- Former U.S. House Representative member from Florida
- Characterized Republicans who opposed healthcare reform as “Neanderthals”
- Supports immigration reform that would provide a path-to-citizenship for those currently residing in the U.S. illegally
- Derides members of the Tea Party movement as racist “white Christians” who bear a notable resemblance to the Ku Klux Klan
Alan Mark Grayson was born in the Bronx, New York on March 13, 1958. After graduating with a BA in economics from Harvard College in 1978, he worked two years as an economist before going on to earn a JD at Harvard Law School and a Masters of Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government—both in 1983. Grayson subsequently worked a brief stint as a law clerk at the Colorado Supreme Court, then took a job at the DC Circuit Court of Appeals (1984-85), and thereafter spent five years as an associate in the Washington-based firm of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, where he specialized in contract law.
In 1990 Grayson took a temporary leave from his legal career and became the first president of IDT, a telecommunications / Internet company that eventually grew into a Fortune 1000 corporation. In 1991 he founded the law firm Grayson & Kubli and began lecturing at George Washington University.
In 2008, Grayson, a Democrat, decided to pursue a career in politics. He was elected as the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 8th Congressional District and promptly became vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. As of September 2010 he was the 11th-wealthiest member of Congress, with a fortune exceeding $31 million.
In a May 2010 television interview during his congressional re-election campaign, Grayson said: “Why would you want to put [Republican] people in charge of government who just don’t want to do it? I mean you wouldn’t expect to see Al Qaeda members as pilots.”
On September 25, 2010, Grayson launched a controversial television attack ad against his Republican challenger, former Florida House speaker Daniel Webster. Titled “Taliban Daniel Webster,” the ad featured a back-and-forth between a female narrator and Webster, speaking his own words in pre-recorded video segments. Below is the transcript:
Female narrator: (speaking over images of terrorists holding guns and people burning the American flag) “Religious fanatics try to take away our freedom in Afghanistan, in Iran and right here in Central Florida.”
Webster: (in a black-and-white video, holding a microphone) “Wives submit yourself to your own husband.”
Female narrator: “Daniel Webster wants to impose his radical fundamentalism on us.” (Background type: Daniel Webster wants to MAKE DIVORCE ILLEGAL.)
Webster: “You should submit to me. That’s in the Bible.”
Female narrator: “Webster tried to deny battered women medical care and the right to divorce their abusers.”
Webster: “Submit to me.”
Female narrator: “He wants to force raped women to bear the child.”
Webster: “Submit to me.”
Female narrator: “Taliban Daniel Webster. Hands off our bodies. And our laws.”
But FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan website sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, pointed out that the narrative crafted by Grayson’s campaign used “edited video to make his rival appear to be saying the opposite of what he really said.” As FactCheck elaborated: “Grayson manipulates a video clip to make it appear Webster was commanding wives to submit to their husbands, quoting a passage in the Bible. Four times, the ad shows Webster saying wives should submit to their husbands. In fact, Webster was cautioning husbands to avoid taking that passage as their own. The unedited quote is: ‘Don’t pick the ones [Bible verses] that say, ‘She should submit to me.'”
Grayson lost his 8th District re-election bid in November 2010, but in 2012 he won the race to represent Florida’s 9th Congressional District. His various political campaigns were endorsed by such groups as the 21st Century Democrats, the Council for a Livable World, and the Progressive Democrats of America, an organization dominated by members or affiliates of the Democratic Socialists of America and the Institute for Policy Studies.
In September 2009, when the national debate over healthcare-reform legislation was in high gear, Grayson, a staunch proponent of “universal health care,” said on the floor of Congress: “I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven’t voted sooner to end this holocaust in America.”
The following month, also from the House floor, Grayson stated: “[W]hat the Republicans plan to do for health care in America [is] a very simple plan. Here it is…. ‘Don’t get sick.’ If you have insurance, don’t get sick. If you don’t have insurance, don’t get sick. If you’re sick, don’t get sick. Just don’t get sick…. If you do get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: ‘Die quickly.’” When Republican spokesman Alex Castellanos then attempted to explain the Republican proposals, Grayson shouted him down and characterized Republicans as “Neanderthals.”
Grayson revisited this theme in an October 2009 interview with MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, stating: “You know … FOX News and their Republican collaborators are the enemy of America. They’re the enemy of anybody who cares about health care in this country, the enemy of anybody who cares about educating their children, the enemy of everybody who wants energy independence, anything … good for this country. And they’re certainly the enemy of peace, there’s no doubt about that. They ARE the enemy.” (Emphasis in original.)
