Sheldon Whitehouse

Sheldon Whitehouse

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  • Has served as a U.S. Senator from Rhode Island since 2007
  • Radical environmentalist


Sheldon Whitehouse was born in New York City on October 20, 1955, to a family of considerable business and political stature. His father, Charles Whitehouse, served as U.S. Ambassador to Laos and Thailand during the 1970s, and his great-grandfather, Charles Crock, had founded the Central Pacific Railroad in the 1860s.

After attending a prestigious boarding school in New Hampshire, Sheldon Whitehouse went on to graduate from Yale University with a B.A. in architecture in 1978. Four years later, he received his law degree from the University of Virginia.

In the early 1980s, Whitehouse worked as a law clerk for Judge Richard Neely of West Virginia’s Supreme Court of Appeals. From 1984 to 1989, he served as a special assistant attorney general in Rhode Island. From 1989 to 1990, he was an assistant attorney general in that same state. In 1991 he served as legal counsel for the administration of Rhode Island’s Democratic governor, Bruce Sundlun. And in 1992, he became the governor’s policy director as well as director of the state’s Department of Business Regulation.

In 1994, Whitehouse was appointed as a U.S. attorney for Rhode Island by President Bill Clinton. He held the position until 1999, when he was sworn in as the state’s attorney general.

In 2002, Whitehouse ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for Rhode Island governor, narrowly losing to eventual nominee Myrth York by less than 1,000 votes. Whitehouse stepped down from his position as state attorney general in 2003.

A Wealthy U.S. Senator

In 2006, Whitehouse defeated liberal Republican Lincoln Chafee by nearly 27,000 votes to become Rhode Island’s next U.S. Senator. Whitehouse’s campaign was aided by support from left-wing organizations like the AFL-CIO and the Sierra Club. At the time of his election, Whitehouse had an estimated net worth of $9.6 million.

Lauding Obama, Denouncing Bush

On January 21, 2009, Whitehouse celebrated the arrival of the newly installed President Barack Obama by bashing former President George W. Bush during a speech on the Senate floor. “Americans’ hearts are strong and confident because we see a brighter future ahead,” he said. “But consider the pervasive, deliberate, and systematic damage the Bush administration did to America, to her finest traditions and institutions, to her reputation and integrity.” Among other things, Whitehouse charged that the Bush team had used “interrogation techniques of the Inquisition, of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge” — as well as “a bodyguard of lies, jargon, and propaganda emitted to fool and beguile the American people.” Moreover, the senator went so far as to claim that the incoming Obama administration’s concern about the needs of the poor was akin to “when Jesus of Nazareth cast his lot with the weak and the powerless.”

Supporter of ACORN

In September 2009, the U.S. Senate voted 83-7 to stop the Department of Housing and Urban Development from granting funds to ACORN, the notoriously corrupt community organization that had recently been mired in a string of highly publicized scandals. The 7 senators who voted in favor of continuing to fund ACORN with taxpayer dollars were: Sheldon Whitehouse, Roland Burris, Bob Casey, Dick Durbin, Kirsten Gillibrand, Patrick Leahy, and Bernie Sanders.

Characterizing Opponents of Obamacare as Racists

Amid congressional debate regarding Obamacare in December 2009, Whitehouse accused Senate Republicans of racism for not supporting the landmark healthcare legislation:

“Voting ‘no’ and hiding from the vote are the same result. Those of us on the floor see it. It was clear the three of them who did not cast their yes votes until all 60 Senate votes had been tallied and it was clear that the result was a foregone conclusion. And why? Why all this discord and discourtesy, all this unprecedented destructive action? All to break the momentum of our new young president.

“They are desperate to break this president. They have ardent supporters who are nearly hysterical at the very election of President Barack Obama. The birthers, the fanatics, the people running around in right-wing militia and Aryan support groups, it is unbearable to them that President Barack Obama should exist. That is one powerful reason. It is not the only one.”

Key Votes by Whitehouse during His First Term

A self-described “fierce advocate for progressive values,” Whitehouse, during his first Senate term from 2007 to 2013, regularly sided with his party on key votes, including:

