Peter Anthony DeFazio (born May 27, 1947) is the U.S. Representative for Oregon's 4th congressional district, serving since 1987. He is a member of the Democratic Party. The district includes Eugene, Springfield, Roseburg and part of Corvallis. As Oregon's most senior member of Congress, he is the dean of Oregon's House of Representatives delegation. A native of Massachusetts and a veteran of the United States Air Force, he previously served as a county commissioner in Lane County, Oregon.
Early life, education, and pre-congressional career
DeFazio was born in Needham, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston.
He credits his great-uncle with shaping his politics; when he was a boy, that great-uncle almost never said "Republican" without saying "bastard" (or "bastud," as it usually sounds in the Boston accent). He served in the United States Air Force from 1967 to 1971. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tufts University in 1969 and a Master of Arts degree from the University of Oregon in 1977.
DeFazio worked as a gerontologist. From 1977 to 1982, DeFazio worked as an aide for U.S. Representative Jim Weaver.
He was elected as a Lane County Commissioner in 1983 and served as chairman from 1985 to 1986.
U.S. House of Representatives
In 1986, DeFazio ran for Oregon's 4th congressional district, vacated by retiring incumbent Democrat Jim Weaver. DeFazio narrowly won in a competitive three-way primary against State Senators Bill Bradbury and Margie Hendrikson 34%-33%-31%. He won the general election with 54% of the vote.
After his first election, he has won re-election with at least 61% of the vote, until 2010. He has forged a nearly unbreakable hold on a district which is only marginally Democratic on paper: it narrowly voted for George W.
Bush in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004.
See also: United States House of Representatives elections in Oregon, 2008#Fourth congressional district
DeFazio won 82% of the vote over two minor party candidates.
Earlier, he reportedly considered and re-considered running against Smith for the 2008 Senate election. On April 20, 2007, DeFazio announced he would not run for Smith's seat.
After Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, it was reported that DeFazio was under consideration for nomination as Obama's Secretary of Transportation. However, fellow U.S. Representative Ray LaHood was named to the post in December 2008.
See also: United States House of Representatives elections in Oregon, 2010#Fourth congressional district
In 2010, DeFazio was challenged by Republican Art Robinson and Pacific Green candidate Michael Beilstein. As a result of the SCOTUS decision on Citizens United v. The Washington Post, the group claims "it was formed in September 'to engage citizens from every walk of life and political affiliation' in the fight against 'runaway spending.'" The only expenditures have been for these ads.
Federal Election Commission, a so-called Super PAC group called The Concerned Taxpayers of America paid $300,000 for ads attacking De Fazio and $150,000 for ads attacking Frank Kratovil of Maryland. It was not revealed until the mid-October 2010 quarterly FEC filings that the group was solely funded by $300,000 from Daniel G. Schuster Inc., a concrete firm in Owings Mills, Maryland, and $200,000 from New York hedge fund executive Robert Mercer, the co-head of Renaissance Technologies of Setauket, New York. The FEC filings prior to then listed only a Capitol Hill address and Republican political consultant Jason Miller as treasurer. According to Dan Eggen at
DeFazio won with 54% of the vote, his lowest winning percentage since he was first elected in 1986.
In 2008, DeFazio and California representative Pete Stark signed a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proposing a one quarter of one percent transaction tax on all trades in financial instruments including stocks, options, and futures.
Subsequently DeFazio introduced the No BAILOUT Act.
At a closed-door meeting of the House Democratic Caucus in late March 2009, President Obama reportedly upbraided DeFazio for his vote against the stimulus. "Don't think we're not keeping score, brother," Obama quipped, according to the Associated Press, while urging DeFazio to support his budget proposal. DeFazio, speaking to press after the exchange, professed that he was honored that Obama recognized him and the issues of his constituents.
DeFazio made headlines in mid-November 2009 when he suggested, in an interview with liberal MSNBC commentator Ed Schultz, that President Obama should fire Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers. "We may have to sacrifice just two more jobs to get back millions for Americans," said DeFazio. The quote made top headlines at progressive news blog The Huffington Post. DeFazio also suggested that a formal call by the Congressional Progressive Caucus for Geithner and Summers to be removed might be forthcoming.
In 2009, DeFazio proposed a financial transaction tax for within the United States only (not internationally). (See DeFazio financial transaction tax.)
Political Positions and Votes
DeFazio has a progressive voting record. He voted against the Telecommunications Act of 1996—one of only 16 congressmen to do so. DeFazio particularly objected to a provision that deregulated the cable television industry. According to DeFazio, many of his fellow Democrats later realized "they were idiots" for backing the bill. He was also the only Oregonian who voted against both NAFTA and GATT. On the issue of abortion, DeFazio is strongly pro-choice, earning a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood in 2010. He is a founding member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and was its chairman from 2003 to 2005.
Somewhat controversially, DeFazio declined to support the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, voting against the final stimulus package on February 13, 2009. He was one of only seven House Democrats to vote "nay" on the bill. DeFazio said that his vote against the bill was due to his frustration over compromises made to win support from moderate Republicans in the Senate, saying, "I couldn't justify borrowing money for tax cuts," in reference to a bipartisan group's decision to cut funding for education and infrastructure initiatives the Oregon congressman had supported in favor of more tax reductions. He also advocated that the U.S. Senate change its cloture rules, doing away with the filibuster that, in the current 59–41 Democratic majority, gives Republicans the ability to block legislation from coming to a vote.
U.S. Senate elections
After Senator Bob Packwood resigned in early September 1995, DeFazio ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate in a special primary, losing to 3rd District Congressman Ron Wyden. Wyden started out with clear advantages over DeFazio; more seniority, a base in the large Portland media market and more cash on hand in his campaign committee. However, DeFazio's scrappy campaign style, underscored by his TV ads featuring his populist musings while driving in his Dodge Dart, made him a favorite among many Democratic activists. Ultimately, DeFazio lost to Wyden by only 5% in the Democratic primary, despite his early lead of 20%. Wyden, bruised by the primary and trailing State Senator Gordon H. Smith, managed to pull off an upset against Smith in the January 1996 special election.
Many Democrats wanted DeFazio to then run for the seat of Senator Mark Hatfield, who announced right after the special primary election that he would not seek re-election in 1996. However, Democrats with influence over campaign cash, chiefly Senator and Democratic Senate Campaign Committee chair Bob Kerrey of Nebraska and former Oregon Governor Neil Goldschmidt strongly recruited and promoted self-made millionaire and Mentor Graphics founder, Tom Bruggere. Faced with the prospect of having to raise huge sums of money to take on Bruggere in the primary and then millionaire Smith in the general election, DeFazio announced in February 1996 that he would not run. Bruggere easily won the primary but lost to Smith in 1996.
DeFazio is a member of the Roman Catholic Church. He and his wife, Myrnie Daut, reside in Springfield.
January 23rd, 2012