Before politics, Kemp was a professional quarterback for 13 years in the National Football League (NFL), Canadian Football League (CFL), and American Football League (AFL). He served as captain of both the San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills and earned the AFL Most Valuable Player award in 1965 after leading the Bills to a second consecutive AFL championship. He played in the AFL for all ten years of its existence, appeared in its All-star game seven times, played its championship game five times, and set many of the AFL career-passing statistical records. Kemp also co-founded the AFL Players Association, for which he served five terms as president. Kemp served in the United States Army Reserve during his early football years.
Kemp is an economic conservative, advocating low taxes, and supply-side policies. Kemp's positions span the social spectrum, ranging from his conservative opposition of abortion to his more liberal stances advocating immigration reform. As a proponent of both Chicago school and supply-side economics, he is notable as both the molder of the Reagan agenda and the architect of the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 (known as the Kemp–Roth tax cut).
Since his days in political office, Kemp has remained active as a political advocate and commentator as well as served on corporate and non-profit organization boards. He has promoted American football and advocated for retired professional football players. Kemp is the benefactor of Pepperdine University's Jack F. Kemp Institute of Political Economy. He has authored, co-authored, and edited several books.
Kemp attended Fairfax High School, which is known both for its historically high concentration of Jewish students and for its high number of celebrities. Over 95 percent of Kemp's classmates were Jewish and he became a supporter of Jewish causes. Fairfax boasts an alumni of notable actors, athletes, and musicians. Herb Alpert, Larry Sherry, and Judith A. Reisman are among the 1935-born alumni of this school, which is located on Melrose Avenue. Kemp learned to embrace diversity and hard work while working with his brothers at his father's trucking company in downtown Los Angeles. Kemp's habit of rigorous reading, which would become important later, showed in high school where he read history and philosophy books.
At Occidental, Kemp was a record-setting javelin hurler and played several positions on the football team: quarterback, defensive back, place kicker, and punter. During his years as starting quarterback the team posted 6–2 and 3–6 records. Kemp was named a Little All-American one year and threw for over 1,100 yards in a season. Kemp and close friend Jim Mora, who would become an NFL head coach, were members of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. Kemp declined to become involved in student government.
Although he was near-sighted, Kemp was tenacious on the field. In a game against Pomona College, his team trailed by a large margin before he led them to three scoring drives. After kicking an extra point following the final scoring drive, he turned to his teammate and said, "I guess we won." However, he could not see the scoreboard and did not realize that they had not. Kemp performed post-graduate study at Long Beach State University and California Western University, and he served in the military from 1958–1962. Kemp, who earned a degree in physical education from Occidental, took graduate economics classes at the two schools in an effort to improve himself.
They have two sons, both of whom were professional football quarterbacks: Jeff Kemp played in the NFL from 1981 to 1991, and Jimmy Kemp played in the CFL from 1994 to 2002. They also have two daughters: Jennifer and Judith. Jeff, Jennifer and Judith are each two years apart, and Jimmy is eight years younger than Judith. As of June 2006, the Kemps had 16 grandchildren. Kemp's opposition to abortion is partially affected by his wife's miscarriage, which caused him to revalue the sanctity of human life.
Kemp, a 17th round 1957 NFL Draft choice by the Detroit Lions, was cut from the team before the 1957 NFL season began. He spent 1957 with the Pittsburgh Steelers and 1958 on the taxi squad of the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers. During his taxi squad tenure, he was third-string quarterback, never taking the field, for the New York Giants who lost the first overtime NFL playoff game, the 1958 NFL Championship Game against the Baltimore Colts at Yankee Stadium.
After his time in the NFL, Kemp served a year as a private in the United States Army Reserve. During this time, he played one game for the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League, which made him ineligible for the NFL in 1959. Kemp had been cut by five professional teams (Lions, Steelers, Giants, 49ers, and Stampeders). According to his older brother Tom, the family attempted to encourage him to get on with his life after he bounced around the NFL and his parents drove him from California to only to see him get cut. On February 9 and February 11, 1960, the newly-formed AFL agreed to a "no tampering" policy with the NFL and CFL respectively to keep from stealing star players. Thus, players like Kemp with modest NFL experience were common AFL signees at the time. Kemp signed as a free agent with the AFL's Los Angeles Chargers.
In 1960, Kemp led the Los Angeles Chargers to a Western Division championship with a 10–4 record. Kemp finished second to Frank Tripucka in the major passing statistics (attempts, completions, and yards), led the AFL in yards per completion as well as times sacked and finished one rushing touchdown short of the league lead in the eight-team AFL. Kemp and Tripucka became the AFL's first 3,000-yard passers in the inaugural 14-game schedule 1960 season. Kemp led an offense that averaged 46 points over its last four games and scored over 41 points in five of their last nine games. In the 1960 AFL Championship game, Kemp led the team to field goals on their first two possessions, but after the Houston Oilers posted a touchdown in the second quarter for a 7–6 lead, the Chargers never regained the lead.
In 1961, San Diego Union editor Jack Murphy convinced Barron Hilton to move the Chargers from Los Angeles to San Diego. Kemp led the relocated Chargers to a 12–2 record and a repeat Western Division championship. Kemp again finished second in passing yards (this time to George Blanda). The team earned an AFL championship game rematch against the Oilers. However, this time the Chargers were unable to score until a fourth quarter field goal in a 10–3 loss.
