- Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York’s Eighth District
- Member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus
- Helped convince Bill Clinton to pardon an incarcerated domestic terrorist in January 2001
Born in Brooklyn, New York on June 13, 1947, Jerrold Lewis Nadler attended Stuyvesant H.S. in New York, and then went on to earn a BA in Government from Columbia University in 1969 and a JD from Fordham University Law School in 1978. At Columbia he founded a student group known as the “West End Kids”—referring to the West Side of Manhattan—which sought to reform New York City Democratic politics by supporting liberal and anti-Vietnam War candidates. True to his group’s mission, Nadler in 1968 worked for the presidential campaign of Democrat Eugene McCarthy, who ran on an antiwar platform.
After college, Nadler worked as a legal assistant for the Corporation Trust Company in 1970; a clerk for the law firm Morris, Levin & Shein in 1971; a legislative assistant for the New York State Assembly in 1972; a shift manager at the New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation from 1972-76; and a law clerk at Morgan, Finnegan, Pine, Foley & Lee in 1976.
Nadler launched his political career in 1969, when he became District Leader of the New York County Democratic Committee, a post he held for eight years. In 1977 he was elected to the New York State Assembly, where he went on to serve for the next fifteen years. In 1985 Nadler was defeated twice by David Dinkins in the race for Manhattan Borough President—first in the Democratic primary, and then in the general election when Nadler ran on the New York Liberal Party ticket. Four years later, Nadler lost to Kings County District Attorney Elizabeth Holtzman in the Democratic primary for New York City Comptroller.
In 1992, longtime Democratic U.S. Congressman Ted Weiss died one day before his party’s primary election for New York City’s newly redrawn Eighth District. Using a weighted voting system, a convention of nearly 1,000 Democratic county committee members selected Nadler to replace Weiss on the November ballot. Nadler won easily and has had no serious challenge in any of his congressional re-election bids since then.
Upon his election to the House of Representatives, Nadler promptly joined the Congressional Progressive Caucus and became a leader of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. For an overview of his voting record on a number of key issues during the course of his legislative career, click here.
Throughout his years in politics, Nadler has maintained close ties to socialist organizations. In 1977, for instance, he was a member of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC), and by 1983 he had joined the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which grew out of DSOC. On May 1, 1989, Nadler served on the sponsoring committee for a New York DSA screening of the pro-union film Matewan. That same year, he personally asked New York’s DSA to endorse his candidacy for NYC Comptroller. In 1990, Nadler endorsed the New York mayoral campaign of DSA member David Dinkins. In July 1996, DSA’s Political Action Committee endorsed Nadler for Congress. Each year from 1995-97, Nadler spoke at the DSA’s annual Socialist Scholars Conferences, where he participated in panel discussions with such notables as Stanley Aronowitz, William Kornblum, and Frances Fox Piven. According to DSA’s rival Social Democrats USA, Nadler remains a DSA member to this day.
In June 1993 Nadler spoke at a Hiroshima Day rally at the United Nations in New York, an event sponsored by the Metro New York Peace Action Council and several other anti-war groups. The demonstration was intended to build popular support for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and, ultimately, complete nuclear disarmament. Other featured speakers included Leslie Cagan, Major Owens, and Charles Rangel.
Not long thereafter, Nadler became personally involved in an effort to gain clemency for Susan Rosenberg, a former Weather Underground terrorist who was serving a 58-year prison term for her role in the deadly Brink’s armored-car robbery of 1981. In late 2000, Rosenberg’s mother, who worshipped at Congregation B’nei Jeshurun—the same liberal temple where Nadler was a member—assembled documents from her daughter’s parole hearings that purportedly showed her to be a model prisoner. The mother presented these materials to her rabbi, Rolando Matalon, who in turn gave them to Nadler, who finally passed them on to President Clinton as evidence that Rosenberg might merit consideration for a presidential pardon. In large part because of Nadler’s urging, Clinton did in fact pardon Rosenberg over the strong objections of Mary Jo White, the U.S. attorney in New York. After her release from prison, Rosenberg was given a job at Congregation B’nei Jeshurun. Faced with these facts, Nadler attempted to cast himself as nothing more than an impartial courier between the Rosenberg family and the White House.
