Pete Domenici

Pete Domenici
Pete Domenici
United States Senator
from New Mexico
In office
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 2009
Preceded by Clinton P. Anderson
Succeeded by Tom Udall
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
In office
January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2007
Preceded by Jeff Bingaman
Succeeded by Jeff Bingaman
Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Budget
In office
January 20 – June 6, 2001
Preceded by Kent Conrad
Succeeded by Kent Conrad
In office
January 3, 1995 – January 3, 2001
Preceded by Jim Sasser
Succeeded by Kent Conrad
In office
January 3, 1981 – January 3, 1987
Preceded by Fritz Hollings
Succeeded by Lawton Chiles
37th Mayor of Albuquerque
In office
October 1967 – March 1970
Preceded by Ralph S. Trigg
Succeeded by Charles E. Barnhart
Personal details
Born May 7, 1932 (1932-05-07) (age 79)
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Nancy Burk Domenici
Children Lisa Domenici
Peter Domenici
Nella Domenici
Clare Domenici
David Domenici
Nanette Domenici
Paula Domenici
Helen Domenici
Residence Albuquerque, New Mexico
Alma mater University of New Mexico (B.A.)
University of Denver (J.D.)
Occupation attorney
Religion Roman Catholic
Website Pete V. Domenici[dead link]

Pietro Vichi "Pete" Domenici (born May 7, 1932) is an American Republican politician, who served six terms as a United States Senator from New Mexico, from 1973 to 2009, the longest tenure in the state's history.

During Domenici's tenure in the Senate, he advocated waterway usage fees, nuclear power, and related causes. Domenici announced on October 4, 2007, his decision not to seek re-election to the Senate in 2008 for health reasons, in particular frontotemporal lobar degeneration.[1][2]

Domenici serves as a Senior Fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, where he focuses on budget and nuclear energy issues.[3]


Early years

Domenici was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, to Italian-American parents[4] Alda Vichi, an illegal immigrant,[5] and Cherubino Domenici, who were born in Sorbarro, Italy.[6][7] Growing up, he worked in his father's grocery business after school. He graduated in 1950 from St. Mary's High School in Albuquerque. After earning a degree in education at the University of New Mexico in 1954, where he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, he pitched for one season for the Albuquerque Dukes, a farm club for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He taught mathematics at Garfield Junior High in Albuquerque. He earned his law degree at the University of Denver law school in 1958 and returned to practice law in Albuquerque.

After graduating, he married Nancy Burk. Together they have two sons and six daughters (Lisa, Peter, Nella, Clare, David, Nanette, and twins Paula and Helen). One of his daughters has schizophrenia. This reportedly influenced his decision to become a strong supporter of legislation that calls for parity in insurance coverage for mental illness.[8]

In 1966, Domenici successfully ran for a position on the Albuquerque City Commission and in 1968 was elected Commission Chairman. This position was equivalent to that of mayor under the structure of the city government at the time. Albuquerque since has changed to a popularly elected mayor position resulting from city wide balloting and a move beyond the internal appointment.

Domenici was unsuccessful in his 1970 attempt in New Mexico's governor's race, losing to Democrat Bruce King, 148,835 to 134,640.

Early Senate career

In 1972, Domenici successfully ran for a position in the U.S. Senate and became the first New Mexico Republican to be elected to the position in 38 years. He was aided by his Hispanic-sounding surname with many New Mexico voters and the Richard Nixon landslide win over Democrat U.S. Sen. George McGovern at the top of the ticket. Domenici polled 204,253 votes (54 percent) to 173,815 (46 percent) for Hobbs real estate company owner Democrat Jack Daniels.

One of the first issues that Pete Domenici concerned himself with was waterway usage fees in spite of his state lacking any waterway capable of commercial traffic. The idea behind a waterway usage fee was that the Army Corps of Engineers built dams and other expensive waterway projects, which the barge industry got to use for free. A waterway usage fee would charge the users of waterways with a fee that would then be spent on upkeep and the construction of more waterways. In 1977, Domenici set himself to the task of enacting a waterway usage fee. After a long two-year battle with stiff lobbying on both sides,[9] the waterway fee was finally passed along with a new lock and dam project (the rebuilding of Lock and Dam 26.) Reporters attributed the passage of this fee to, in no small part, Domenici's legislative skill.[10] The legislation was signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1978.

The issue greatly assisted Domenici at home, where the railroad industry was big (railroads competed with barges, and they long wanted to end the "free ride" issue.) The railroads donated $40,000 to Domenici's campaign, and the barge industry gave a small sum to his opponent.[11] He was reelected in 1978 with 53.4% of the vote over Democrat Toney Anaya, a former New Mexico Attorney General. The 6.8% victory margin would be Domenici's closest election in his Senate career.

Later Senate years

Domenici was subsequently re-elected in 1984, 1990, 1996, and 2002 and is the longest-serving senator in his state's history. At the time of his retirement, he was the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. He was also a member of the U.S. Senate Committees on Appropriations and Indian Affairs, and served as Chairman and Ranking Minority Member of the Budget Committee.[12] He advocated for the mentally ill, having pushed the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996.[13]

Pete Domenici, speaking at an Albuquerque Memorial day event.