The Berlin Wall was erected in August 1961. On October 15, 1961, President John F. Kennedy activated Kemp's San Diego-based 977th Transportation Company reserves unit for duty in response. In September, the right-handed Kemp had injured his left shoulder while playing football. Medical examiners found swelling and muscle spasms in his left shoulder and described his voluntary range of motion at 80 percent. The Surgeon General of the United States Army reviewed recommendation by Army doctors that Kemp be excused from service. Kemp underwent a second physical at a San Francisco Army hospital. Kemp's 1961 Chargers roommate and Pro Football Hall of Famer, Ron Mix, was denied a deferment but sympathized with Kemp. Kemp led the 1961 Chargers to a division title, passing for 2,686 yards and 15 touchdowns.
The Chargers drafted Lance Alworth and John Hadl in the 1962 AFL Draft. Kemp won two AFL Western Division championships with the Chargers, but in a rare blunder by head coach Sid Gillman, Kemp was put on waivers to try to "hide" him when he was unable to play due to a broken middle finger after two games in 1962.
Injuries, including a broken finger, kept Kemp from playing for most of the 1962 season. That season, Kemp received a military draft notice for service in the Vietnam War and received a draft waiver because of a knee problem. The injuries healed, and Kemp debuted for Buffalo on November 18, 1962 by directing the only touchdown drive in a 10–6 win over the Oakland Raiders. He played only four games for Buffalo in 1962, but he still made the AFL All-Star team. The Bills won three of their last four games to finish 7–6–1.
On December 14, 1962, the Bills outbid the Green Bay Packers for Notre Dame quarterback Daryle Lamonica. In 1963, a four-season starting quarterback battle began that continued until Lamonica left for the Raiders. Lamonica felt he "... learned a lot from Jack about quarterbacking. And I truly believe that we were a great one-two punch at the position for the Bills." Saban suspected Al Davis of spying on the 0–3–1 Bills and made his team practice using false numbers. That week, the Bills went on to win their first game of the season over the Raiders. In 1963, Kemp led the Bills from a slow start to a tie for the AFL Eastern Division lead with a 7–6–1 record. Kemp again placed second in passing attempts, completions, and yards, and he also finished second to teammate Cookie Gilchrist in rushing touchdowns. The Bills played the Boston Patriots in an Eastern Division playoff game to determine the division title on December 28, 1963 at War Memorial Stadium in in weather. During the game, the Bills replaced Kemp with Lamonica after falling behind 16–0. The Bills lost 26–8.
Kemp was said to be the "clubhouse lawyer" for the Bills, and he kept the peace. In 1964, he managed personalities such as Gilchrist, who walked off the field when plays were not being called for him, and Saban, who Kemp kept from cutting Gilchrist the following week. The negotiated apology was an early sign of his political abilities. Kemp also managed the politics of the quarterback battle with Lamonica, who engineered four winning touchdown drives in the Bills' first seven games. The 1964 team relied on a running game of Gilchrist and Wray Carlton as well as a defense that set records for rushing yards, rushing TDs, and quarterback sacks. The team won its first nine games and went 12–2 for the regular season. The team won the Eastern division with a final game victory over the Patriots at Fenway Park. Kemp led the league in yards per attempt and finished one rushing touchdown short of the league lead, which was shared by Gilchrist and Sid Blanks. In the 1964 championship game, he scored the final touchdown with just over nine minutes left in the 20–7 victory.
According to Lamonica, the 1965 team had a different emphasis: "In '64 we had depended a lot on Gilchrist and our running attack to carry us. . .But that all changed in '65. The Bills had traded Gilchrist in the off season to the Denver Broncos. So we went to a pass-oriented game more that season than we ever had before. We not only went to our receivers, but we threw a lot to our running backs. And I really think it brought out the best in Jack that year." In 1965, the Bills finished with a 10–3–1 record. Kemp finished the season second in the league in pass completions. Kemp felt the 1965 AFL Championship game victory was special because it came against his former team, the Chargers.
Kemp led the Bills to a repeat league championship in 1965 without the 1964 AFL leader in rushing attempts, yards, and touchdowns, Gilchrist, (who had been traded to the Broncos) and with the 1964 yards per reception leader, Elbert Dubenion, only playing three games. This earned him a share of the AFL MVP awards that he split with former Charger teammate, Paul Lowe. Kemp earned the Associated Press award, while Lowe won The Sporting News and United Press International awards. Kemp also earned the AFL Championship Game MVP.
The Bills suffered a blowout pre-season loss to the Houston Oilers on August 23, 1968. On August 26, Collier put the Bills through a 40-play scrimmage. During the scrimmage, Ron McDole fell on Kemp's right knee and Kemp suffered an injury, which forced him to sit out the entire season. The Bills went 1–12–1 without Kemp for the 1968 AFL season.
Kemp twice led the AFL in yards per attempt and played all fourteen games in his final six AFL seasons (excluding 1968). However, despite his success and important AFL records, he is most prominently listed in the NFL record book for less flattering accomplishments, including his place as a former record holder for most quarterback sacks in a game. Kemp set many AFL records, but Joe Namath and Len Dawson were selected as the quarterbacks for the All-time AFL team. His number 15 was retired by the Bills in 1984.
Kemp, a self-described "bleeding-heart conservative", represented a part of the Buffalo region that is known as the southtowns and that traditionally voted Democratic in the United States House of Representatives from 1971 to 1989. The Republicans had drafted Kemp after incumbent congressman, Richard D. McCarthy, decided to run for the United States Senate. During his political birth, his district was in economic malaise, and The New York Times described him as a John F. Kennedy throwback who campaigned on family values, patriotism, sports and defense. Upon his election to the congress in a class of sixty-two freshman, he was one of six interesting newcomers (along with Ronald Dellums, Bella Abzug, Louise Day Hicks, Robert Drinan, and Pete du Pont) discussed in Time. The article described him as a football fan (like United States President Richard Nixon), and as a having been advised by White House Adviser Robert Finch as well as former Kemp boss Herb Klein, Nixon's Director of Communications. The Nixon aides helped Kemp firm up his military support by encouraging Kemp to endorse the Cambodian invasion and to oppose criticism of Nixon's war policies.
