Dana Rohrabacher

Dana Tyron Rohrabacher (born June 21, 1947, in Coronado, California) is a Californian politician, who has been a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives since 1989, currently representing .

Education and radicalism

Rohrabacher graduated from Palos Verdes High School in Palos Verdes Estates, California, attended Harbor Junior College, and received his bachelor's degree in history from California State University, Long Beach in 1969. He received his master's degree in American Studies from the University of Southern California. In the late 1960s and early 1970s Rohrabacher was a student radical who protested American involvement in the Vietnam War and recruitment by chemical companies on college campuses, among other liberal causes.

Tenure at the Reagan White House

After undergoing something of a political conversion, Rohrabacher became a conservative Republican and served as assistant press secretary to the 1976 and 1980 presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan. From 1981 to 1988 he was one of then President Reagan's senior speechwriters. During his tenure at the White House, Rohrabacher played a leading role in the formulation of the Reagan Doctrine. He also helped formulate President Reagan's Economic Bill of Rights, which were a series of policy proposals President Reagan introduced in a speech at the Jefferson Memorial.

Congressional career

With Reagan a lame duck, Rohrabacher left the administration in 1988 to pursue the open House seat recently vacated by Dan Lungren. With the fundraising help of friend Oliver North, Rohrabacher was able to win the Republican primary and capture the seat, centered around northern coastal Orange County. A friend and fellow White House aide, Chris Cox, won a seat in the same election in southern Orange County. The pair remain close though Cox is now chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Rohrabacher was Chairman of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee of the House Science Committee from 1997 until January 2005, having received a two-year waiver to serve beyond the six-year term limit.

As a senior member of the International Relations Committee, Rohrabacher led the effort to deny Most Favored Nation trading status to the People's Republic of China, citing that nation's dismal human rights record and opposition to democracy. His subcommittee assignments are East Asia and Pacific, and Middle East and South Asia.

Rohrabacher's Communications Director is Tara Setmayer, a black female conservative commentator who is adamently opposed to affirmative action.

Committee assignments

  • Foreign Affairs Committee
    • Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight (Ranking Member)
    • Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment
  • Science and Technology Committee
    • Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics
    • Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight

Political positions

Illegal immigration

Rohrabacher is a staunch opponent of illegal immigration. He was an advocate for California's Proposition 187, which sought to deny immigrants without proper documentation any government services, including education for their children. In 2004 he proposed a bill to withhold reimbursement of emergency room services to people who cannot prove their immigration status. If one is illegal, reimbursement occurs only if the person is deported. The proposed bill was overwhelmingly defeated

On March 30, 2006, Rohrabacher decried a guest worker proposal as "the foul odor that's coming out of the United States Senate." He said that if illegal immigrants who do many farm jobs were deported, "the millions of young men who are prisoners around our country can pick the fruits and vegetables. I say, let the prisoners pick the fruits."

In early 2008 Rohrabacher endorsed Mitt Romney in the Republican Presidential primary, citing his positions on stemming illegal immigration and criticizing John McCain. He said of McCain, "He's been the enemy of those of us who have stemmed the flow of illegals into our country, whereas Romney has made some very tough commitments.

Voting rights for DC residents

In January 2004, Rohrabacher proposed giving Washington, D.C. residents the right to vote for congressional representation by treating them as Maryland residents for the purpose of Congressional elections.

Opposition to current Ethiopian government

In March 2005, Rohrabacher introduced HR 1061, the American Property Claims Against Ethiopia Act, which would "prohibit United States assistance to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia until the Ethiopian government returns all property of United States citizens". The bill was introduced by Rohrabacher at the behest of Gebremedhin Berhane, a former Eritrean national. His son, Petros, was described by the Daily Pilot News of Newport Beach, California as "one of Rep. Rohrabacher's surfing buddies".

On March 7, 2006, Rohrabacher introduced HR 4895, an amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, "to limit the provision of the United States military assistance and the sale, transfer, or licensing of United States military equipment or technology to Ethiopia."

Medical marijuana

Unlike most Republican Party Members of Congress, Rohrabacher is a supporter of the medicinal use of marijuana, as a right of the state. He and Maurice Hinchey have jointly offered the Hinchey-Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment to Commerce Justice and Science appropriations bill that would prohibit the Department of Justice from prosecuting patients in states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. Rohrabacher said conservatives should take states' rights into consideration when considering the issue of marijuana.