An outspoken critic of George W. Bush’s strategy and tactics in the War on Terror, Nadler suggested that the 9/11 attacks could be blamed, at least in part, on the Republican president’s failure to take adequate steps to forestall them. “If the White House had knowledge that there was a danger or an intent to hijack an American airplane and did not warn the airlines,” said Nadler in 2002, “that would be nonfeasance in office of the highest order. That would make the President bear a large amount of responsibility for the tragedy that occurred.”
In 2003 Nadler, urged on by the ACLU and People For the American Way, introduced legislation aimed at defeating the Bush administration’s Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA) program, which sought to help the government root out terrorists by analyzing and cross-referencing various databases for evidence of suspicious patterns of Internet activity, travel, credit-card purchases, and donations to charities and political causes. By Nadler’s reckoning, the TIA initiative constituted a massive “assault on our rights” and represented “perhaps the closest realization of an Orwellian ‘Big Brother’ government to date.”
In a similar spirit, Nadler characterized the PATRIOT Act as an example of unnecessary “governmental intrusion” into the lives of Americans. Especially outrageous to Nadler was a PATRIOT Act clause enabling FBI investigators to access library records in the course of a terrorism investigation. “If [Attorney General] John Ashcroft has his way, bookstore customers could be investigated for something as arbitrary as buying Hillary Clinton’s new book,” warned Nadler. “People are outraged,” he added, “by the loss of civil liberties…. The government … should not be in the thought-police business.” Further, Nadler denounced the PATRIOT Act as “little more than the institution of a police state.”
Nadler also criticized the Bush Administration for holding and interrogating terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay Cuba.
In 2003, Nadler joined forces with Rep. John Conyers and Senator Russell Feingold—both Democrats—in authoring an angry demarche demanding that then-Attorney General John Ashcroft “terminate” the Justice Department’s policy of using 56 FBI field offices to count the number of Muslim mosques, religious organizations, and community groups in their local districts. Wrote the lawmakers: “We cannot sanction the targeting of Muslim populations and mosques, or any other community group or institution, to gather intelligence without any suspicion or cause that a specific individual or group of individuals, or a particular mosque or religious organization, is engaging in terrorist activities.” They were silent, however, about the well-documented ties between U.S.-based mosques—many of them financed by Wahhabi money—and Islamist terror groups. Nor did they mention that the FBI’s counting practice ran afoul of no constitutional directives.
A staunch supporter of the notoriously corrupt community organization ACORN, Nadler on multiple occasions has run for office on the tickets of both the Democratic Party and ACORN’s Working Families Party. In 2008 he personally donated $6,000 to ACORN. When the House of Representatives voted by a 345-75 margin to defund ACORN in September 2009, Nadler was one of the 75—all Democrats—who voted to continue the funding.
In January 2011, when the new Speaker of the House, Republican John Boehner, announced his intention to open the year’s first session of Congress with a reading of the U.S. Constitution, Nadler complained that Republicans “are reading it [the Constitution] like a sacred text.” Boehner’s “ritualistic reading” was “total nonsense” and “propaganda,” said Nadler, adding that the document’s need for amendments to abolish slavery and other injustices showed that it was, from its inception, “highly imperfect.”
In January 2013, Nadler applauded his state’s adoption of the strictest gun-control laws in America, though he still “would … have preferred stronger” restrictions on high-capacity ammunition clips. “Hunters don’t use large ammunition clips,” said the congressman, “and as far as self defense, I mean who are you defending yourself against? If you’re defending yourself against a robber … if you have a pistol permit or you’re carrying a gun because you work for Wells Fargo and you’re taking money in and out of a bank or something, two or three or four shots should be enough—period.” With regard to mob situations where business owners might be trying to defend their property against looters and rioters, Nadler said, similarly: “The same thing is the case…. One or two shots should be enough. You don’t want to start mowing down 30 or 40 people…. The police shouldn’t do that either…. The only people who should ever be firing large clips of ammunition is the military.”
In March 2019, the Daily Beast reported that Nadler, who was Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, had hired a consultant and public-relations executive named Ezra Friedlander to coordinate outreach to the Orthodox Jewish community for the congressman’s political campaigns. Four months earlier (November 2018), Friedlander had begun working for Irini Vyshinsky, the wife of Kirill Vyshinsky, head of the Ukrainian arm of the Russian state news media outlet RIA Novosti. Because Mr. Vyshinsky had illegally fomented support for the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 — a measure strongly opposed by the United States — he was now incarcerated in a Ukrainian jail, facing charges of treason. His wife had hired Friedlander’s firm to try to negotiate her husband’s release.
For additional information on Jerrold Nadler, click here.