Domenici has been an avid proponent of nuclear power and has published two books on the subject: "A Brighter Tomorrow: Fulfilling the Promise of Nuclear Energy" (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2004), which he wrote; and "Advanced Nuclear Technologies — Hearing Before the Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate" (Collingdale, Pennsylvania: D I A N E Publishing Company, 1999), which he edited.

Committee Assignments

  • Committee on Appropriations
    • Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
    • Subcommittee on Defense
    • Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development (Ranking Member)
    • Subcommittee on Homeland Security
    • Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies
    • Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies
  • Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (Ranking Member)
    • Subcommittee on Energy (Ex Officio)
    • Subcommittee on National Parks (Ex Officio)
    • Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests (Ex Officio)
    • Subcommittee on Water and Power (Ex Officio)
  • Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
    • Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery
    • Ad Hoc Subcommittee on State, Local, and Private Sector Preparedness and Integration
    • Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations
    • Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security
  • Committee on the Budget
  • Committee on Indian Affairs

Department of Justice controversy

Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy

Prior to the 2006 midterm election Domenici called and pressured then-United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico David Iglesias to speed up indictments in a federal corruption investigation that involved at least one former Democratic state senator. When Iglesias said an indictment would not be handed down until at least December, Domenici said "I'm very sorry to hear that" — and the line went dead. Domenici's telephone manners were the subject of a later article in The Albuquerque Journal, which quoted numerous other sources whom Domenici had treated rudely by hanging up after making a point or receiving an unsatisfactory answer. Iglesias was fired a little over one month later by the Bush Administration. A communication by a senator or House member with a federal prosecutor regarding an ongoing criminal investigation is a violation of ethics rules. In a March 2007 statement, Domenici admitted making such a call.[14] House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., issued subpoenas to require Iglesias and three other ousted U.S. attorneys to testify before Congress.[15]

Domenici later admitted calling Iglesias, though Domenici claimed he never used the word "November" when he called Iglesias about an ongoing Albuquerque courthouse corruption case.[16] Domenici has denied trying to influence Iglesias, and has hired lawyer K. Lee Blalack II to represent him.[17]

According to the Justice Department, Domenici called the Department and demanded Iglesias be replaced on four occasions.[18]

According to The Washington Post, on the day of the firing (December 7, 2006) William Kelley, a deputy to then White House Counsel Harriet Miers, said in an email that Domenici's chief of staff was "happy as a clam" about the Iglesias firing. A week later, a Justice Department email to the White House counsel stated: "Domenici is going to send over names tomorrow (not even waiting for Iglesias's body to cool)."[19]

On April 24, 2008, Domenici was admonished by the Senate Ethics Committee for "inappropriately" contacting in 2006 one of the nine U.S. attorneys later fired by President Bush.[13]

The light punishment came after the committee found “no substantial evidence” that Domenici tried to influence attorney David Iglesias when he contacted him to inquire about the status of a 2006 investigation into corruption charges on a state Democratic official. A possible indictment could have buoyed the re-election hopes of Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.), who was seeking to replace Domenici when the senator retires after his current term. Iglesias charged that Domenici and Wilson were pressuring him to wrap up the investigation before that November’s elections, a violation of ethics rules.[14]

The Ethics Committee said that Domenici’s phone call to Iglesias, in advance of an upcoming election, “created an appearance of impropriety that reflected unfavorably on the Senate”.[14] In July 2010, Department of Justice prosecutors closed the two-year investigation without filing charges after determining that the firing was inappropriately political, but not criminal, saying "Evidence did not demonstrate that any prosecutable criminal offense was committed with regard to the removal of David Iglesias. The investigative team also determined that the evidence did not warrant expanding the scope of the investigation beyond the removal of Iglesias."[20] Domenici said of the closed investigation, "The Justice Department has now confirmed what I have always said and believed: I never attempted to interfere with any government investigation. I am glad that this matter has concluded."[20]

Environmental record

The grassroots organization Republicans for Environmental Protection singled out Domenici as “Worst in the Senate in 2006” on environmental issues.[21] In addition to assigning Domenici a score of zero for his environmental voting record, the group issued him “environmental harm demerits” for what they saw as two particularly irresponsible acts: first, for spearheading efforts to include in federal budget legislation provisions for “speculative revenues from oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; second, “for sponsoring and securing passage of S. 3711, the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which would perpetuate America’s dangerous oil dependence, set a precedent for drilling in sensitive marine waters, and direct a disproportionate share of federal royalty revenues from a public resource to four states.”[21]

Domenici also received an exceptionally low environmental rating from the nonpartisan League of Conservation Voters, who claimed in 2003 that “[d]uring the last decade his voting record has become even more strikingly anti-environmental.”[22] The LCV went on to criticize Domenici for voting in 1995 “to allow mining companies to ‘patent’ (purchase) public lands in order to extract minerals from them, without environmental standards, for the ridiculously low ‘price’ of $5 an acre or less.”[22]

