|United States Senator|
from New Jersey
January 3, 2003 - June 3, 2013
December 27, 1982 - January 3, 2001
Frank Raleigh Lautenberg|
January 23, 1924
Paterson, New Jersey, U.S.
June 3, 2013 (aged 89)|
|Resting place||Arlington National Cemetery|
Lois Levenson (m. 1956; div. 1988)|
Bonnie Englebardt (m. 2004)
|Education||Columbia University (BS)|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1942-1946|
|Rank||Technician Fifth Grade|
Army Signal Corps|
• 3185th Signal Service Battalion
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Frank Raleigh Lautenberg (; January 23, 1924 – June 3, 2013) was an American politician who served as a United States Senator from New Jersey as a member of the Democratic Party. He was originally from Paterson, New Jersey.
Lautenberg was elected to five terms as a Senator. He first took office in December 1982 and served three terms, retiring from the Senate in 2001. Called upon to run again one year later due to circumstances surrounding his Senate colleague Robert Torricelli's re-election campaign, Lautenberg returned to the Senate in January 2003 and was elected to one additional term in 2008. He died during his second term. He is also the longest serving senator from New Jersey, having served a total of 28 years, 5 months and 8 days.
Before entering politics, he was an early partner in, and became the chairman and chief executive officer of Automatic Data Processing, Inc. In his early years, he served overseas in the U.S. Army Signal Corps from 1942 to 1946 as a part of the war effort, and after returning home his interest in American political events increased. He has been called "the last of the New Deal liberals" and was known for his legislative efforts against drunk driving, and his support of spending for Amtrak and urban public transportation, for stronger environmental regulations, greater consumer protections, and investigations of wrongdoing by Wall Street.
Lautenberg was born in Paterson, New Jersey, the son of Mollie (née Bergen) and Sam Lautenberg, Jewish immigrants from Poland and Russia, who had arrived in the United States as infants. He was named after his maternal grandfather, Frank Bergen, and close family friend and Paterson community activist, Raleigh Weintrob.
When Lautenberg was 19, his father who worked in silk mills, sold coal, farmed and once ran a tavern, died of cancer. His mother then opened a sandwich shop to support the family.
After graduating from Nutley High School in 1941, Lautenberg served overseas in the United States Army Signal Corps during World War II from 1942 to 1946. Then, financed by the GI Bill, he attended and graduated from Columbia Business School's now-defunct undergraduate program in 1949 with a degree in economics.
He worked as a salesman for Prudential Insurance and was the first salesman at Automatic Data Processing (ADP), a payroll-management company. He became the company's CEO in 1975. He was the executive commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey from 1978 to 1982.
Lautenberg contributed to Democratic candidates for years. He donated $90,000 to George McGovern's campaign for President in 1972, earning himself a place on one of Richard Nixon's enemies lists. In 1982, he ran for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate. He faced nine other candidates: former State Banking Commissioner Angelo Bianchi, former Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello, former Congressman Joseph A. LeFante, labor leader Frank Forst, former Congressman Andrew Maguire, Richard McAleer, businessman Howard Rosen, Princeton Mayor Barbara Boggs Sigmund, and Passaic County Freeholder Cyril Yannarelli. Maguire was the favorite but Boggs' entry took votes away from him and Lautenberg spent a considerable amount of his own money. Lautenberg won with a plurality, taking 26% of the vote to Maguire's 23%, LeFante's 20% and Sigmund's 11%.
The seat had been occupied by Democrat Harrison A. Williams, who resigned on March 11, 1982, after being implicated in the Abscam scandal. After Williams' resignation, Republican Governor Thomas Kean appointed Republican Nicholas F. Brady to the seat. Brady served in the Senate through the primary and general elections but did not run for the seat himself. In the general election, Lautenberg faced popular Republican congresswoman Millicent Fenwick. She ran on a very progressive platform and polls in the Summer of 1982 put her ahead by 18 points. Even Lautenberg quipped that she was "the most popular candidate in the country." Lautenberg spent more of his own money, eventually out-spending Fenwick two-to-one. He emphasised President Reagan's unpopularity, reminded the voters that she would be a vote for a Republican majority in the Senate and called Fenwick, who was 72, "eccentric" and "erratic" but denied that he was referring to her age. He did however point out that she would be almost 80 at the end of her first term and was therefore unlikely to gain much seniority in the Senate. Lautenberg won by 51% to 48%, in what was considered a major upset. Brady, who had just a few days left in his appointed term, resigned on December 27, 1982, allowing Lautenberg to take office several days before the traditional swearing-in of senators, which gave him an edge in seniority over the other freshman senators.
In his first term, Lautenberg pushed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which was passed in 1984. The same year, he spoke at the Democratic National Convention, though he was overshadowed by New York Governor Mario Cuomo, who gave the keynote speech.