During an October 22, 2009 interview (about healthcare) with Chris Matthews on MSNBC, Matthews told Grayson that former Vice President Dick Cheney had characterized President Barack Obama as dithering. Grayson replied: “Well, my response is — and, by the way, I have trouble listening to what he says sometimes because of the blood that drips from his teeth while he’s talking. But my response is this. He’s just angry because the president doesn’t shoot old men in the face. By the way, when he was done speaking, did he just then turn into a bat and fly away?”
On May 21, 2010, Grayson joined such notables as John Conyers, Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, and Lynn Woolsey in introducing legislation known as The War Is Making You Poor Act, which proposed to end congressional funding for America’s military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On November 10, 2012, Grayson spoke at an Orlando, Florida protest rally—organized by the AFL-CIO, MoveOn.org, and a number of other left-wing organizations—emphasizing the need to end “tax cuts for the rich.” “[T]he greedy want more,” said Grayson. “The greedy want to be able to avoid the tax increases that would put the economy back on a steady level and get some way toward paying down the debt.”
Thirteen days later, Grayson joined Wal-Mart workers and labor activists in an east Orlando protest demonstration pressing the retail giant to provide better wages and working conditions for its employees. Grayson, for his part, called on Wal-Mart to immediately give its employees an across-the-board 30% pay raise, and asserted that all working people were entitled to living wages, paid sick leave, health coverage, paid vacations, and pensions.
A staunch supporter of immigration reform that would provide a path-to-citizenship for those currently residing in the U.S. illegally, Grayson and fellow Congressman Luis Gutierrez spoke to the Puerto Rican Association of Central Florida at a March 1, 2013 event titled “The Time Is Now for Immigration Reform.” Several times during the course of his address, Grayson condemned SB-1070, a recently enacted law authorizing Arizona state police to check the immigration status of criminal suspects, as “racist.”
Grayson harbors particular contempt for the conservative Tea Party movement that came to prominence in 2009, broadly characterizing its constituents as “white Christians” who fear members of all other religious and racial groups. In October 2013, Grayson’s office disseminated a mass email that likened the Tea Party to the Ku Klux Klan and bore the image of a burning cross with the letters “ea Party” etched in to the right of it. The caption read: “Now You Know What the ‘T’ Stands For.” The email also included a quote in which Grayson, blasting the conservative movement as an alliance of political extremists and obstructionists, said: “The Tea Party is no more popular than the Klan.”
Along with Representatives Barbara Lee and Jan Schakowsky, Grayson was scheduled to meet on November 19, 2013 with Abdul Rahman Naimi, president and founder the Geneva-based human-rights organization Al Karama, to discuss U.S. drone policy. Ultimately, Naimi was unable to attend the meeting because of visa issues. The following month, the U.S. Treasury Department designated him as a global terrorist and al Qaeda financier.
In a May 2015 interview with Tampa Bay Times reporter Adam Smith, Grayson—who in 2012 had harshly criticized then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for holding some of his fortune in off-shore accounts, and had once demanded an IRS investigation to uncover the “offshore tax havens” of every Fortune 500 company in America—reacted indignantly when Smith confronted him with evidence that his (Grayson’s) own corporations were incorporated in the Cayman Islands, a well-known tax haven. Grayson decried Smith for pursuing “some stupid, bullsh** story,” adding: “You want to write sh** about it, and you can’t because not a single dollar of taxes has been avoided.” “Are you fu**ing kidding?” the congressman continued. “I set up a fund that might solicit foreign investors…. I have no present intention of soliciting foreign investors. Your perception issue is bullsh**. This is a whole ‘nother level of bullsh**…. Are you some kind of sh**ting robot? You go around sh**ting on people?”
But in fact, Grayson had indeed set up two Cayman Island hedge funds in 2011, structuring them so that all trading could be channeled through an entity located in the tax haven. Confronted with this information, Grayson now claimed that his Cayman funds had been wholly inactive and had never resulted in any tax advantages for him. But according to the investment industry publication FINalternatives, one of the congressman’s Cayman hedge funds — the Grayson Master Fund — listed two investors and approximately $13.2 million in sales. When critics subsequently filed official House complaints accusing Grayson of having violated government rules by attaching his name to an investment vehicle, the congressman changed the Grayson Fund’s name to the “Sibylline Fund.”
In October 2015 Grayson announced that he had decided to close down his Cayman hedge funds, though he declined to provide documentation of this measure. Two months later, in December 2015, Grayson’s Cayman-based investment companies were still open and active, according to official records provided by the Cayman Islands Government General Registry. This prompted the Tampa Bay Times to write that the congressman “has repeatedly denied what public records on those funds appear to show.” Specifically:
- “No money was ever invested in a Cayman Islands account, Grayson has said, although his own Securities and Exchange Commission filings in 2014 stated that Cayman Islands-incorporated Grayson Master Fund (Cayman) LP had more than $13.2 million in assets under management.”