South-Ossetian Crisis

On the 8th of September, 2008, Rohrabacher, at a House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee meeting, argued that the Georgians had initiated the recent military confrontation in the on-going Russian-South Ossetian conflict.

Space-related positions

Rohrabacher served as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics from 1997 to January 2005 and has been active on space-related issues. In 2000, described Rohrabacher as "a strident advocate for supremacy in space, a philosophy shaped along a winding road from libertarian activist to White House speechwriter in the Reagan administration." In 2007, Rohrabacher introduced a bill directing NASA to come up with a strategy “for deflecting and mitigating potentially hazardous near-Earth objects.”

Global warming

Rohrabacher does not believe that global warming is caused by humans. During a congressional hearing on climate change on February 8, 2007, Rohrabacher joked that previous warming cycles may have been caused by carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by "dinosaur flatulence.

Congressional scorecards

See also Project Vote Smart provides the following results from congressional scorecards.


Involvement with Jack Abramoff

Rohrabacher has been close friends with and received campaign contributions from the now-convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff since the mid-1980s. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher was one of the only House members to publicly come to the defense of disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff to reporters, describing him as an "honest man" to the Washington Post and praising him as a "selfless patriot" to a federal judge. Rohrabacher admits to being a longtime friend of Abramoff. He told the Associated Press: "They're portraying Jack as a monster. I see him more as a good person who's done bad things and has to be punished for doing bad things.... I think that he obviously has done some things that are wrong and illegal and he's going to have to pay the price for it.” Rohrabacher has publicly taken the position that he thinks that “... a lot of other things that have been characterized as corruption on the part of Abramoff are actually standard operating procedures for lobbying in Washington, D.C., arranging trips and things like that. So I think that he's received a lot of unjust criticism."

His relationship included the following:

  • In 1999 Rohrabacher went on an Abramoff-funded trip to the Marshall Islands with John Doolittle (R-CA), Ken Calvert (R-CA), delegates of Guam, American Samoa, Virgin Islands and 8 staffers.
  • In 2000, Abramoff listed Rohrabacher as one of the his references on his loan application for the purchase of SunCruz Casinos. "I don't remember it, but I would certainly have been happy to give him a good recommendation," Rohrabacher said in April 2005, when news reports of the scandal first broke. "He's a very honest man."
  • In January 2002, Rohrabacher, took a six-day trip to Malaysia, accompanied by his wife and two of Abramoff’s then-partners at the firm Greenberg Traurig. According to House records and to Rohrabacher's spokesman, the Malaysia trip focused on terrorism and trade issues. The spokesman called the trip "very positive."
  • In April 2005, as Abramoff became the target of a grand jury investigation, Rohrabacher said that "Jack has made some mistakes," "but he is not the dishonest, malevolent, arrogant, wheeler-dealer that people are portraying. He is a fine man.
  • In July 2005, Rohrabacher said that he had been eating at Signatures, a restaurant owned by Abramoff, at Abrmaoff's expense once or twice a month, and that the meals fell under the friendship exemption in House rules. He also said he tried to take Mr. Abramoff out regularly, paying for the lobbyist's meals in return. "Just because you are a member of Congress doesn't mean you have to give up your friendships," Rohrabacher said, adding that "it was dinner with a friend and I didn't think of it as a gift."
  • In December 2005, Rohrabacher again defended Abramoff, telling the Washington Post: "I think he's been dealt a bad hand and the worst, rawest deal I've ever seen in my life. Words like bribery are being used to describe things that happened every day in Washington and are not bribes."
  • In March 2006, following Abramoff's guilty plea of fraud in the SunCruz case, Rohrabacher was the sole member of Congress who wrote the judge in the case to urge leniency in sentencing. "I think when he is being punished for the things he did that were wrong, some of the things that he did that were right and admirable in the past should be taken into consideration," Rohrabacher said in an interview. In his letter to the judge, Rohrabacher described "a far different Jack than the profit-seeking megalomaniac portrayed in the press." "Jack was a selfless patriot for most of the time I knew him," the congressman wrote, recalling his friend as an ardent anti-Communist during the Cold War.

