old seat a few weeks early. Dorgan was re-elected in 1998 and 2004. Conrad later was elected for a full term from North Dakota's other Senate seat.


The neutrality of this section is disputed. Please see the discussion on the talk page. Please do not remove this message until the dispute is resolved. (December 2010)

When Byron Dorgan was the chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee, he was one of the most powerful Democrats in the Senate. He was considered "something of a liberal hero." In his later years of his senate career, he had been increasingly sought by the national media for comment on political issues. He was a strong opponent of U.S. policy toward Cuba. He has introduced, with varying levels of success[specify], several amendments to end the U.S. prohibition on travel to Cuba, and to terminate funds for anti-Castro broadcasting.[citation needed] Dorgan has also opposed most bills[specify] "liberalizing" trade policies between the USA and other countries.[citation needed] He has a mixed record on tort reform issues, voting against the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act and the Class Action Fairness Act, but voting in favor of the vetoed Common Sense Product Liability and Legal Reform Act and the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

In 1999, Dorgan was an early voice of concern over lack of regulation of derivatives, which would later be a central issue in the subprime mortgage crisis and subsequent 2007–2012 global financial crisis:

We are moving towards greater risk. We must do something to address the regulation of hedge funds and especially derivatives in this country, $33 trillion, a substantial amount of it held by the 25 largest banks in this country, a substantial amount being traded in proprietary accounts of those banks. That kind of risk overhanging the financial institutions of this country one day, with a thud, will wake everyone up.

In 2007 he was a major supporter of Net Neutrality legislation in the Senate. He sees this as essential to keeping the Internet open and democratic.

In 2007, he was a major opponent of the McCain-Kennedy Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (S. 1639) saying that the legislation would continue the downward push of illegal aliens on the wages of American workers.

In 2008, he was one of the first politicians who spoke of the oncoming economic downturn in a speech to the Senate on January 23 which was in response to then President Bush's economic stimulus package.

In 2009, he voted against an amendment to the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009. He joined all 39 voting Republican senators and 12 Senate Democrats.

Dorgan has three times[9] introduced a bill forming a Truman Committee to oversee Government waste, fraud, and corruption in the giving of governmental contracts.

In 2009, Dorgan voted to approve the $838 billion dollar stimulus package. This vote passed 61-37 in the United States Senate.

In 2009, Dorgan sided with fellow Democrats to make funds available to modify or build facilities to allow Guantanamo detainees to be brought to the United States. This was a reversal from a previous vote to not allow federal funds to be used to transfer or incarcerate Guantanamo inmates.

Although Dorgan had indicated in early 2008 he would seek a fourth term in the Senate, on January 5, 2010, he issued a statement announcing he would not run for re-election. In it, he insisted that the "...decision [was] not a reflection of any dissatisfaction with my work in the Senate, nor [was] it connected to a potential election contest [in the fall of 2010] (frankly, I believe if I were to run for another term I would be reelected)."

On September 26, 2008, against a backdrop of growing economic turmoil caused by the Credit Crunch, an article written by David Leonhardt of The New York Times singled out a quotation made by Dorgan in 1999 during the US Senate's repeal of the Glass–Steagall Act. "I think we will look back in 10 years’ time and say we should not have done this, but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past, and that that which is true in the 1930s is true in 2010". Dorgan was one of only 8 senators who voted "No" on the deregulation bill (the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act) in 1999.

He is briefly featured in Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, in which he discusses the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. He was not being interviewed by Moore.

Committee assignments

Personal life

Dorgan is married to the former Kimberly Olson, an Executive Vice President and lobbyist for The American Council of Life Insurers. Together they have two children, Brendon and Haley, and from his first marriage Dorgan has a son Scott who has two kids named Mason and Madison. and had a daughter Shelly, who is deceased.


In November 2005, Dorgan was accused of receiving campaign contributions from people who worked for companies connected to lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Because Dorgan is the top Democrat on the committee investigating Abramoff, questions were raised about a possible conflict of interest.

In a statement released on November 28, 2005, Dorgan responded by asserting that he has never personally met Jack Abramoff, nor has he ever received money from Abramoff. Dorgan did acknowledge receiving money from Abramoff's clients, but the donations began prior to their involvement with Abramoff. Dorgan's statement went on to say that he has supported the programs that benefited Abramoff's clients years prior to the contribution.

Dorgan's statement pointed out other errors in the news reports, such as correcting who made a call to the Department of the Interior and for what purpose. The news reports claimed that one of Dorgan's staff members made the call in order to express support for the program that benefited Abramoff's clients, whereas in reality it was a staff member for the Chairman of the Interior Subcommittee who made the call, and the call was made in opposition to the program.

On December 13, 2005 Dorgan announced that he was returning all donations from Abramoff's clients as a precaution that the contributions may have been directed or requested by Abramoff.


Dorgan, Byron Reckless!: How Debt, Deregulation, and Dark Money Nearly Bankrupted America (And How We Can Fix It!) Thomas Dunne Books (2009) ISBN 0-312-38303-7
Dorgan, Byron Take This Job and Ship It: How Corporate Greed and Brain-Dead Politics Are Selling Out America Thomas Dunne Books (July 25, 2006) ISBN 0-312-35522-X
Dorgan, Byron (editor) Electric Transmission Infrastructure and Investment Needs: Hearing Before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, U.S. Senate Diane Pub Co (January 2003) ISBN 0-7567-2997-1
Dorgan, Byron and David Hagberg Blowout Forge (2012) ISBN 978-0-7653-2737-6

Electoral history

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Byron Dorgan, U.S. Senator's Timeline