  • Voting ‘Yes’ on including global warming as a factor to be considered in all federal project planning (2007)
  • Voting ‘No’ on an amendment to prevent minors from crossing state lines in order to obtain abortions without parental notification (2007)
  • Voting ‘Yes’ on the McCain-Kennedy comprehensive immigration reform bill (2007)
  • Voting ‘Yes’ on granting a U.S. House seat to Washington, D.C. (2007)
  • Voting ‘No’ on an amendment to “prohibit the use of funds by international organizations, agencies, and entities that require the registration of, or taxes, guns owned by citizens of the United States” (2007)
  • Voting ‘Yes’ on a proposal to continue the provision of federal funding for sanctuary cities (2008)
  • Voting ‘Yes’ on spending over $800 billion through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (2009)
  • Voting ‘No’ on an amendment to “require individuals voting in person to present photo identification” (2009)
  • Voting ‘No’ on “protecting middle-income taxpayers from a national energy tax” (2009)
  • Voting ‘Yes’ on banning “employment discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity” (2009)
  • Voting ‘Yes’ on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) (2009)
  • Voting ‘Yes’ on repealing the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding the enlistment of homosexuals (2010)
  • Voting ‘No’ on prohibiting the EPA from pursuing greenhouse-gas regulations (2011)

Environmental Radicalism

In February 2013, Whitehouse spoke to thousands of demonstrators united in opposition to the completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline‘s construction.

In 2013 as well, Whitehouse supported the passage of carbon-tax legislation as a means of limiting the greenhouse-gas emissions allegedly associated with climate change and potential environmental calamity. “For far too long, carbon polluters have pushed the true cost of their pollution onto the American people in the form of dirty air, acidified water, and a changing climate,” said Whitehouse. “This framework is the beginning of a collaborative process to craft legislation that will reduce carbon pollution while also upholding an important principle: that all of the revenue generated through this carbon fee will be returned to the American people.”

On May 20, 2013, Whitehouse went to the Senate floor and cited a recent tornado that had devastated parts of Oklahoma, as an example of the climate-related catastrophes that were bound to occur as a result of Republicans failing to support legislation designed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Said the senator:

  • “So, you may have a question for me: Why do you care? Why do you, Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, care if we Republicans run off the climate cliff like a bunch of proverbial lemmings and disgrace ourselves? I’ll tell you why. We’re stuck in this together. We are stuck in this together.”
  • “When cyclones tear up Oklahoma and hurricanes swamp Alabama and wildfires scorch Texas, you [Republicans] come to us, the rest of the country, for billions of dollars to recover. And the damage that your polluters and deniers are doing doesn’t just hit Oklahoma and Alabama and Texas. It hits Rhode Island with floods and storms. It hits Oregon with acidified seas, it hits Montana with dying forests. So, like it or not, we’re in this together. You drag America with you to your fate.”
  • More than 95 percent of climate scientists are convinced that human carbon pollution is causing massive and unprecedented changes to our atmosphere and oceans…. Our planet has had a run of at least 800,000 years with levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere between 170 and 300 ppm. That’s measurement; not theory. Eight hundred thousand years. Homo sapiens have only been around for about 200,000 years, so that 800,000 years–8,000 centuries–it takes you back a ways. Eight hundred thousand years between 170 and 300 ppm, and in just the last 50 years we’ve blown out of that range, and have now hit 400 ppm and climbing. And you want to be on the side of ‘nothing’s going on’? Really? Have you noticed the floods and wildfires and droughts and superstorms and tornadoes and blizzards and temperature records? Have you noticed those warming, rising seas? Have you noticed species invading new territory, and miles of dead pine forests in the Rockies, and Arctic sea ice disappearing?”

In November 2013, Politico reported that Whitehouse and Democrat congressman Henry Waxman would be meeting with representatives of America’s four major professional sports leagues to address “the effects of climate change on sporting activities and the work these organizations are doing to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.”

In April 2014, Whitehouse and Henry Waxman co-authored a op-ed piece detailing “the dangers associated with the tar sands fuel that the [Keystone XL] pipeline would transport.” Invoking John Kerry, “a respected environmental champion,” the two concluded that “the pipeline is not in the national interest.”

During a May 21, 2015 discussion with the League of Conservation Voters, Whitehouse was asked why some people “don’t believe scientists on [the threat posed by] climate change?” He replied:

“Well, you go all the way back to the tobacco fight. And the tobacco industry created a kind of false parallel science to go alongside the real science, and try to compete with it. They had the advantage that they didn’t have to win the fight, all they had to do was create enough doubt that people kept smoking, and so they created the Tobacco Institute — supposed to sound so academic. Well, the polluters have gotten a lot more sophisticated since then, but this vast denial apparatus that propagates the false doubt, that props up the phony science, that gets these yahoos who can’t peer-reviewed scrutiny onto Fox News, onto the cable shows, saying that they’re scientists, they create an artificial conflict about this, and that’s why, I think, there’s doubt. A lot of people haven’t seen through the scam that’s being perpetrated. So, that’s one of the reasons I hope that we get another lawsuit out of the Department of Justice, like the one that they brought against the tobacco industry, that showed that that whole fraudulent scam was a racketeering enterprise and held them accountable for it.”