In the 1988 elections, Lautenberg was opposed by Republican Wall Street executive, former college football star Brigadier General Pete Dawkins, who won the 1958 Heisman Trophy for the Army Black Knights. After trailing in early polls, the Lautenberg campaign, headed by Democratic consultant James Carville, ran an aggressive advertising campaign enumerating Lautenberg's legislative accomplishments and raising the possibility that Dawkins' candidacy was intended solely as a stepping stone to the presidency, as well as pointing out his lack of roots in New Jersey. Lautenberg ultimately came from behind to win re-election, 54% to 46%. The race was named the 17th-nastiest in American political history by political scientist Kerwin Swint in his book Mudslingers: The 25 Dirtiest Political Campaigns of All Time.
Following his re-election, Lautenberg became a member of the President's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism (PCAST), which was set up in September 1989 to review and report on aviation security policy in light of the sabotage of Pan Am Flight 103 on December 21, 1988.
In 1999, two popular Republicans were considering running against Lautenberg: the incumbent Governor Christine Todd Whitman and former Governor Thomas Kean. Polling showed Lautenberg trailing both of them. Lautenberg also did not get along with his New Jersey Senate colleague Robert Torricelli, and suspected that he was encouraging Whitman to run against him. Torricelli's relationship with Lautenberg had been very rocky, especially when Lautenberg directly accused Torricelli of encouraging Whitman to challenge him for his Senate seat. Lautenberg raised his concerns in a meeting with Democratic Senators in 1999, and Torricelli responded by shouting, "You're a fucking piece of shit, and I'm going to cut your balls off!" Lautenberg was also less than enthusiastic at the prospect of fundraising for a grueling campaign, and did not want to have to spend more of his own money.
He announced his retirement in 2000, but denied it was because he thought he would lose to Whitman or Kean, saying that he had been vulnerable in previous elections, and, "Mr. Vulnerable always wins." His fellow Democrat and businessman, Jon Corzine, was elected to replace him.
Almost immediately, Lautenberg regretted his decision, especially after neither Whitman nor Kean ran against Corzine in the general election (instead, Congressman Bob Franks ran for the seat, and was defeated). He also was said to be missing his days working in the Senate. He had considered reversing his decision and running for re-election, but since his rival, Senator Torricelli, had encouraged Corzine to run in the first place, Lautenberg would likely have had trouble restarting his campaign. A little over a year after he left office, however, Lautenberg found a way to get back in. This way came at the expense of his long-time rival.
In 1996, then-Congressman Torricelli won against fellow Congressman Dick Zimmer in a nasty campaign to succeed the retiring Bill Bradley. Intending to run for a second term, Torricelli was to face off against Republican Doug Forrester, the former mayor of West Windsor Township, in the November 2002 mid-term elections, and he was expected to win, as a Republican had not won election to a Senate seat in New Jersey since Clifford P. Case won election to his fourth and last term in 1972.
However, Torricelli had been facing an ongoing probe into his activities, particularly regarding a series of campaign contributions he had been receiving. In 2002, the findings of the probe resulted in Torricelli being indicted on federal corruption charges, and turned the tide of the election against him. Torricelli decided to cease his campaign for re-election, and announced his decision on September 30, 2002. The New Jersey Democratic Party made overtures to the retired Senator Bradley, who declined, and to Congressmen Robert Menendez and Frank Pallone, who were both in the middle of their own campaigns for re-election, and thus were unavailable. Finally, the party reached out to Lautenberg, who accepted the offer.
Almost immediately, the New Jersey Republican Party challenged the replacing of Torricelli with Lautenberg, citing that the timing was too close to the election, and, per New Jersey law, the change could not be allowed. The ballot name change was unanimously upheld by the New Jersey Supreme Court, who cited that the law did not provide for a situation like Torricelli's, and said that leaving Torricelli on the ballot would be an unfair advantage for Forrester. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the case. Lautenberg defeated Forrester in the general election, 54% to 44%, and took office for his fourth term in January 2003.
Back in the Senate, Lautenberg was once again considered one of the chamber's most liberal members. He was pro-choice, supported gun control, introduced many bills increasing penalties for carjacking and car theft, and criticized the Bush administration on national security issues. He was heavily involved in various anti-smoking and airline safety legislation. He also co-sponsored legislation to increase drunk driving penalties. He was probably best known as the author of the legislation that banned smoking from most commercial airline flights. He also is known for authoring the Ryan White Care Act, which provides services to AIDS patients. Upon his return to the Senate, Lautenberg was the first U.S. senator to introduce legislation calling for homeland security funds to be distributed solely on the basis of risk and vulnerability.
When Jon Corzine resigned from the Senate to become Governor of New Jersey, Lautenberg became the senior senator again in 2006. This also made him the only person to have been both the junior and senior senator from New Jersey twice each. Lautenberg received an "A" on the Drum Major Institute's 2005 Congressional Scorecard on middle-class issues.
In 2007, Lautenberg proposed the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2007, designed to deny weapons purchases by persons that the government has placed on the terrorist watchlist. On June 21, 2007, Lautenberg passed Clifford Case for the most votes on the Senate floor of any United States Senator in New Jersey history.
In February 2006, Lautenberg announced his intention to run for re-election in 2008, saying that deciding not to run for re-election in 2000 "was among the worst decisions of his life." Lautenberg formally announced his candidacy on March 31, 2008. His campaign manager was Brendan W. Gill.
