Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

Senator Kaufman Featured in Delaware Today and New York Times

December 2, 2009

Senator Ted Kaufman Featured in Delaware Today & New York Times

Sen. Kaufman in his D.C. office.

Ted Kaufman in his Washington, D.C. office (Luke Sharrett/The New York Times)

Ted was recently featured in two publications – a full-length article in Delaware Today magazine and a shorter profile in the New York Times.

Delaware Today

Senator Ted's Excellent Adventure

Ted Kaufman may not have a plan for his future after the Senate, but for the present, he is a man on a mission.

By Reid Champagne

In one of the subterranean hallways that honeycomb the Capitol building, Delaware’s junior senator, Edward “Ted” Kaufman, runs into first-term Senator Jon Tester of Montana. The garrulous, brush cut Montanan throws a beefy arm around the suddenly diminutive Kaufman and shouts effusively, “This is the nicest guy in the Senate.”

Given that both men have been on the job for only a few months, Tester’s remark offers an important insight as to how Delaware’s new Senate delegation may be one of the strongest one-two punches of any state, large or small, in the country.

Kaufman is no seat-warmer, either. In less than six months on the job, he has introduced or sponsored some 75 bills, amendments and resolutions.

“I came here already knowing my way around,” Kaufman says. He sits just outside the Senate chamber, awaiting a quorum call. “I have a lot of institutional knowledge of how things get done from my years as Joe Biden’s chief of staff.”

Rhode Island Democrat Jack Reed, who accompanied Kaufman on a recent trip to Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, agrees that Kaufman probably understands how the Senate operates “better than any other senator does.

“He’s a real gentleman, and smart, too,” he says. “No one uses him. His personal skills and experience are the sources of his strength. He’s a great asset to the [Democratic] caucus and the Senate.”

It was those skills and experience that had eventually led former Governor Ruth Ann Minner to move from asking for Kaufman’s advice on a replacement for Joe Biden to offering the position to Kaufman himself.

“I knew this appointment was for a short term and would need someone who wouldn’t have to spend all that time learning his or her way around,” Minner says. “That put Ted at the top of the list, given his years as Joe’s chief of staff, plus his knowledge of state people. I couldn’t have found anyone stronger.”

No better example of the value of Kaufman’s institutional knowledge and experience can be found than in the recent passage of the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, which is aimed at strengthening the tools and resources federal prosecutors can use to combat financial fraud. Kaufman introduced the legislation on the floor, along with Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Beyond the import of the legislation itself, it was introduced successfully by a freshman senator—a freshman senator, who by virtue of already announcing he would not seek re-election in 2010, had made himself a lame duck.

“I don’t believe any one senator has introduced and passed legislation in his or her first year,” says Delaware’s now senior Senator Tom Carper. “Ted helped make the legislation a lot less partisan than it might otherwise have been.”

Kaufman himself dismisses the “lame duck” label. “Ninety percent of what senators do they’d do even if they were elected for life. It’s a day-to-day thing. If you need a senator’s help for something you’re trying to get done, you ask for it, regardless of his situation. The next day you’re onto something else and looking for help elsewhere.”

Kaufman adds that by not running for re-election, he does not have to spend the precious two years of his term campaigning or fundraising. “I don’t have to figure a political angle for my vote.”

Kaufman has detected a return to a more personable and civil atmosphere that had characterized what had all but become a bygone era in Senate proceedings. “It’s still quite partisan, but the battle now is more about ideas than personalities,” Kaufman says.

A senator from the other side of the aisle, Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson, agrees a more civil feeling has returned, and he credits Kaufman for being part of it.

“An absence of personal conflict is a sign of stability, and Ted is a very stable person,” Isakson says. “Everything he does helps temper the atmosphere.”

When the Senate is in session, Kaufman generally spends Tuesdays through Thursdays in Washington, D.C., where he and wife Lynne have taken an apartment. Unless there’s a scheduled vote, he will spend Mondays and Fridays in Delaware meeting with constituents and attending weekend events in the state. His 40 or so member staff (the vast majority are holdovers from Biden’s staff) hold weekly meetings in Washington and Delaware to coordinate the senator’s schedule. A neatly printed schedule of Kaufman’s day is produced and distributed early in the morning, but that schedule is often revised before the morning is out. On this particular day, the revision is dramatic.

The previous evening, senators learned they would receive a bill of impeachment from the House of Representatives for a federal judge convicted of a felony. A quorum call was set for 10 a.m. the next day, when a committee of senators would be named as judges for the impeachment trial. It marked only the fourth time such a committee had been formed for impeachment proceedings, and Kaufman was one of the 12 members to be named. It is yet another example of the impact and influence Kaufman brings to the Senate. (The impeachment proceedings ended the following day, when the judge, Samuel B. Kent, resigned.)

Interjection of the impeachment procedure turned the balance of Kaufman’s schedule into a bit of a cut-and-paste scramble. He made an abbreviated stop at a Judiciary Committee nominating hearing to spend a few minutes with his fellow professor from Duke University School of Law, Chris Schroeder, who was nominated as an assistant attorney general. Then Kaufman made an even more abbreviated pop-in to a Senate Foreign Relations Committee roundtable on “Iran at the Crossroads.” Kaufman arranged to meet privately with one of the panelists the next day, before he was off to his scheduled hour of presiding over the senate floor.

“The great thing about being a senator is your access to information and the volumes that are available from experts in the field,” Kaufman says after leaving the roundtable. “And they always return your calls.”