Kemp championed several Chicago school and supply-side economics issues: economic growth, free markets, free trade, tax simplification and lower tax rates on both work and investment. He was a long-time proponent of the flat tax. Kemp also defended the use of anti-Communist forces in Central America, supported the gold standard, spoke for civil rights legislation, opposed abortion, and was the first lawmaker to popularize enterprise zones, which he supported to foster entrepreneurship and job creation and expand homeownership among public housing tenants. During his career, he sometimes sounded like a liberal Democrat: he supported affirmative action, and he supported rights for illegal immigrants. The New York Times described Kemp as the most proactive war on poverty combatant since Robert Kennedy. Kemp differed from Rockefeller Republicans and earlier combatants such as Lyndon Johnson, since Kemp supported incentive-based systems instead of traditional social programs. For his commitment to inner city concerns from within the Republican party, David Gergen heralded him as a "courageous voice in the wilderness. Although he is liberal on many social issues, he is not on gay rights. Kemp at times felt his role was as a "freewheeling, entrepreneurial, wildcatting backbencher.
Time magazine identified 38 year-old second-term congressman Kemp as a future leader in its 1974 "Faces for the Future. An early-career notable magazine appearances was in a 1978 issue of Esquire. The article explained allegations of 1967 Sacramento office Reagan staffer homosexual activity, which apparently did not refer to Kemp. Hugh Sidey mentioned him as a contender to unseat Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election. Kemp was a front runner for the vice presidency at the 1980 Republican National Convention, and he received 43 votes from conservative George H. W. Bush detractors. After being reelected for a sixth term in 1980, his Republican peers elected him to a party leadership position, and he served seven years as chairman of the House Republican Conference. This promotion occurred immediately after Kemp and David Stockman urged Reagan by memorandum to dedicate his first 100 days to working with Congress an economic package. By 1984, many viewed Kemp as Reagan's heir apparent. He is as fondly remembered for his good hair and handsome looks as for his athletic prowess and political savvy, and he is described as having the charisma of the earlier J.F.K. David Rosenbaum described Kemp as an independent politician who often legislated outside his committees' jurisdictions and often spoke in favor of ideals and principles rather than his party's political platforms. As a supply-sider, he was not a proponent of balanced budgeting and trivialized it while speaking of growth as the solution.
Kemp's original encounter with supply-side economics came in 1976 when Jude Wanniski, an editorial writer from The Wall Street Journal, interviewed at Kemp's Congressional office. Kemp picked Wanniski's brain all day (all the way to Kemp's home in , at midnight) until Kemp was converted to University of Southern California professor Arthur Laffer's supply-side discipline. Thereafter, Kemp espoused supply-side economics freely, and in 1978 he and William V. Roth, Jr. proposed tax-cutting legislation. Kemp was chiefly responsible for supply-side economics' inclusion in President Reagan's economic plan, although at the time of Robert Mundell's Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics recognition some attributed much of the credit to Mundell, Arthur Laffer, Robert Bartley, and Jude Wanniski. Although the realization of early 1980s tax cuts are attributed to Reagan, Kemp and Roth, through their Kemp-Roth Tax Cut legislation, initiated these cuts in 1981. Reagan's budget based on this legislation passed over the objection of United States House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski. At this time, Kemp wrote An American Renaissance (ISBN 0-06-012283-8), to deliver his message that "A rising tide lifts all boats."
Kemp and his followers spent the Reagan years ignoring budget balancing while promoting both tax cuts and economic growth. These tax cuts have been credited by Conservatives for the economic growth from 1983 to 1990, which by 1996 had become one of the longest expansions in American history. Kemp notes that Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker's success at stemming inflation and the favorable regulatory environment were also major factors. Detractors note that the expansion was in undesirable sectors like gaming, prisons, medical treatment, and credit card use.
In 1980, he considered opposing Republican United States Senator Jacob Javitz and was a potential Reagan running mate. An early Kemp tax reform attempt was an unsuccessful 1979 proposal to index tax brackets for cost of living fluctuations. However, the 1980 Reagan campaign economic package included indexing along with three consecutive ten-percent annual tax cuts. Kemp co-sponsored a legislative attempt at enterprise zones in 1980. One of Kemp's more trying times as a congressman came in 1982 when Reagan decided to reverse the tax cuts and promote tax increases. The reversal was controversial and stimulated opposition by Kemp. Nonetheless, the revised taxes passed. In 1983, Kemp opposed the policies of Chairman Volcker on multiple occasions. The debates included domestic monetary involvement and roles in funding the International Monetary Fund.
Kemp delivered several speeches at the Republican National Convention. He addressed the convention on July 15 at the 1980 Republican National Convention in and on August 21 at the 1984 Republican National Convention in . During the 1984 Convention, with Trent Lott as Republican Party Platform Committee Chairman, Congressmen Kemp and Newt Gingrich claimed control of the party platform to the consternation of G.O.P. senators Bob Dole and Howard Baker. Kemp's official role was as the chairman of the platform subcommittee on foreign policy. However, the three platform planks that he proposed involved tax hikes, the gold standard and the role of the Federal Reserve. Despite Kemp's official role, his real influence as a draftsman was on the grammatical structure of the plank on tax hikes. By 1985, Kemp was a leading contender for the 1988 Presidential nomination. He also delivered remarks on free enterprise zones at the 1992 Republican National Convention in . Despite efforts and considerations of expanding his political domain, Kemp never held a fundraiser outside of his suburban Western New York district until well into his eighth term in congress.