On May 29, 2015, Whitehouse authored an op-ed in The Washington Post that called for the Obama Justice Department to consider bringing legal charges against the “climate denial network” consisting of the fossil-fuel industry and “conservative policy institutes.”

In November 2015, Whitehouse praised President Obama’s decision to reject the completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline — a decision based on Obama’s determination that “approving this project would have undercut [America’s] global leadership” in “taking serious action to fight climate change.” Whitehouse claimed that the moment was analogous in its significance, to the moment when Union soldiers had first gained the momentum they would need in order to win the Civil War.

During a Senate hearing in March 2016, Whitehouse asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch about the possibility of prosecuting climate-change skeptics. Lynch, in response, acknowledged that her team had discussed the idea internally and had asked the FBI about potential investigations.

Proud Supporter of Hillary Clinton

In January 2014, Whitehouse announced his support for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, which was still nearly three years away. He also had “proudly endorsed” Mrs. Clinton for president in 2007.

Environmentalist Hypocrisy

According to a December 2014 report in, Whitehouse, who had delivered approximately 80 speeches on the Senate floor about the harmful effects of global warming, had nonetheless “benefited financially” from stock options in large oil companies like Exxon. Citing also his equity in other companies like Duke Energy, the report noted that “Whitehouse’s economic interests over the past fifteen-plus years seem in conflict with some of his environmental pronouncements.” “In December of 2012,” the piece continued, “as Whitehouse held stock in a company championing a new ‘world’s largest’ clean coal plant, he was delivering a floor speech which challenged his Senate colleagues to take action and pushed for divestiture from fossil fuel investment by colleges and universities.”

Advocate of Permitting 65,000 Syrian Refugees to Enter U.S.

In May 2015, Whitehouse was one of 14 Democrat U.S. senators who wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to allow 65,000 Syrians into the United States as refugees – a measure that would require a dramatic expansion of America’s refugee program. The other senators who signed this letter were: Dick DurbinAmy KlobucharAl FrankenPatrick LeahyDianne FeinsteinPatty MurrayRobert Menendez, Jeanne Shaheen, Chris Coons, Tim KaineEd MarkeySherrod Brown, and Mazie Hirono.

The Criminal Justice Reform & Corrections Act of 2015

On September 30, 2015, Whitehouse joined a bipartisan group of fellow senators — Chuck Grassley, John Cornyn, Dick Durbin, Mike Lee, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Schumer, and Cory Booker – in drafting the Criminal Justice Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, a bill intended to lower criminal penalties for “non-violent drug offenders.” The purpose of the legislation was, according to Politico, to “mak[e] the criminal justice system fairer, particularly for African Americans, following the Baltimore and Ferguson riots.” In an analysis of the bill and its underlying premises, conservative columnist Ben Shapiro wrote:

“You read that correctly: In the aftermath of people rioting, looting, and committing acts of vandalism and violence, Congress’s solution is to let more criminals out of prison. The bill itself … would ‘reduce overcrowding’ and ‘cut recidivism rates by letting low-risk prisoners earn reduced sentences and improving programs that prepare inmates for life after prison.’ […]

“The notion of releasing low-risk offenders sounds grand—after all, they’re low-risk! But the government has a poor track record when it comes to preventing recidivism. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, ‘An estimated two-thirds (68 percent) of 405,000 prisoners released in 30 states in 2005 were arrested for a new crime within three years of release from prison, and three-quarters (77 percent) were arrested within five years, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today.’

“But what about ‘non-violent’ offenders—precisely the sort of offenders we’re supposed to let off the hook? It turns out they go back to crime significantly more than violent offenders: Prisoners released after serving time for a property offense were the most likely to recidivate. Within five years of release, 82 percent of property offenders were arrested for a new crime, compared to 77 percent of drug offenders, 74 percent of public order offenders and 71 percent of violent offenders. […]

“Without evidence, we hear the argument that drug offenders make up the bulk of the poor saps in prison. That’s baloney. As David Brooks points out at the New York Times, few people are behind bars for drug offenses—just 17 percent of those in state prisons are there for drugs. That percentage has been declining steadily for years.”

Accusing Donald Trump of Having Colluded with Russia

Following Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential victory, Whitehouse regularly promoted the claim that Trump had colluded with Russian operatives to tilt the election in his favor. “Russia’s importance to Trump’s business enterprises and what influence that may have over his conduct,” Whitehouse said in February 2017, “traditional old-fashioned kompromat [compromising material], and then engagement between his campaign and the Russians around the torquing of the election away from Hillary. It’s one thing if they torqued the election away from Hillary and gave it to him — it’s another if they were conspiring with each other or planning with each other. The first is bad, the second is . . . worse.”

