Robert William "Bob" Packwood (born September 11, 1932) is an American politician from Oregon and a member of the Republican Party. He was forced to resign from the United States Senate, under threat of expulsion, in 1995 after allegations of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault of women emerged.
Early life and career
Lawyer turned legislator
Packwood was born in Portland, Oregon
. He graduated from Willamette University
in 1954 where he was a member of the Beta Theta Pi
fraternity (the same Beta chapter as Senator Mark Hatfield
). Packwood graduated from the New York University School of Law
in 1957. He was admitted to the bar in 1957 and practiced law
. He was a member of the Oregon Legislative Assembly
from 1963 to 1968.
Packwood was elected to the Senate in 1968, defeating Wayne Morse
. He was reelected in 1974, 1980, 1986 and 1992. Packwood chaired the powerful Senate Finance Committee
from 1985 to 1987, when he was instrumental in passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1986
, and again in 1995. He was chairman of the Senate Republican Conference
, 1979-1980. His voting record was moderate. He introduced the Senate's first abortion legalization bill in 1970, and was a strong advocate of abortion rights, earning the loyalty of many feminist groups, and the opposition of pro-life
groups. He supported restrictions on gun owners
and liberal civil rights legislation. In 1987 Packwood crossed party line
to vote against the nomination of Robert Bork
into the Supreme Court
, and he was one of only two Republicans to vote against the nomination of Clarence Thomas
into the court. In 1993 he was the only Senator to vote against mandatory life imprisonment for persons convicted of a third violent felony.
In 1988, Packwood was dragged feet-first into the Senate Chamber for a quorum call on campaign finance reform legislation.
Road to resignation
Sexual misconduct allegations
Packwood's political career began to unravel in November 1992, when a Washington Post
story detailed the claims of sexual abuse and assault by 10 women, chiefly former staffers and lobbyists. Packwood was able to delay publication of the story until after the election, in which he defeated Democrat Les AuCoin
52.1% to 46.5%. Despite having supported Packwood throughout his career for his generally liberal voting record, left-of-center interest groups, e.g. National Organization for Women
, endorsed his opponent.
As the situation developed, Packwood's diary became an issue. Wrangling over whether the diary could be subpoenaed and whether it was protected by the Fifth Amendment's protection against self-incrimination ensued. He did turn over 5000 pages to the Senate Ethics Committee but balked when a further 3200 pages were demanded by the committee. It was discovered that he had edited the diary, removing what were allegedly references to sexual encounters and the sexual abuse allegations made against him. Packwood then made what some of his colleagues interpreted as a threat to expose wrongdoing by other members of Congress. The diary allegedly detailed some of his abusive behavior toward women and, according to a press statement made by former Nevada Senator Richard Bryan, other possibly, criminal activities.
Saturday Night Live spoofed the Packwood Diaries, having him end every entry with, "I stuck my tongue down her throat and groped her breasts.
Expulsion recommendation & resignation
Notwithstanding public pressure for open and public hearings, the Senate ultimately decided against public hearings. With pressure mounting against him, Packwood finally announced his resignation from the Senate on September 7
, after the Senate Ethics Committee unanimously recommended that he be expelled from the Senate
for ethical misconduct. (The Ethics Committee membership is evenly divided between both parties.)
After the U.S. Senate
Soon after leaving the Senate, Packwood founded a lobbying
firm called Sunrise Research Corporation. Among other projects, he played a key role in the 2001 fight to repeal the estate tax