Kemp has been a critic of the version of football known in the United States as soccer. In 1986, during House floor debate concerning whether the United States should host the 1994 World Cup, Kemp proclaimed "I think it is important for all those young out there — who someday hope to play real football, where you throw it and kick it and run with it and put it in your hands — [that] a distinction should be made that football is democratic capitalism, whereas soccer is a European socialist sport." Kemp has compared his speech to George Carlin's 1984 comedy routine on the differences between baseball and American football and has written that his "tongue was firmly planted in cheek" when making the speech. Despite the levity of the speech, it garners backlash to this day. However, he continues to insist that soccer's main problem is "it doesn't have a quarterback". Kemp notes that about half of his grandchildren play or have played organized soccer and claims to have since 'changed' his position on soccer. He even attended the 1994 FIFA World Cup with long time soccer fan Henry Kissinger, although he wrote during the 2006 World Cup that soccer can be interesting to watch but it is still a "boring game".
In 1988, if Kemp had succeeded when he surrendered his congressional seat to run for President of the United States, it would have made him the first person to move from the United States House of Representatives to the White House since James Garfield. When he formed his exploratory committee, he signed Ed Rollins, Reagan's 1984 re-election political director, as an advisor. From the outset, Kemp clearly had failed to position himself as the primary alternative to Vice President Bush. Except for a select few cognoscenti, the general public did not recognize Kemp's leadership ability, although he was a successful man of ideas. In fact, most of the Republican electorate found themselves unfamiliar with Kemp early in his campaign. Political pundits recognized him, however, as a visionary idea man. In addition, he was quickly perceived as a verbose speaker, who sometimes lost contact with his audience. Although Kemp tried to appeal to the conservatives, his libertarian philosophies of tolerance and individual rights clashed with conservative voters' social and religious values, and he committed to supporting minorities, women, blue-collar workers and organized labor. To Democrats, Kemp's free-market philosophies were a form of laissez-faire anarchy. However, as much as Kemp wanted to minimize government's role, he acknowledged that moves toward a more laissez-faire system should be well-thought out.
After the May 1987 Gary Hart/Donna Rice scandal, a New York Times questionnaire requested things such as psychiatric records and access to FBI files from all 14 presidential candidates. Candidates from each party expressed opinions on both sides of the personal privacy issue, and Kemp rejected the Times inquiry as "beneath the dignity of a presidential candidate". His campaign was on an early positive course with many key early endorsements in New Hampshire, but Bush held the support of much of the Republican establishment in New York. Although he had an eclectic mix of supporters, Kemp's campaign began borrowing against anticipated Federal matching funds because it was quickly in the red, which may have been due to the use of expensive direct mail fundraising technique. To offset his socially moderate stances, Kemp clarified his opposition to abortion, his support of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) and his support for a stronger military than that favored by Secretary of State George Shultz. In attempt to position himself as Reagan's successor, Kemp called for Shultz's resignation based on claims that Shultz had neglected freedom fighters in Afghanistan and Nicaragua and had waffled on SDI. Despite a platform covering the full range of political subjects, Kemp's primary campaign weapon was a fiscal policy based on tax cuts. As part of his fiscal policy, he opposed a Social Security benefits freeze and endorsed a freeze on government spending. Some viewed Kemp's supply-side stance as an attempt to ignore the national budget deficit. In the fall of 1987, political pundits clearly saw that Kemp needed to gain support from the far right on non-social issues. Kemp was among the majority of Republican candidates in opposition to Reagan's INF Treaty agreement with the Soviet Union's Mikhail Gorbachev despite general Republican voter approval of the treaty. With aspirations of support from the right-wing voters, all candidates with low levels of poll support for the nomination took this same "sabre-rattling" stand. By early 1988, the moderates (Bush and Dole) were clearly the front-runners and Kemp was battling with Pat Robertson as the conservative alternative to the moderates.
He used a somewhat negative advertising campaign that seemed to have the intended initial effect of boosting him to serious contention. His 1988 campaign was based on the platform of supply-side economics and inner-city enterprise zones. In Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms: My Life in American Politics, campaign chairman Rollins described Kemp as a candidate with foibles. Kemp's campaign managers say he was unmanageable: he ignored timers on his speeches, refused to call contributors, and refused to practice for debates. A humbling Super Tuesday in which his 39 delegate total was fewer than eventual nominee and President Bush as well as both Dole and Pat Robertson ended his campaign. After withdrawing from the race, he was still considered a contender for the Vice-President nomination. In 1989, the Kemps switched their official residence from to , where they now reside. In 1994, Kemp's 1988 campaign reached a settlement with the Federal Election Commission by agreeing to pay $120,000 in civil penalties for 1988 campaign election law violations for, among other things, excessive contributions, improper direct corporate donations, press overbilling, exceeded spending limits in Iowa and in New Hampshire, and for failure to reimburse corporations for providing air transportation.