Electoral history

2002 New Mexico United States Senatorial Election

  • Pete Domenici (R) (inc.), 65%
  • Gloria Tristani (D), 35%

1996 New Mexico United States Senatorial Election

  • Pete Domenici (R) (inc.), 64%
  • Art Trujillo (D), 30%

1990 New Mexico United States Senatorial Election

  • Pete Domenici (R) (inc.), 72.9%
  • Tom R. Benavides (D), 27.1%

1984 New Mexico United States Senatorial Election

  • Pete Domenici (R) (inc.), 71.9%
  • Judith A. Pratt (D), 28.1%

1978 New Mexico United States Senatorial Election

  • Pete Domenici (R) (inc.), 53.4%
  • Toney Anaya (D), 46.6%

1972 New Mexico United States Senatorial Election

Debt Reduction Task Force

Domenici and former OMB director and CBO director Dr. Alice Rivlin are chairing a Debt Reduction Task Force, sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.[23] The task force was announced at a joint press conference on January 26, 2010, in Washington. The task force began its work in February 2010[24] and, led by Domenici, released a report on November 17, 2010 on ways to address and reduce the national debt and deficit.[25]


  • "A Brighter Tomorrow: Fulfilling the Promise of Nuclear Energy" (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2004)
  • "Advanced Nuclear Technologies — Hearing Before the Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate" (Collingdale, Pennsylvania: D I A N E Publishing Company, 1999), which he edited.

See also


  1. ^ Cillizza, Chris. "Sen. Pete Domenici Expected to Retire". - "The Fix". - The Washington Post. - October 3, 2007.
  2. ^ "N.M. Senator Quitting for Health Reasons". - Associated Press. - (c/o Google). - October 4, 2007.
  3. ^ Senator Pete V. Domenici
  4. ^ "Famous Italian Americans". [dead link]
  5. ^ Kiely, Kathy (4 June 2007) "Personal histories shape immigration views" USA Today
  6. ^ 1
  7. ^ An Immigration Debate Framed by Family Ties. - The New York Times. - April 4, 2006.
  8. ^ Hulse, Carl. "The New York Times biographical note on Pete V. Domenici". Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  9. ^ Reid, T. R., & Writer, W. P. S. (1977, June 23). - "U.S. waterway tolls approved by senate". - The Washington Post.
  10. ^ "Pete Domenici: Nuclear Renaissance Man - Power Play". -
  11. ^ T.R.Reid, (1980). Congressional Odyssey: The Saga of a Senate Bill. W.H. Freeman & Company.
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b "Mental Health Parity Act of 1996"
  14. ^ a b c Eggen, Dan (March 5, 2007). "Senator Admits Calling U.S. Attorney". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2006-03-16. 
  15. ^ Taylor, Marisa (March 1, 2007). "Sources: GOP lawmakers tried to influence federal investigation". McClatchy Newspapers. Retrieved 2006-03-16. 
  16. ^ Brosnan, James (March 7, 2007). "Domenici denies mentioning `November' in Iglesias call". Albuquerque Tribune. Retrieved 2006-03-16. 
  17. ^ Johnston, David (March 8, 2007). "Inquiry Into Ouster of U.S. Attorneys Moves Toward Subpoenas at Justice Department". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-03-16. 
  18. ^ Pfeiffer, Eric (March 6, 2007). "Justice stymieing probe of 6 firings, Democrats say". Washington Times. Retrieved 2006-03-16. 
  19. ^ "Firings Had Genesis in White House (page 3)". The New York Times. March 12, 2007. Retrieved 2006-03-16. 
  20. ^ a b DOJ: Prosecutor firing was politics, not crime.
  21. ^ a b Republicans for Environmental Protection 2006 Scorecard
  22. ^ a b League of Conservation Voters
  23. ^ "". The Foundry. The Heritage Foundation. 2010-01-26. Archived from the original on 2010-01-27. Retrieved 2010-01-27. 
  24. ^ "Bipartisan Policy Center Domenici-Rivlin Task Force Begins Exploring Solutions to Debt Crisis". Bipartisan Policy Center. February 26, 2010. 
  25. ^ Haussamen, Heath (November 18, 2010). "Domenici-led group pushes new national sales tax". NM Politics. 

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Ralph Trigg
Mayor of Albuquerque
Succeeded by
Charles E. Barnhart
Preceded by
Ernest Hollings
Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee
Succeeded by
Lawton Chiles
Preceded by
James Sasser
Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee
Succeeded by
Kent Conrad
Preceded by
Jeff Bingaman
Chairman of Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Succeeded by
Jeff Bingaman
United States Senate
Preceded by
Clinton P. Anderson
United States Senator (Class 2) from New Mexico
Served alongside: Joseph Montoya, Harrison Schmitt, Jeff Bingaman
Succeeded by
Tom Udall

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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