About Mike Leavitt, Governor, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services
Michael Okerlund "Mike" Leavitt (born February 11, 1951) is an American Republican politician. He served as the 14th Governor of Utah from 1993 to 2003, as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from 2003 to 2005 and as Secretary of Health and Human Services from 2005 to 2009.
Leavitt serves as a co-leader of the Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
Early life and family
Leavitt was born in Cedar City, Utah. Leavitt graduated with a degree in and from Southern Utah University and married Jacalyn Smith. They have five children.
Leavitt is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Leavitt is a descendant of an old Massachusetts Puritan family, and a direct descendant of Dudley Leavitt, a Mormon pioneer named for his ancestor Thomas Dudley, the second colonial governor of Massachusetts.
Leavitt's business career started with his joining The Leavitt Group, a regional insurance company founded by his father. He rose to become the company's president and CEO and presided over a period of expansion. He was subsequently appointed to the boards of directors of numerous local and regional companies, including Utah Power and Light, as well as a member of the Utah State Board of Regents. As a regent, he helped oversee Utah's nine public colleges and universities. For four years, he was chair of Southern Utah University's board of trustees.
In 1976, Leavitt assisted his father, then a state senator, in an unsuccessful campaign for governor. He worked on a number of U.S. Senate campaigns through the 1980s for Jake Garn and Orrin Hatch.
Governor of Utah
Leavitt first ran for governor in 1992. He had tough competition in the Republican Party primary from Richard Eyre who had more delegates vote for him at the state Republican convention. He defeated Democratic nominee Stewart Hanson in the general election, becoming the 14th Governor of the State of Utah.
A holiday fire shortly before noon on December 15, 1993, destroyed much of the Utah Governor's Mansion, but spared the lives of the first family and staff (Jacalyn Leavitt and some members of the family and staff were in the home at the time of the fire).
Leavitt was re-elected in 1996 with the largest vote total in state history.
While Governor, Leavitt and Roy Romer of Colorado were the two key founders of Western Governors University in 1997, one of the first exclusively online schools in the nation. In addition to Leavitt and Romer, 17 other governors signed legislation creating the school as a non-profit private university.
Leavitt came under strong criticism in 1998, while Governor, when asked why polygamy is not often prosecuted, he stated he was not sure, however "it may fall under religious freedoms." He was later forced to backpedal and claimed that polygamy should be against the law.
In 2000, Leavitt became only the second Governor in Utah history to be re-elected to a third term. As Governor, he held leadership positions in national and regional organizations, such as the Council of State Governments, over which he presided for a year.
On August 11, 2003, President George W. Bush nominated Leavitt as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency at a press conference in Aurora, Colorado. He was confirmed on October 28, 2003 by a vote of 88–8 in the United States Senate. On November 5, having resigned the governorship, Leavitt was sworn in as the 10th Administrator of the EPA.
At the Environmental Protection Agency he implemented higher standards for ozone, diesel fuels and other air pollutants. He organized and managed a collaboration to develop a federal plan to clean up the Great Lakes.
Secretary of Health and Human Services
On December 13, 2004, Leavitt was nominated by Bush to succeed Tommy Thompson as Secretary of Health and Human Services, and was confirmed by the Senate by voice vote on January 26, 2005.
Leavitt was commonly known for his advocating that Medicare was drifting toward disaster. He claimed Congress neglected his notions.
In June 2006, Leavitt came under criticism for using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Gulfstream III Emergency Response aircraft to, primarily, promote the newly reformed Medicare plan. Critics argue that Leavitt irresponsibly used the aircraft beginning in January 2006, logging over $700,000 worth of flight time in the 14-seat private jet. Leavitt’s office maintains that the use of the aircraft was necessary and legal since the Senate Appropriations Committee approved his use of the aircraft, and commercial services could not meet the deadlines required by his engagements.
Leavitt has described the avian influenza virus as the most serious threat to American security. Secretary Leavitt cited the work of the World Health Organization's Dr. Michael McCoy as the most compelling scientific work into the avian flu threat. This encouraged Secretary Leavitt to mobilize the nation’s pandemic preparedness and led to the reconfiguring of the nation’s medical emergency plans.
Leavitt also served on the Homeland Security Advisory Council.
In August 2007, Leavitt became the first cabinet-level blogger in U.S. history.
Leavitt's family charitable foundation, the Dixie and Anne Leavitt Foundation, was established by the Leavitt family in 2000, and the family has donated nearly $9 million of assets to it since. It has provided them with tax write-offs for the donated assets. About a third of the foundation's assets have been loaned back to family businesses, such as a $332,000 loan to Leavitt Land and Investment Inc., in which Mike Leavitt has a substantial interest. According to a 2006 National Public Radio report, these loans were legal because they were made at market rates. A month following the NPR report, Congress made such transactions illegal.
The same NPR report also revealed that nearly $500,000 in charitable contributions provided to the Southern Utah Foundation were used for housing scholarships to Southern Utah University. The scholarships were subsequently used to place students in the Cedar Development Co., a Leavitt family business, with the money used to pay the students' rent. NPR's investigation found that the arrangement was legal and that the Leavitts did not profit from the arrangement. Although legal, the procedure, called "round-tripping" in philanthropic circles, has garnered criticism as lacking in the spirit of philanthropy. The report also stated that Mike Leavitt was not directly involved in the foundation's operations.
Total charitable grants from the foundation during its first six years were $1,468,055. The foundation's principal beneficiaries have been Southern Utah University and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Other beneficiaries have included arts, educational and humanitarian organizations, including the Leavitt family genealogical society.
Leavitt Partners is a consulting firm created by Michael O. Leavitt to advise clients in the health care and food safety sectors. The firm is also involved in helping the states implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as "ObamaCare."