Although Kemp coaxed Bush to support a $4 billion housing program that encouraged public housing tenants to buy their own apartments, the Democratic Congress only allocated $361 million to the plan. In addition to opposition in Congress, Kemp fought White House Budget Director Richard Darman, who opposed Kemp's pet project HOPE (Homeownership and Opportunity for People Everywhere), which planned to sell public housing units to their tenants, as well as his proposed welfare adjustment of government offsets. HOPE was first proposed to White House chief of staff, John Sununu, in June 1989 to not only create enterprise zones, but also to expand subsidies for low-income renters, social services for the homeless and elderly, and enacting tax changes to help first-time home buyers. Sununu opposed it at first as did most of the cabinet, but in August 1990 Sununu, at the urging of United States Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, encouraged President Bush to endorse Kemp's Economic Empowerment Task Force. However, the Persian Gulf War and the budget negotiations overshadowed Kemp's new project. Darman battled Kemp and his allies such as Gingrich, James Pinkerton, and Vin Weber. The budget left him with $256 million for his plan, which Kemp increased during some appropriations battles. Soon after Clayton Yeutter was appointed chief White House domestic policy advisor, Kemp's Economic Empowerment Task Force was abolished.
President Bush avoided federal antipoverty issues, and he instead used Kemp as a mouthpiece to speak on the administration's low priority conservative activist agenda. Bush's contribution to the urban agenda had been volunteerism through his "Points of Light" theme, and Kemp received stronger support for his ideas from Presidential candidate Bill Clinton. By the time of the Los Angeles riots of 1992, Bush was a bit late in supporting enterprise zones, tenant ownership and welfare reform: Mort Zuckerman compared Bush's vision on racial issues to that of a man riding backwards in a railroad car. Nonetheless, the riots made Kemp a focal point of the administration, even though at first, Kemp had been overlooked. However, Charles E. Schumer had probably summarized the prospects of Kemp's success in advance best when he said in 1989 "Good ideas with money can do a whole lot. Good ideas without money aren't probably going to do a whole lot," and the issue here was the decision not to fund Kemp's ideas. Although Kemp was unable to procure money for his visions, he was among the administration's leading users of first-class corporate jets.
Generally, his time as Housing Secretary was considered unsuccessful. However, although he could not get federal funding for empowerment zones passed during his tenure, by 1992 38 states had created empowerment zones, and in 1994 $3.5 billion was approved for them under President Clinton. A free market Kemp initiative to allow homeowners to subdivide their houses for the purpose of creating rental units without inordinate bureaucracy did not get executed under the Clinton administration, however. In 1992, with H. Ross Perot mounting a formidable campaign, Kemp was again considered a Vice Presidential candidate. He cited lingering effects from a knee injury as the reason he had to fly first-class at Government expense as the Housing Secretary.
Kemp was partly at fault for not achieving either of his primary goals because he did not get along with the rest of the Cabinet. At one point, Kemp told James Baker, White House Chief of Staff, that Bush's best chance to win re-election was to dump his economic advisors in dramatic fashion. Before the 1992 Republican National Convention, Kemp and six prominent Republican conservatives prepared a controversial memo urging Bush to revise his economic policy. Contemporaneously, moderate Republicans in office and in the media such as William F. Buckley, Jr. and George Will felt Dan Quayle should be ousted in favor of Kemp. This followed Kemp's reference to parts of the President's economic policy as "gimmicks" after the 1992 State of the Union Address. Kemp was respected within the party for oppositing Bush, and towards the end of Bush's administration insiders recognized his value. In late 1991, 81 of the 166 Republican Congressmen signed a letter co-authored by Curt Weldon and Dan Burton requesting Bush cede some domestic authority to Kemp as a "domestic policy czar." The letter highlighting Kemp's "energy, enthusiasm and national clout" insulted Bush. Kemp was a bit of a surprise to stay in the GHW Bush cabinet for the duration of his presidency, and he was described as one of the few Bush Administration members who would take tough stands. Kemp did not expect to be retained if the Republicans were reelected in 1992, and the pundits agreed with him. He cited lingering effects from a knee injury as the reason he had to fly first-class at Government expense as the Housing Secretary.
Kemp was considered the star of the 1992 Republican National Convention. In 1992 and 1993, Kemp was considered the favorite or co-favorite for the 1996 Presidential nomination. At the time of the 1994 mid-term elections, Kemp was widely anticipated to announce his candidacy for 1996, and his supporters wanted a formal announcement by the end of the year. In January 1995, Kemp's stated reason for not entering the 1996 Republican Party presidential primaries was that his personal beliefs were out of balance with the contemporary Republican political landscape: Kemp opposed term limits, he always preferred tax cuts to anything resembling a balanced budget amendment and, unlike the most Republicans, favored federal incentives to combat urban poverty. In 1995, Gloria Borger noted Kemp was not in step with the 1994 Contract with America. Kemp also noted a distaste for the vast fundraising necessary for a Presidential campaign. Gergen stated that by 1996 the selection process had become so expensive, mean and personally invasive that it discouraged several top Republicans from running. In 1995, while the world awaited the campaign decision announcement by Colin Powell, Kemp had positive thoughts on the prospect of such a campaign.
Senate Majority Leader Dole and Gingrich appointed Kemp to head a tax reform commission in response to voter concern that the tax code had become too complicated. Kemp championed many issues including the flat tax, which he formally proposed after he was appointed. The proposal included some politically popular income tax deductions, such as mortgage interest, but it remained fairly general. Among the 1996 Republican Party candidates, both Steve Forbes and Phil Gramm proposed the flat tax.