Congressman Steve Rothman and State Senator John Adler both mooted the possibility of running, but said they would defer to Lautenberg. In private he called them "the pallbearers". Ultimately, both declined to run. Instead, Congressman Rob Andrews announced he would challenge Lautenberg for renomination in the Democratic primary. Also running was Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello, who had run against Lautenberg in the 1982 Senate primary. Andrews ran a poor campaign, "best remembered--if it's remembered at all--for its ineptness." He was also tarred with his vote for the Iraq War. Lautenberg's New Jersey Senate colleague Bob Menendez also came to his aid and Lautenberg defeated Andrews 59% to 35% in the June 3 primary. He then defeated former Congressman Dick Zimmer in the general election 56% to 43%.
The New York Times editorial board endorsed Mr. Lautenberg's candidacy for Senate during the 2008 cycle.
Both opponents cited Lautenberg's age among reasons to vote against him. Andrews, for example, referenced Lautenberg's own 1982 defeat of Millicent Fenwick, in which Lautenberg was alleged to have referred to Fenwick's age (Fenwick was 72 at the time; Lautenberg was 84 in 2008). Lautenberg denied he made Fenwick's age an issue, saying he only ever questioned Fenwick's "ability to do the job."
In June 2010, Lautenberg compared the devil with Dubai, drawing stern criticism from some Arab American groups after making comments relating to the Dubai Ports World controversy. Lautenberg was quoted as stating, "We wouldn't transfer the title to the devil, and we're not going to transfer it to Dubai." According to a Foreign Policy in Focus article, Lautenberg defended his remarks due to the UAE's refusal to support U.S. policy toward Israel and Iran. According to the Arab American Institute, Lautenberg apologized in a letter upon meeting with Arab American Institute representatives.
On February 14, 2013, Lautenberg announced he would not seek re-election. In the press conference, Lautenberg joked "Is it too late to change my mind?" and joked that he would pray "something goes wrong" so he could be called on to run again.
Lautenberg served on the following committees:
Frank Lautenberg married Lois Levenson in 1956, with whom he had four children: Ellen, Nan, Lisa, and Joshua. Their 31-year marriage ended in divorce, in 1988. On 25 January 2004, he married his companion of nearly 16 years, Bonnie S. Englebardt. He also had two stepdaughters, Danielle Englebardt and Lara Englebardt Metz with Bonnie; and 13 grandchildren.
On February 19, 2010, his office announced that Lautenberg had been diagnosed with a diffuse large b-cell lymphoma (an aggressive but curable blood cancer that appears in organs like the stomach) at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. He had been hospitalized with profuse gastric bleeding following a fall in his Cliffside Park, New Jersey, home shortly after returning from a Haiti trip with a 12-member Congressional delegation. He was released from the hospital on February 25, 2010. Six to eight chemotherapy treatments of the intensive R-CHOP regimen followed every 21 days over several months, and a doctor for Lautenberg at the time said a full recovery was expected. Lautenberg continued his Senate work between treatments. On June 26, 2010, the senator announced that he was cancer-free.
In 2010, Lautenberg's wealth was estimated to be between $55 million and $116.1 million, making him the fifth-wealthiest Senator. Lautenberg began collecting modern art after his election to the Senate, much of which was sold after his death.
Lautenberg was returned to Washington by an Amtrak funeral train. "Amtrak is honored to be chosen to carry him back to Washington, D.C. one final time," wrote Amtrak Chairman Tony Cosica and President/CEO Joseph Boardman in a joint public statement of condolence, "thank you Sen. Lautenberg for your service to the nation."
On June 6, 2013, his body lay in repose atop the Lincoln Catafalque within the Senate chamber at the Capitol. He was buried on June 7, 2013, with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
The United States House of Representatives passed on September 20, 2013, a spending bill, H.J.Res.59 - Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2014, which is being reviewed by the United States Senate. It includes a $174,000 tax-free death benefit payment to his widow. An annual salary payment to the widow or family member of a deceased lawmaker is a long-standing tradition for the United States Congress going back to the 1800s.
On June 4, 2013, Governor Chris Christie announced that a special election to fill the vacant Senate seat will be held on October 16, 2013. A special primary, which was won by Cory Booker as the Democrat and Steve Lonegan as the Republican candidate, was held on August 13, 2013.
On October 17, 2013, Democrat Cory Booker was announced the winner of the special election.
The Frank R. Lautenberg Deep-Sea Coral Protection Area is an offshore marine protected area for deep-sea corals off the coast of the Mid-Atlantic states of the United States, established in 2016 and named after Lautenberg.
The results for Lautenberg's elections to the US Senate:
|Party political offices|
| Democratic nominee for Senator from New Jersey
1982, 1988, 1994
| Democratic nominee for Senator from New Jersey
| United States Senator (Class 1) from New Jersey
Served alongside: Bill Bradley, Robert Torricelli
| United States Senator (Class 2) from New Jersey
Served alongside: Jon Corzine, Bob Menendez