- “He has never received ‘one penny of compensation,’ for managing the funds, Grayson says, despite filing documents with the SEC this year stating that ‘ongoing’ management fees and incentive payments are being paid to the fund manager. Grayson runs the fund management company.”
- “His funds have the standard structure — with a 2 percent annual management fee and also a 20 percent ‘incentive allocation’ — to ensure hedge fund managers pay a lower tax rate than most Americans. Grayson, who has supported ending that so-called ‘carried interest’ tax break, says he never benefited from it.”
On July 9, 2015, Grayson announced that he intended to run for one of Florida’s two U.S. Senate seats in 2016. He was defeated, however, by a margin of 59% to 18% in the Democratic primary by fellow Representative Patrick Murphy, who went on to lose the general election to Republican incumbent Marco Rubio. Grayson, meanwhile, retained his seat in the U.S. House.
In November 2015, Grayson told Fox News radio host Alan Colmes that the lineup of 2016 Republican presidential candidates was “appalling.” “It’s resolved itself into this weird reality show,” he explained. “It’s not ‘The Biggest Loser’ that they’re choosing, it’s ‘The Biggest Bigot.’” Moreover, Grayson said that if U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada, were to win the Republican presidential nomination, he (Grayson) would file a lawsuit challenging Cruz’s eligibility. “The Constitution says natural-born Americans,” Grayson elaborated, “so now we’re counting Canadians as natural-born Americans? How does that work? I’m waiting for the moment that he gets the nomination and then I will file that beautiful lawsuit saying that he’s unqualified for the job because he’s ineligible…. Call me crazy but I think the president of America should be an American. Even the anchor babies actually are born here. He doesn’t even meet that qualification.”
Shortly after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, Grayson directly implored President Obama to nominate Senator Elizabeth Warren as Scalia’s replacement on the Court. Grayson said that Warren “deserve[d]” to be appointed because she had produced “scholarly work [that was] renowned”; had been “an indefatigable watchdog over the capital markets for almost a decade”; and was “an outstanding writer and communicator, something that the Supreme Court badly needs.” At that point in the course of his remarks, Grayson added that: “In my opinion, the two best judicial writers of my lifetime are Justice Hugo Black, a former Senator, and Judge Abner Mikva, a former Congressman.” (Notably, Justice Black was a member of the Ku Klux Klan from 1923-25 and maintained good relations with that organization’s leaders thereafter.)
In April 2016, the Office of Congressional Ethics issued a lengthy report recommending that the U.S. House Ethics Committee continue to investigate Grayson’s various business interests that may have improperly conflicted with his congressional duties. In a story about the Ethics report, the Tampa Bay Times said:
- “Grayson had a previously undisclosed buyout agreement with his old law firm allowing the Orlando congressman to collect contingency fees for multiple pending cases involving the federal government. The Office of Congressional Ethics report found there is ‘substantial reason to believe’ Grayson violated federal law with that arrangement and recommended the Ethics Committee subpoena a principal of Grayson’s old firm who, after consulting with the congressman, refused to cooperate with investigators.”
- “Grayson ran a hedge fund that improperly used the congressman’s name, gave him a fiduciary responsibility to undisclosed investors and at least once appears to have paid him management fees. House rules bar members from using their name on or being compensated for any legal or financial service for which the member has a fiduciary responsibility to look out the interests of clients.”
- “Investigators found numerous ‘significant’ omissions from Grayson’s financial disclosure forms, including investments related to the Grayson hedge fund, the buyout agreement at his old law firm and a family trust.”
- “Grayson, while serving in Congress, invested in limited partnerships in the energy sector that did business with the federal government, including selling fuel to the Defense Department.”
- “A staffer in Grayson’s congressional office who also worked for his hedge fund used official time and resources to work for the fund, a violation of federal law.”
- “Grayson, the report said, ‘participated in multiple press interviews focused on his campaign for the U.S. Senate from his congressional office’ and improperly mixed political and official work and resources in violation of federal law.”
When Grayson ran for re-election to his Florida 9th District seat in the U.S. House in 2018, he was defeated in the Democratic primary that August.
For an overview of Grayson’s voting record and policy positions on several issues of import during his years in Congress, click here.
Further Reading: “Alan Grayson” (Keywiki.org, Ballotpedia.org); “Alan Grayson: The Second Coming of Vito Marcantonio” (The K.F. Stone Weekly, 10-15-2010).