During the campaign, Kemp's endorsement was highly coveted. Forbes had tried to get Kemp to run in the 1996 campaign, but Kemp declined and in fact endorsed Forbes just as Dole was closing in on the nomination, and just after Dole gained the endorsements of former contenders Lamar Alexander and Richard Lugar. Some feel the primary reason for the endorsement was to keep the flat tax idea and other supply-side views alive. Many thought Kemp had destroyed his own political future with the endorsement, and Kemp profusely apologized to Dole's campaign offices. After it became clear Dole would be the nominee, Kemp attempted to form a bipartisan seminar with Felix Rohatyn to produce a fiscal plan that could be endorsed by both parties.
Kemp was also outspoken on immigration on around this time: according to Kemp and a scientific index he and Bennett support, "immigrants are a blessing, not a curse. In 1994, Kemp and Bennett made waves by opposing California ballot Proposition 187, a measure to bar illegal immigrants from obtaining public services, in direct opposition to first-term Republican California Governor Pete Wilson, one of its endorsers who was running for re-election. Republican Senate candidate Michael Huffington had also endorsed the proposition. Kemp supported rights for illegal immigrants, but opposed Lamar Smith and Alan Simpson's proposed restrictions on legal immigration.
Kemp had a reputation as the highest-profile progressive Republican. When Dole declined an invitation to speak to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, he suggested Kemp as a substitute even before Kemp had become the Vice Presidential nominee. On August 5, 1996, Dole announced a 15% flat tax in response to both the Forbes campaign and Kemp's tax reform commission. Several of Dole's other campaign ideas came from Kemp and Bill Bennett's Empower America, which had Jeane Kirkpatrick, Weber, Forbes and Alexander as principals. For example, Dole borrowed Kirkpatrick's tough foreign policy, Bennett's "right conduct" and even Alexander's school choice interest. Bennett declined the offer to be Dole's running mate, but suggested Kemp, a man described as Dole's antagonist. On August 16, 1996, the Republican Party chose Kemp as its 1996 vice presidential Republican Party (United States) vice presidential nominees, running alongside former Senator Dole. Kemp was seen as a means to attract conservative and libertarian-minded voters like those of tough nomination-challengers Forbes and Pat Buchanan. Kemp was chosen over Connie Mack, John McCain, and Carroll Campbell, and it is assumed that this was partly because Kemp had several former staffers in influential positions as senior advisors to Dole. Dole had had a long history of representing the budget-balancing faction of the Party, while Kemp had had a long history of representing the tax-cutting advocates, and Kemp's tax-cutting fiscal track record was seen as the perfect fit for the ticket. When Kemp became Dole's running mate in 1996, they appeared on the cover of the August 19, 1996 issue of Time magazine, however the pair barely edged out the story of the discovery of extraterrestrial life on Mars, which was so close to being the cover story that Time inset it on the cover and wrote about how difficult their decision was.
The two politicians had a storied history stemming from alternative perspectives and objectives. Dole was a longstanding conservative deficit-hawk who had even voted against John F. Kennedy's tax cuts, while Kemp was an outspoken supply-sider. In the early 1980s, according to David Stockman, Kemp convinced Reagan to make a 30 percent across-the-board tax cut a central 1980 presidential campaign feature. Once Reagan was elected, Dole was the Senate Finance Committee Chairman who Kemp claims resisted the plan every step of the way. Dole concedes he expressed reservations about the 1981 plan. The big confrontation came after the tax plan was approved and after Dole subsequently proposed tax increases (that he referred to as reforms). Kemp was vocal in his opposition to the reforms and even penned a New York Times op-ed piece, which enraged Dole. Dole convinced Reagan to support the reforms, causing Kemp to summon allies to meetings to stop the act, which eventually passed in 1982. At the 1984 Republican National Convention, Kemp, along with allies such as Gingrich and Lott, added a plank to the party platform that put President Reagan on record as ruling out tax increases. Gingrich called this action "Dole-proofing" the platform, and the plank passed over Dole's opposition. Then, in 1985, Dole proposed an austere budget that barely passed in the senate with appendectomy patient Pete Wilson casting the tieing vote and Vice President Bush casting the deciding vote. In meetings with the President that excluded Dole, Kemp reworked the budget to exclude crucial social security cutbacks. This is said to have been Dole's most crushing political defeat and to have contributed to the Republican loss of control of the Senate. During the 1988 Presidential election, the two antagonized each other. After Bush won and Kemp left Congress for the Cabinet, the two did not really cross paths again until 1996 when Kemp endorsed Dole's opponent Forbes on the eve of the New York Primary in March.
Dole despised Kemp's economic theories, but he felt Kemp-like tax cuts offered his best chance at electoral success. For his part, Kemp had to make concessions as well: he had to back expelling the children of illegal immigrants from public schools despite his longstanding opposition to Proposition 187 as well as mute his opposition to abolishing affirmative-action programs in California. Some derided Kemp for his compromise and referred to him as a "con artist." From the outset of their campaign, Dole-Kemp trailed, and they faced skeptics even from within the party. However, Kemp was able to use the nomination to promote his opposition to Clinton's partial birth abortion ban veto. During the campaign, Kemp and Forbes advocated for a stronger stand on tax cutting than Dole used. However, in general, the opinion was that Kemp was helpful to the ticket's chances of catching Bill Clinton, and Kemp's advocacy gave a clear picture of the tax reforms that would likely occur on the condition of a successful campaign. Kemp was seen as likely to influence several types of swing voters, especially those of his native state of California, and even the Democrats feared Kemp might lure voters.
