Sherrod Brown was born on November 9, 1952 in Mansfield, Ohio. He earned a BA in Russian Studies from Yale University in 1974, an MPA from Ohio State University in 1979, and an MA in Education from Ohio State University in 1981.
In 1974 Brown was elected, as a Democrat, to Ohio’s House of Representatives and served there for eight years. In 1982 he became Ohio’s Secretary of State and held that post until 1990, when Republican Bob Taft unseated him. In 1992, Brown ran an anti-NAFTA, pro-universal-healthcare campaign and, with heavy backing from organized labor, was elected to represent Ohio’s 13th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He promptly became a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and was reelected to the House six times. In 2006 he won a seat in the U.S. Senate, and six years later he was reelected.
In 1990, Brown’s Ohio Secretary of State office awarded a certificate of recognition to Rick Nagin, chairman of the state’s Communist Party USA chapter, for having registered more than 2,000 voters during his failed campaign for Cleveland City Council.
On December 11, 2003, Brown wrote a commentary for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch depicting Republican proposals for the partial privatization of Medicare and some mild reforms to entitlement programs as duplicitous assaults on children, veterans, the elderly, the poor, and the middle class. The piece was reprinted eight days later, with the author’s permission, by the Communist Party USA’s People’s World.
In a speech he delivered in 2005, Brown praised the Mexican diplomat/politician Adolpho Aguilar Zinser as a champion of “social and economic justice” as well as a “true patriot, a true fighter for his country, and a friend to so many of us.” Two years earlier, Zinser, while serving as Mexico’s UN ambassador, had accused the U.S. of exploiting its southern neighbor in a “relationship of convenience and subordination.” Moreover, from 1994-97 Zinser had represented the socialist Party of the Democratic Revolution, whose 1989 founding was the result of a merger between the Mexican Communist Party, the Socialist Mexican Party, and the Unified Socialist Party of Mexico.
When Brown ran for the Senate in 2006, his campaign was supported by the Ohio Democratic Socialists of America, the Peace Action PAC, and the Progressive Democrats of America. Other groups that have backed Brown over the years include the 21st Century Democrats, the Council for a Livable World, the J Street PAC, and the League of Conservation Voters.
It is significant that between 2007-12, J Street funneled almost $60,000 to Brown’s political campaigns—more than any other single donor. In light of J Street’s history as a harsh critic of Israel, some reporters have pressed Brown, without success, to shed light on his relationship with the group. In response to a question on the matter in October 2012, for instance, Brown said curtly: “Whatever my relationship with JStreet is, I’m proud of it.”
Notably, Brown has been an opponent of Israel’s embargo of Gaza, which the Jewish state put into effect in 2007 to prevent the Gaza-based terror group Hamas from from acquiring weapons of war from Iran and other allies abroad. At the same time, Brown has spoken in glowing terms about the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)—a group closely tied to Hamas and hostile to Israel. In June 2011 he wrote that CAIR had made many valuable contributions to society, and that he himself wished to help Americans “build understanding about Islam.” More extended comments by Brown were read aloud at a CAIR event around that time, but both Brown and CAIR subsequently refused to release the full text of those remarks.
Some noteworthy individuals who have donated money to Brown’s various political campaigns include: (a) billionaire George Soros, who, according to CampaignMoney.com, gave Brown $2,100 in 2005 and another $2,000 six years later; (b) Ihsan Haque, an affiliate of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and a leader of the Islamic Society of Akron, who from 2003-10 gave Brown four separate donations totaling $3,000 in aggregate; and Marcus Raskin, co-founder of the Institute for Policy Studies.
In May 2008, Brown praised the pro-socialist, notoriously corrupt community organization ACORN as a “terrific” and “articulate” group “that is working to connect politics with working families and low-income people.” “[T]here’s no higher calling than that,” he elaborated, “as more low-income people are going to vote this year and help to change the direction of our country.”
In February 2009, Senator Brown spoke at the Blue Green Alliance‘s annual “Good Jobs, Green Jobs” conference. Fellow speakers included such notables as Keith Ellison, Leo Gerard, Van Jones, Kathleen Sebelius, Richard Trumka, and Cathy Zoi.
Brown has long favored big-government rather than free-market approaches to public policy. In April 2009, for example, he spoke at a Health Care for America Now (HCAN) rally in Cleveland Heights and declared, “I would love to see a single-payer [healthcare] system, but that is not [politically] possible right now.” What was achievable, he explained, was a public option_—_i.e., a government-run plan that he said would “compete” with private insurers and “keep the private plans a lot more honest.” But as many analysts have noted, a public option would inevitably drive private insurers out of business.
In October 2012, Brown stated that the vote he had cast two years earlier for Obamacare, which gave government an unprecedented level of involvement in American healthcare, was the “best” and “most important” vote of his legislative career.
And at a Cleveland Planned Parenthood rally in April 2011, Brown claimed that the reason why people’s average life expectancies were now “30 years longer” than those of their forebears a century earlier, was because of government initiatives like “Social Security and Medicare, and, and minimum wage, and workers’ compensation, and prohibition of child labor, and clean air [laws], and safe drinking water, and auto safety—seat belts, air bags.”
Brown likewise maintains that government oversight and regulation—not free-market principles—can most effectively promote economic prosperity, as evidenced by his June 2012 assertion that: “Everybody knows that government creates jobs. Government creates jobs in highways. We hire private contractors. That creates other jobs. It builds an economic foundation for job creation.”
Advocating an expansion of government-run safety-net programs rather than the types of low tax rates that traditionally have stimulated business activity, Brown in late 2010 claimed that “extending unemployment benefits … creates economic activity that creates jobs, not giving a millionaire an extra ten or twenty or thirty thousand dollars in tax cuts that they likely won’t spend.”
On a number of occasions, Brown has cited his Christian faith as the moral and philosophical underpinning of his political positions. In January 2012, for instance, he suggested that New Testament “teachings of social and economic justice” mandate a steeply progressive tax structure and wholesale wealth redistribution. “My opposition to tax cuts for America’s most privileged adults and Head Start cuts afflicting our least privileged children follow from the teachings of Christ,” Brown explained. Moreover, he stated that the “trade policies” of the Central American Free Trade Agreement “contradict those [Christian] teachings” and “violat[e] the tenets of my faith and the tenets of my belief in social justice.”
Brown has also indicated that his opposition to the death penalty is similarly “grounded in the scriptures.”
More than once, Brown has articulated his exceedingly low regard for conservatives. In an October 3, 2010 USA Today editorial, he wrote that “for generations, conservatives have appealed to fear to protect the privileged and preserve the status quo—fear of immigrants, fear of diversity, fear of big government.” In the same piece, he warned that “the Tea Party vision of 21st-century America would gut Medicare and Social Security, ignore the minimum wage, and scale back consumer protections and regulations that keep Wall Street honest and our food supply safe.” And in a speech to an Ohio Education Association assembly in 2011, Brown stated that “the John Birch Society” had “sort of morphed into the Tea Party.”
In the National Journal‘s 2011 ranking of Congress’s “Most Liberal Members,” Brown was tied for first—along with eight other legislators. The following year, the Heritage Foundation rated Brown as even further to the political left than Senator Bernie Sanders, an open socialist.
Over the years, Brown has received a few donations from high-ranking officials and/or board members of Islamist organizations. Specifically, from 2003-2018 he received a total of $8,276 in contributions from individuals affiliated with the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim American Society.
For an overview of Brown’s voting record on various key issues when he was a member of the Senate and House of Representatives, click here.
For additional information on Sherrod Brown, click here.