Vietnam and Iraq

In a February 13, 2003 interview with Toby Eckert of Copley News Service published in the South Bay (Torrance, Calif.) Daily Breeze, Rohrabacher, who less than forthrightly told Eckert he'd supported the war in Vietnam, revealed that he showed up to his wartime draft physical with an X-ray of a hip he claimed had been injured in high school football. "They looked at it and they said my hip wasn't good enough," he told Eckert. "When I look back on that, sometimes I wonder if I should have taken that X-ray with me or not.

Involvement with Afghanistan and the Taliban

Rohrabacher had a history of involvement in Afghanistan dating back to the Cold War, when he openly supported the groups that were fighting troops from the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. In late 1988, Rohrabacher went to Afghanistan:

After I left the White House and was elected to Congress, but before I was sworn into Congress, I knew I had that two months between November and January to do things that I could never do once I was elected to Congress. I chose to hike into Afghanistan as part of a small Mujahedin unit and to engage in a battle against the Russian and communist forces near and around the city of Jalalabad.

In the November/December 1996 issue of Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Rohrabacher was reported as saying that the Taliban were not terrorists or revolutionaries, that they would develop a disciplined society that would leave no room for terrorists, and that the Taliban posed no threat to the United States.

However, in a September 11, 1998 editorial in the The Washington Post, Rohrabacher strongly rebuked the Taliban for providing refuge to Osama bin Laden, mass killings of Shi'ites and ethnic Uzbeks, Turks, and Tajiks, and restrictions on the rights of Afghan women and children:

It has been no secret that bin Laden has been sheltered by the Taliban. The Clinton administration was mute while one of the most violent anti-Western Muslim sects spilled into Afghanistan from their Pakistan-based "religious schools" and took control of the capital. We remained paralyzed while they moved to destroy moderate Muslim forces. While administration officials expressed concern of the Taliban's complete denial of rights for women, it was little more than lip service. Even modest support from the United States for moderate Muslim forces in Afghanistan and serious political pressure on Pakistan could have thwarted the takeover of this strategically important country by these militant extremists. The danger of the spread of fanaticism expressed by the newly independent republics of Central Asia was smugly ignored.

During the summer of 2001, Rohrabacher made a trip to Qatar that was paid for by the Islamic Institute and the Government of Qatar, according to Rohrabacher’s financial disclosure forms. While in Qatar, Rohrabacher, Grover Norquist, and Khaled Saffuri met with Taliban Foreign Minister Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil. Wakil reportedly asked for help in increasing the amount of foreign aid sent by the United States to Afghanistan, apparently in exchange for U.S. oil company UNOCAL being allowed to construct of an oil pipeline through Afghanistan. If Rohrabacher was conducting diplomacy, he was in violation of the Logan Act, which prohibits citizens from doing so if not in an official capacity. Rohrabacher told wire service reporters who were present in Doha, Qatar at the time that he had discussed a “peace plan” with the Taliban. But Norquist, a close associate of Rohrabacher, said that the meeting happened accidentally and that it included Rohrabacher yelling at them about blowing up the Buddhist statues in Afghanistan.

The Taliban later announced in Kabul that it had rejected what it considered were unreasonable demands by the U.S. side. Rohrabacher’s staff would not answer questions about the Taliban talks.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Rohrabacher claimed that the attacks were due to incompetence on the part of the Clinton administration.

Payment for 30-year-old screenplay

On November 4, 2005, The Los Angeles Times reported that Rohrabacher "used his influence to open doors in Washington for a Hollywood producer pitching a television show after the producer paid him a $23,000 option on a nearly 30 year old screenplay." The producer, Joseph Medawar, has since been indicted on fraud charges by the FBI and has pled not guilty. The question is whether the producer paid him the money for the screenplay or if the money was for the introductions to congressional and federal officials conducted by Rohrabacher. Rohrabacher claims that the introductions were done in good faith and were nothing that was not done regularly for legitimate causes, and that the introductions have only become an issue because of Joseph Medawar's misdeeds.

In May 2006, Rohrabacher, through his press secretary, announced that he will return the $23,000. The decision was made public shortly before Medawar took responsibility in a United States District Court for bilking about $3.4 million from about 50 investors.