After receiving the nomination, Kemp became the ticket’s spokesman for minorities and the inner-city. Due to agreement on the self-help policy that Louis Farrakhan has endorsed in many fora including the Million Man March, Kemp in a sense aligned himself with Farrakhan. However, Farrakhan is perceived as being anti-Semitic, and Kemp is considered an ally of Republican Jews. This issue necessitated some political sidestepping. As the nominee, Kemp at times overshadowed Dole. In fact, more than once, Kemp was described as if he was the Presidential nominee. In addition to having overshadowed Dole, despite the negative ad campaigns that the ticket used, Kemp was a very positive running mate who relied on a pep rally type campaign tour full of football-related metaphors and hyperbole. Although some enjoyed Kemp's style, referring to him as the Good Shepherd, others grew tired of the overemphasis on recounting stories of passing balls and underemphasis on stories of passing bills. During the campaign, Kemp expressed the opinion that the Republican party leaders did not stand behind the ticket wholeheartedly. Despite Kemp's voice on minority issues, Colin Powell's support and polls that showed about 30% of blacks identified themselves as conservatives on issues such as school prayer, school vouchers and criminal justice, the Republicans were unable to improve upon historical support levels from African-American voters.
Both Gore and Kemp had Presidential aspirations, which induced pursuit of debate on a higher plane. In addition, Gore and Kemp were long-time friends unlike Gore and his previous Vice-Presidential opponent Quayle. Thus, as debaters they avoided personal attacks. However, some felt Kemp failed to counter substantive attacks. In the final October 9, 1996 Vice Presidential Debate against Al Gore (with the Dole-Kemp ticket trailing badly in the national polls), Kemp was soundly beaten, and Al Gore's performance is considered one of the best modern debate performances. The debate topics ranged broadly from the usual such as abortion and foreign policy to the unusual such as an incident preceding the then-current baseball playoffs, in which Roberto Alomar, the Baltimore Orioles' second baseman, cursed and spat on an umpire. The Mexico policy debate was one of the more interesting topics for critical review. The Gore victory was not a surprise since Kemp had been outmatched by Gore in previous encounters, and Gore has a reputation as an experienced and vaunted debater.
In the early 21st century, Kemp continued to be considered along with Reagan as the politician most responsible for the implementation of supply-side tax cuts and along with Steve Forbes as the political figure most responsible for their continued place in the marketplace of political ideas. He has been described as a beacon of economic conservatism and a hero for his urban agenda. Today, he continues to be described as a hero to fiscal conservatives (believer that free markets and low taxes work better than government bureaucracies). Kemp was considered the leader of the progressive conservatives who adhere to the hard right on social issues, but avoid protectionist fiscal and trade policy.
In addition to Roth, he has had numerous political allies. At times, he collaborated with Gingrich and Lott on deregulation and tax cuts, collaborated with McCain and Phil Gramm on tax cuts and spending restraints, legislated with and campaigned for Joseph Lieberman, and fought poverty with James Pinkerton. Pete du Pont was a progressive conservative ally. After retiring from Congress and serving in the Cabinet, Kemp remained close to Gingrich, Lott, Weber and Mack. Kemp was a member of the Federal committee to promote Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a national holiday. As a progressive voter, he has civil rights leaders such as Benjamin Hooks, Andrew Young and Coretta Scott King and conservative Black intellectuals like Glenn C. Loury and Robert L. Woodson as supporters and friends. He boasted of having Democratic friends such as William H. Gray III, Charles B. Rangel and Robert Garcia. Ken Blackwell was a Deputy Secretary under Kemp. During the Reagan Presidency, when Kemp was able to effect tax cutting, a leading United States Senate tax-cutting proponent was Democrat Bill Bradley, a former basketball star. Several American football players have followed Kemp to Congress: Steve Largent, J. C. Watts, and Heath Shuler.
In 1993, Kemp co-founded (with Bennett, Kirkpatrick and the financial backing of Theodore Forstmann) the free market advocacy group Empower America, which later merged with Citizens for a Sound Economy to form Freedom Works. Empower America represented the populist wing of the party: while avoiding divisive issues such as abortion and gay rights, it promoted free markets and growth over balancing the budget and cutting the deficit. He resigned as Co-Chairman of Freedom Works in March 2005 after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) questioned his ties to Samir Vincent, a Northern Virginia oil trader implicated in the U.N. Oil-for-food scandal who pled guilty to four criminal charges, including illegally acting as an unregistered lobbyist of the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. Testimony about Kemp became prominent in the trial. Also, FBI informant Richard Fino tied Kemp to James Cosentino just weeks before the 1996 election.
By 1996, Kemp had been named a director of six corporate boards. He has been a director for Hawk Corporation, IDT Corporation, CNL Hotels and Resorts, InPhonic, Cyrix Corporation and American Bankers Insurance Group. Kemp has served on the board of Oracle Corporation, which is owned by friend Larry Ellison, since 1996 and was named to the board of Six Flags, Inc. in December 2005. Kemp opted not to stand for re-election to IDT's board in 2006. He also serves on the Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors, and has served on the board of Atlanta-based software maker EzGov Inc. Kemp is the founder and chairman of Kemp Partners, a strategic consulting firm helping clients achieve both business and public policy goals.
In addition to corporate boards of directors, Kemp has served on several advisory boards such as the UCLA School of Public Policy Advisory Board, and the Toyota Diversity Advisory Board as well as the Howard University Board of Trustees, which he has served since 1993. On March 25, 2003, Kemp was selected as Chairman of the Board of Directors of USA Football, a national advocacy group for amateur football created by the National Football League and the NFL Players Association. The organization supports Pop Warner, American Youth Football, Boys and Girls Clubs Of America, National Recreation and Park Association, Police Athletic League, YMCA and the AAU. He is also vice president of NFL Charities.