Later in February 2017, Whitehouse claimed that “probably fewer than half” of Republican senators “think that this guy [Trump] makes it through his presidency.” Concerning Trump’s alleged secret dealings with Russia, Whitehouse stated:

“It’s very dangerous, because we would like to think that a president is making decisions in the best interests of the American people. If in fact there is what the Russians call kompromat — compromising material — and [Trump is] afraid of being embarrassed or if his business empire depends upon various organizations outside the country, then those are all manipulable. If you’re talking about a man’s reputation or the collapse of his business empire, you’re pulling some pretty tough strings.”

“So the potential problems are real and significant, and what we have to do is develop a record that shows . . . that they’re there. A guy who’s hiding his tax returns is not somebody who’s committed to explaining what those international connections are.”

During a March 21, 2017 broadcast of CNN’s New Day, Whitehouse reacted to the FBI’s announcement that it was investigating the possibility that the Trump presidential campaign may have colluded with Russian operatives to tilt the final vote tally in Trump’s favor. Said the senator: “For as long as there have been bank robberies, the FBI has been showing up after the bank robbery, to say, ‘We’re on the case.’ And here, you have the equivalent of an election robbery.”

Membership in All-White Country Club Draws the Ire of BLM

As Whitehouse portrayed President Trump as being sympathetic to Nazis and white supremacists in the aftermath of the infamous Charlottesville protest of August 2017, GoLocal reported that Whitehouse was a member of an almost exclusively white beach club in Newport, Rhode Island. “Whitehouse’s office repeatedly refused to respond to phone calls and multiple emails regarding the Senator’s membership in a white-only club” the website noted.

When confronted in June 2021 about his membership in the club, Whitehouse said: “It’s a long tradition in Rhode Island, and there are many of them, and I think we just need to work our way through the issues.” The people “running the place are still working on” diversifying its membership, he assured, adding: “I’m sorry it hasn’t happened yet.”

In late July 2021, Mark Fisher, a member of the Rhode Island chapter of Black Lives Matter (BLM), announced that he was giving Whitehouse just a few days to cut his ties with the aforementioned country club. “This is an issue that’s not going to go away and Sen. Whitehouse needs to address it, he needs to take it on,” said Fisher. “If he thinks we’re just going to forget about it, if he thinks that it’s going to get swept under the rug, it’s not,” Fisher added, vowing that his organization was prepared to initiate protests against the senator if necessary: “We’ll go to his club, we’ll go to his office, we’ll go to his home, wherever we need to go.” “This club is a proven racist club with exclusive ties to supremacy and exclusion,” Fisher continued, “and that’s something that’s not going to be tolerated by me, by my associates, my affiliates or my organization.”

Condemning the Republican Tax-Cut Bill

On February 16, 2018, Whitehouse stated that the recently passed Republican tax-reduction bill benefited the wealthy and harmed the poor. “There is a real concern that the American people have lost control of our country and that it’s now in the hands of a handful of creepy billionaires,” said the senator. “This tax bill is a prime example of that problem. It created a big payday for the big political donors, but it left pretty short shrift for the American people. We don’t know where this is going to end. We do know that it’s great for big shareholders. Because it jacks up share prices. We also know that it’s great for CEOs whose compensation very often rides on share prices. So, when they jack up their own share price with buybacks, it comes right back to them in their executive compensation. This is no way to run a country. This bill was not fair to the American people. And I can assure you that if Democrats come back after the November ‘18 elections, we will do our very best to correct the inequities in this bill.”

Endorsing Joe Biden for President

In December 2019, Whitehouse announced that he was endorsing Joe Biden for president in the upcoming 2020 election.

Lamenting America’s “Systemic Racism”

In early June 2020, Whitehouse joined other Senate Democrats in a moment of silence “to commemorate the lives of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, and to stand in solidarity with Americans peacefully objecting to racial injustice across the country.” “We hear the voices of the peaceful protestors who have marched,” said Whitehouse. “We can and must do better to root out systemic racism in its many forms and meet America’s full promise of justice for all.”

Celebrating the Biden-Harris Election Victory

Whitehouse congratulated Joe Biden and hid running mate, Kamala Harris, following their victory in the November 2020 presidential election: “After four long years, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will restore heart, decency, and competence to the White House.”

Longtime Recipient of “Dark Money”

On February 25, 2021, Sean Moran of detailed how Whitehouse had long been a leading congressional recipient of “dark money”:

“Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse … has frequently criticized the alleged nefarious effects of dark money on politics, particularly as it relates to conservative and Republican dark money.