Defense of extraordinary rendition and torture

On April 17, 2007, while defending the Bush administration's program of extraordinary rendition during a House hearing on transatlantic relations, Rohrabacher stated that the unfair treatment of one innocent suspect is an acceptable "unfortunate consequence" of holding others who would otherwise be free to commit terror acts. After receiving boos and groans from the gallery, Rohrabacher responded, "Well I hope it's your families, I hope it's your families that suffer the consequences." Rohrabacher was subsequently interrupted by protesters wearing orange jumpsuits who were removed from the gallery. For his comment that imprisoning and torturing one innocent person was a fair price to pay for locking up 50 terrorists who would "go out and plant a bomb and kill 20,000 people, Rohrabacher was named Countdown with Keith Olbermann's "Worst Person in the World" on April 25.


In August 1997, Rohrbacher married Orange County political operative (and fellow surfer) Rhonda Carmony. On April 27, 2004, he and his wife became parents to triplets.

His wife also serves as his campaign manager; however, under a proposed ethics reform bill that bans spousal employment, this practice may soon become illegal. She has received an estimated $169,000 total of campaign funds over the past three election cycles, including $57,000 in the 2006 election cycle. In the last quarter of 2007, she took out $10,844, or about half of the campaign's spending. Commenting on the proposed change,Rohrabacher said "It's gonna hurt me. My family would be deprived of that income. I think it's baloney. I think it's just a way of not having to look at issues by making it a personal matter.


In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Rohrabacher was influenced by the anarcho-capitalist ideas of Robert LeFevre, who had moved his Freedom School to Santa Ana, California, renaming it Rampart College. Rohrabacher appeared at various meetings and conferences, including the "Left-Right Festival of Mind Liberation" in 1969. Rohrabacher would often play the four-string banjo and sing his original libertarian-themed songs, including "Individual Man": "I don't own nobody. Nobody does own me. I'm just an individual man, just want to be free...."

Brian Doherty writes that "Out west a California Libertarian Alliance (CLA), with Dana Rohrabacher and Shawn Steel ... as chief organizers, often in cooperation with Robert LeFevre (freshly relocated there), ran huge mass meetings and conferences with names, such as the Left/Right Festival of Mind Liberation, and featuring speakers ranging from Mises to Hess, from LeFevre to ex-SDSer Carl Oglesby. Also, "[Rohrabacher] was sent out on a shoestring [by LeFevre] to sing his anarcho-LeFevrian folk songs at college campuses across the nation to help turn right-wingers into LeFevre-style libertarians. Rohrabacher is known today to the residents of Orange County as their congressman.

Rohrabacher drifted towards the mainstream along with billionaire funder of libertarian causes Charles Koch. He worked for a while in the early 1970s as an editorial writer for The Register (today called The Orange County Register) newspaper in Santa Ana, California, then a conservative newspaper with a Libertarian bent.

According to Doherty, "By the 1980s, a calmer Rohrabacher was a Reagan speechwriter, and pure anticommunism seemed to be motivating him more than his old-school libertarianism. ... [He] tells me that 'we did what young people always do: carried our ideals out to the very farthest logical extension. Once you push abstract theory out too far in reality it becomes unworkable.' ... 'I believed we should go for no government. And of course it doesn't take you long to realize that's not going to be too much a part of the public debate.'

Rohrabacher remained an amateur musician who in the late 1980s appeared, alongside Chris Cox, to sing at the Orange County Press Club's musical lampooning annual political events.

Election History

2006 Election

In November 2006, Rohrabacher faced Democrat Jim Brandt (neither had any opponent in the June primary). Rohrabacher defeated Brandt by a 59.6%-36.7% margin (a Libertarian was the remaining 3.7%).

2008 election

On February 2, 2008, Huntington Beach Mayor Debbie Cook announced her intention to challenge Rohrabacher in the November 2008 election. While Democrat Cook faces a district with high Republican registration she has high name-recognition and popularity within the Huntington Beach, California portion of the District. Additionally some publications have noted frustration with Rohrabacher's ability and willingness to bring resources back to his district. Rohrabacher also faces a primary challenge from Huntington Beach property-rights attorney Ronald R. St. John. St. John is challenging Rohrabacher's views on immigration reform.


External links

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