In the late 1990s, Kemp remained outspoken on political issues: he was critical of Clinton's International Monetary Fund lax policies toward South Korea. In early 1998, he was a serious contender for the 2000 United States presidential election, but his campaign possibilities faltered, and he instead endorsed eventual winner George W. Bush. Kemp has continued his political advocacy for reform of taxation, Social Security and education. When a 1997 budget surplus was earmarked for debt repayment, Kemp opposed the plan in favor of tax cuts. He (along with John Ashcroft and Alan Krueger) endorsed reform of payroll taxes to eliminate double taxation. In addition to his fiscal and economic policies, Kemp advocated against abortion when Congress was considering a bill banning partial-birth abortions. He also advocates for retired NFL veterans on issues such as cardiovascular screening, assisted living, disability benefits, and the 2007 joint replacement program. Furthermore, he advocates for reforming immigration laws.
In 1997, when Gingrich was embroiled in a House ethics controversy, Kemp served as an intermediary between Dole and Gingrich to save the Republican Party leader. Later, in 2002, when Lott made caustic remarks about Strom Thurmond, Kemp was upset, and he supported Lott's apology, saying he had encouraged him to "repudiate segregation in every manifestation. Kemp was among the prominent leaders who pledged to raise money for Scooter Libby's defense in 2005.
In 2006, Kemp, along with 2004 vice-presidential nominee, John Edwards, co-chaired the Council on Foreign Relations task force on Russia, producing a document called "Russia’s Wrong Direction: What the United States Can and Should Do". After their task force roles ended, the pair advocated solutions to poverty in America at various fora. As of May 2007, Kemp sat on the board of the Yellowstone Mountain Club, which is located in on in the Madison Range north of Yellowstone National Park with 60 ski runs. The Club is a private ski and golf resort where people have come from around the world to build vacation homes. Bill Gates and Dan Quayle are members, and Greg LeMond has accused founder, Timothy Blixseth, of borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars from the club without collateral. Blixseth, a close friend of Kemp, describes the club as a resort that has a "wow factor" for even the extremely wealthy.
On January 6, 2008, he endorsed McCain in the 2008 Republican presidential primaries shortly before the New Hampshire primary, which surprised conservative Republican tax cutters. However, as McCain neared the official nomination, the press associated McCain with Kemp more and more. Kemp has prepared an open letter to Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham and other conservative talk show hosts on McCain's behalf to quell their dissatisfactions. In addition, Kemp and Phil Gramm will be advising McCain on economic policy.
In February 2008, Kemp was associated with a group called "Defense of Democracies" that was advocating an electronic surveillance bill that failed in the House of Representatives. The group's television ad caused such controversy that some of its advisors, including Schumer and Donna Brazile, resigned.
Kemp recently donated generously to Pepperdine University's School of Public Policy to establish the Jack F. Kemp Institute of Political Economy. Currently Wayne Angell, James Baker, Bennett, Michael Boskin, Edwin Feulner, Forbes, George Gilder, Carla Hills, Larry Kudlow, Laffer, Ed Meese, Mundell, Michael Novak, and Watts have endorsed the Institute and have agreed to lecture at Pepperdine, as well as to serve on an advisory committee. The institute would create The Jack F. Kemp Library to house Kemp's papers; establish the Jack F. Kemp Distinguished Visiting Chair; and fund annual public lectures and conferences at the School.
|Dist.||Year||Republican||Votes||Pct.||Conservative||Votes||Pct.||Right to Life||Votes||Pct.||Democrat||Votes||Pct.||Liberal||Votes||Pct.||Fair Trade||Votes||Pct.|
|39||1970||Jack Kemp||82,939||44.1%||Jack Kemp||14,050||7.5%||Thomas P. Flaherty||86,142||45.8%||Thomas P. Flaherty||4,807||2.6%|
|38||1972||Jack Kemp||139,681||65.1%||Jack Kemp||17,286||8.1%||Anthony P. LoRusso||54,236||25.3%||Anthony P. LoRusso||3,349||1.6%|
|38||1974||Jack Kemp||111,417||63.4%||Jack Kemp||15,270||8.7%||Barbara C. Wicks||46,596||26.5%||Barbara C. Wicks||2,333||1.3%|
|38||1976||Jack Kemp||151,610||71.5%||Jack Kemp||14,092||6.6%||Peter J. Geraci||44,034||20.8%||Peter J. Geraci||2,273||1.1%|
|38||1978||Jack Kemp||100,032||83.3%||Jack Kemp||13,896||11.6%||James A. Peck||6,204||5.2%|
|38||1980||Jack Kemp||141,763||69.0%||Jack Kemp||16,108||7.8%||Jack Kemp||9,563||4.7%||Gale A. Denn||35,681||17.4%||Gale A. Denn||2,194||1.1%|
|31||1982||Jack Kemp||121,266||68.4%||Jack Kemp||12,196||6.9%||James A. Martin||42,204||23.8%||James A. Martin||1,639||0.9%|
|31||1984||Jack Kemp||152,810||68.1%||Jack Kemp||15,522||6.9%||Peter J. Martinelli||53,513||23.8%||Peter J. Martinelli||2,643||1.2%|
|31||1986||Jack Kemp||80,904||50.3%||Jack Kemp||7,068||4.4%||Jack Kemp||4,536||2.8%||James P. Keane||66,956||41.6%||Gerald R. Morgan||913||0.6%||James P. Keane||618||0.4%|
Kemp also wrote the foreword to several books: