“Vetting” is a series of essays that will provide in-depth analysis of the records of the more overlooked 2020 Democratic candidates.
Maybe you first heard the name “Amy Klobuchar” this winter when reports that she mistreated her staff (and once ate salad with a comb) began circulating in the press. If you watched the Brett Kavanaugh hearings last fall, you saw the senior senator from Minnesota asking Supreme Court nominee if he had ever consumed so much alcohol that he could not remember what he did or where he went. And, if you’re like me, you punched the air when Klobuchar’s polite question goaded Kavanaugh into revealing his true colors.
Before any of that, however, I had no idea who Amy Klobuchar was. Nor did a lot of other people. That being said, who is Amy Klobuchar?
Amy Klobuchar was born in Minnesota on May 25, 1960. She attended Yale, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She then headed to law school at the University of Chicago, graduating in 1985.
Klobuchar worked for the law firms Dorsey and Whitney and Gray Plant Mooty, specializing in telecommunications law. After successfully lobbying the Minnesota state legislature to end the practice of “drive-through deliveries” in Minnesota (a similar law was implemented on the federal level under Bill Clinton), Klobuchar later ran for County Attorney of Hennepin County. She was elected in 1998 and was re-elected in 2002.
Klobuchar adopted an unabashed “tough on crime” stance during her tenure. Publicly praising the NYPD’s “broken windows” policing tactics, Klobuchar’s office secured nearly three hundred homicide convictions. Klobuchar prosecuted her fair share of domestic violence cases. In 2001, she successfully prosecuted a man after he murdered and dismembered his wife; in 2005, her office won an attempted murder conviction against a teacher who tried to kill his wife. She also received an award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving for her work in helping to pass Minnesota’s first felony DWI laws. Klobuchar provoked controversy with her (ultimately unsuccessful) prosecution of baseball great Kirby Puckett over sexual assault allegations in 2002. However, the 2005 trial of a former priest over sexual misconduct and theft charges resulted in a conviction.
Klobuchar also had a hard-nosed attitude toward non-violent criminals, too. In 1999, Klobuchar requested that a judge give a “shoplifter for hire" double the recommended sentence under “career offender" laws; the shoplifter was sentenced to four years in prison. Klobuchar prosecuted a former judge for stealing more than $300,000 from a trust account set up for an intellectually disabled woman (he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to sixty-nine months in prison) and several Northwest Airlines pilots for tax evasion. Klobuchar also sought felony charges for those who participated in a riot following an NHL hockey match.
Her vigorous pursuit of criminal prosecutions has raised the ire of progressives who are seeking to alleviate the mass incarceration crisis. Earlier this year, Klobuchar claimed that the number of blacks incarcerated in Hennepin County dropped during her tenure in office. Politifact later rated this statement as “false.”
Her “tough" attitude toward prosecuting criminals, however, did not extend toward police officers who were accused of unjustifiable shootings and other acts of police brutality. Klobuchar repeatedly sidestepped calls to prosecute police officers, instead relying on grand juries to bring indictments--grand juries that almost never did. On her watch, Minneapolis, Hennepin County’s largest city, paid out $4.8 million in settlements to the victims of police brutality and their families.
Klobuchar also had a few brushes with scandal, too. She ended up returning more than $80,000 in campaign donations from Tom Petters, a convicted Ponzi schemer; in her reelection bid in 2012, her Republican opponent (most likely falsely) accused her of having evidence to prosecute Petters in 1999. And, in 2005, her office declined to bring charges against Cesar Sayoc for a 1995 warrant alleging “theft by swindle" and fifth-degree possession of crack cocaine after evidence was destroyed. Sayoc went on to infamy in 2018 after mailing sixteen bombs to prominent Democrats; two of Sayoc’s targets (Kamala Harris and Cory Booker) are Klobuchar’s colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
When Klobuchar was elected to the US Senate in 2006, she became the first woman to be elected to the Senate from that state. She quickly established a reputation for effectiveness. As of December, 2016, Klobuchar has sponsored or co-sponsored twenty-seven bills that have become law. In 2017, Klobuchar had thirteen bills make it out of committee and onto the floor for a vote. In 2018, Klobuchar introduced seven bills that became law.
In 2007, the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge collapsed during evening rush hour, killing thirteen and injuring more than one hundred others. A grief-stricken Klobuchar announced that “a bridge shouldn’t just fall down in the middle of America” and along with the senior senator from Minnesota and the Minnesota-based House members, pushed through an $250 million earmark that provided emergency funds for a replacement bridge.
In 2008, Klobuchar introduced a host of bills in the Senate. The American Renewable Energy Act of 2008, an update of an older law, would have required electric companies to generate a certain percentage of their energy from renewable sources like wind and solar. Later that year, she introduced The National Highway Bridge Reconstruction and Inspection Act, an act that would have required the Secretary of Transportation to “to develop a risk-based priority process under which states shall assign priority for the replacement or rehabilitation of all federal-aid highways bridges, public roads bridges, and Indian reservation and park bridges found to be structurally deficient.” In July, Klobuchar sponsored the Fair, Accurate, Secure, and Timely Redress Act. The FAST Redress Act called for the Secretary of Homeland Security to set up an appeals process for people who had been denied the right to board planes due to being incorrectly identified as terror threats.
Klobuchar’s positions on social issues is reliably liberal. As of 2018, she has a 100% rating on abortion rights with the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America. In 2007, the freshman senator earned a rating of only 90% from the Human Rights Campaign. However, Klobuchar’s rating has been 100% since 2013. She voted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and Klobuchar did vote “yea" on ENDA, an act designed to prohibit discrimination due to sexual orientation and gender identity. Klobuchar can boast of a 96% lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters. As of 2018, Klobuchar has a 13% rating with NRA.
She seems to have adopted a middle of the road stance on immigration. While she supported the resettlement of Syrian refugees, the guest worker program, comprehensive immigration reform, and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have been otherwise law-abiding, Klobuchar supported making English the official language of the United States, opposed Social Security for undocumented immigrants and opposed amnesty for companies which hired undocumented workers. And, in 2007, Klobuchar did vote “yea” on an amendment to appropriate $3 billion for border fences along the Us-Mexico border, a bill that also called for increased “removal and detention of immigrants who have overstayed their visas and immigrants who have reentered the United States without proper documentation.”
Since Trump has been in office, Klobuchar has voted along with him 29.2% of the time. She voted to confirm eleven of Trump’s cabinet picks--Mattis, John Kelly, Elaine Chao, Mike Pompeo, and Wilbur Ross among them.
Did I get it right? Do you feel that I left anything out? Please leave a comment below.
Wayne Messam will be featured in the next installment of “Vetting.”