“Dark Money refers to political spending in which the source of the money is not disclosed. Political groups typically use dark money through political action groups such as 501(c)(4)s, and the federal government does not require those groups to disclose their donors.

“‘Opaque’ nonprofits and shell companies may also give unlimited donations to super PACs. The transparency organization OpenSecrets noted that while the Federal Election Commission (FEC) usually requires super PACs to disclose their donors, ‘some of these groups are effectively dark money outlets when the bulk of their funding cannot be traced back to the original donor.’

“Whitehouse most recently criticized conservative groups, allegedly funded by dark money, for launching attacking ads against President Joe Biden’s nominees…. Whitehouse also told former Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in January 2020 how then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) kept the Senate Republican Conference in line using dark money…. Whitehouse and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) also introduced legislation in July 2020 that would require dark-money conservative judicial groups to disclose their donors….

“Despite his partisan grandstanding over dark money’s allegedly nefarious effects, Whitehouse has received significant contributions from dark money organizations.

“Since 2005, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), a dark-money environmentalist group, has served as Whitehouse’s largest donor. LCV has contributed $187,861 and an additional $12,062 from PACs associated with LCV to Whitehouse….

“Whitehouse [also] has had a long history with the American Constitution Society, which … is funded by dark money.”

Refusing to Say Whether He Will Support Biden for Re-Election in 2024

In August 2022, Whitehouse declined to answer whether Joe Biden should seek re-election as president in 2024. “But I do think that from now through November is a really important period for the Biden administration to set the mark for how they’re going to campaign for 2024 and to establish the narrative,” the senator stated. When pressed further to comment on the prospect of another Biden run, Whitehouse replied: “I’m gonna duck that question, if you don’t mind. We don’t have any candidates yet for 2024, and I’m not picking amongst them.”

Pressuring the IRS to Investigate Conservative Nonprofits

According to documents obtained by the American Accountability Foundation (AAF) in November 2022, Whitehouse attempted to influence the IRS to investigate the conservative organization Turning Point USA and revoke the latter’s tax-exempt status. The senator’s aim was to punish Turning Point for having hosted an event during the COVID-19 pandemic where attendees were not required to wear facemasks and practice “social distancing.” Whitehouse also sought to have the IRS revoke the tax-exempt status of AAF’s partner and supporter, the Conservative Partnership Institute, for “reported activities benefiting Republican candidates and the Republican National Committee (RNC), in contravention of rules governing activities of tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations.”

On November 6, 2023, the Daily Caller reported that the IRS was opening an investigation of the conservative AAF, which had criticized a number of Biden administration nominees during the course of the preceding months and years. “This sudden request by the IRS is not random,” said AAF President Tom Jones. “The IRS is demanding ‘[c]orrespondence files, emails and information posted on a website that relates to current public elected officials’ – clearly a sign that they are targeting our research and education activities. It’s a deliberate attempt to punish and suppress AAF’s activities. It is surely no coincidence that AAF—the very organization that exposed the weaponization of the IRS—is now the target of it.”

Whitehouse’s Positions on Key Issues

As matters of principle, Whithouse believes that:

  • all women should have an unrestricted right to abortion-on-demand at any stage of pregnancy – subsidized by taxpayers, in cases of economic hardship;
  • public and private employers alike should be legally required to implement affirmative-action hiring and promotion policies that give preference to African Americans and women, as compensation for historical injustices;
  • the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is an excellent statute that can serve as a strategic stepping stone toward the eventual implementation of a government-run, single-payer healthcare system;
  • Social Security should remain entirely and permanently under federal control, with no movement whatsoever toward any degree of privatization;
  • voucher programs designed to enable low-income parents to send their children to private schools rather than to failing public schools, constitute bad policy because they rob the public schools of vital resources;
  • wealthy people and high income earners should pay dramatically higher tax rates than those with less wealth or lower incomes;
  • restrictions on immigration are basically racist because they tend to prevent Hispanics and other non-whites from entering the United States;
  • social services should be available to all U.S. residents regardless of their immigration status;
  • illegal aliens should be offered amnesty if they have been productive members of society;
  • voter ID laws are racist and designed to suppress minority voting;
  • an ever-increasing reliance on “green energy” sources such as wind and solar should be put in place, along with the phasing out of fossil fuels, the imposition of carbon taxes, and the raising of vehicle CAFE standards;
  • federal spending on public infrastructure projects and job programs is crucial to the success of any economic recovery program;
  • the nationalization of banks and corporations is preferable to federal bailouts of those entities.

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