That Kaufman serves on both the Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees, as had his famous predecessor, is yet another reflection of his experience and reputation in the Senate. It also didn’t hurt that his predecessor is vice president of the United States.

“I asked the [Senate] leadership for those assignments based on my past experience as a staffer,” Kaufman says. “And then Vice President Biden put in a call for me.”

Kaufman is quick to say that having a former boss in the executive branch of government offers no special advantage to a legislator. “It’s more of a personal, familiarity thing between us,” he says.

After lunch, there was an early start to a Foreign Relations Committee nominating hearing that included testimony from Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who was nominated to be ambassador to Ireland. Kaufman’s questions centered on how Rooney could improve direct investment to Ireland in the areas of information technology, banking and pharmaceuticals—industries important to the continued prosperity of Delaware. Then it was off to a meeting with a group of 20 Delaware teachers who are part of Delaware’s Democracy Project. Kaufman asked his staff to reschedule a floor speech so that he could make the meeting on time. “I hate being late,” he says.

He addressed the teachers with opening remarks that affirm the importance of their work in passing the legacy of democracy to the next generation. He then threw the meeting open to questions. Kaufman deftly addressed foreign policy issues, asserting that in Iraq, “at least we know where we’re going now,” and that in Afghanistan, “we now have a plan, but are awaiting its execution.” When he talked about Pakistan, however, there were no rosy elements to the assessment. “Pakistan is a mess.”

Among the teachers, Kaufman answered the question that had been on the minds of many Delawareans since he was appointed. “I have no intention of running for re-election,” he has said emphatically. And after completing his term in 2010? “I have planned my whole life. I’m done with planning. I’ll just wait and see what happens next.”

In the meantime, Kaufman will remain a senator on a mission. At a rescheduled floor speech that evening, Kaufman addressed an empty chamber (not uncommon for floor speeches) on the problems facing financial markets. He criticized the Securities and Exchange Commission for dragging its feet on reforms other financial regulators around the world have already addressed to prevent another global financial meltdown. The theme built on one that had earlier been presented by his Republican colleague, Isakson, again evidence of Kaufman’s desire to work both sides of the aisle to get things done.

He also wants to change the sometimes negative reputation of federal workers.

“The worth of federal employees is not understood by the public,” he says. “I hope to spotlight at least 70 or more of these dedicated public servants during the balance of my term in hopes of changing that public perception to a positive one.”

There’s an oft-repeated metaphor that is apocryphally linked to an exchange between Washington and Jefferson, in which Washington compared the U.S. Senate to “the saucer that cools the tea,” suggesting that its deliberative nature cooled the heated passions and populist activism of the House of Representatives. Kaufman’s peripatetic pace would suggest he arrived on the scene with a very hot cup, but no saucer.

Carper notes that with Biden as the vice president, Kaufman’s two decades of experience in the Senate, and Mike Castle serving as a dean of the House of Representatives, Delaware has assembled a powerful team that is riding hard for the state. “I’m the one that’s the pup, here,” Carper says.

He and his colleagues are learning to drink their tea hot -- and quickly.

The New York Times

3 Right-Hand Men Take a Turn at Center Stage

By Carl Hulse

WASHINGTON — While he is a relatively new senator, Ted Kaufman, Democrat of Delaware, is deeply familiar with Senate folkways. Don’t talk too much too soon. Show great deference to committee chairmen. And always — always — treat staff members with the utmost respect

“You can get the senator on your side, and that works nine times out of 10,” said Mr. Kaufman, appointed the junior senator from Delaware last January to fill the seat vacated by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. “But if you don’t have the staffer on your side too, it is very, very difficult.”

Mr. Kaufman should know. For 20 years, he was chief of staff to Mr. Biden, a position that arguably provided him with more knowledge about how the Senate really works than the average senator possesses. Now he is one of three longtime political aides temporarily filling seats in the Senate, right-hand men given an unexpected chance to wield power on their own.

Taking center stage can be both jolting and exhilarating for someone more accustomed to working in an advisory role and watching from the wings as the boss casts the vote, delivers the speech, questions the hearing witness, works the crowd or answers the queries at a news conference.

“It is pretty sobering, pretty humbling and a real honor,” said Senator Paul G. Kirk Jr., a Democrat appointed in September to fill the Massachusetts seat of his onetime boss, the late Edward M. Kennedy. Mr. Kirk, a top member of Mr. Kennedy’s Senate staff from 1969 to 1977, compared joining the Senate in the middle of the health care fight to jumping on a moving train. “I have something of a leg up in at least understanding the legislative process fairly first-hand,” he said.

Add in Senator George LeMieux, a Florida Republican and former chief of staff to Gov. Charlie Crist, and the three have the makings of a new caucus. All made clear they would not seek election to their new Senate seat — though Mr. LeMieux, at age 40, is keeping his options beyond 2010 open. None have ever held elected public office on their own.

And all have had to contend with the impression they are seat warmers, with Mr. LeMieux holding down the fort for Mr. Crist, the man who appointed him, while Mr. Kaufman was seen as a stand-in until Mr. Biden’s son Beau was ready to run next year.

And Mr. Kirk, 71, the beneficiary of gyrations by Democrats in the Massachusetts legislature, was rushed into office in September to restore the Democratic majority to 60 votes — the minimum number needed to overcome Republican filibusters — until a more permanent replacement is picked early next year.

No matter the circumstances of their arrival, the three are indisputably senators, with all the power and privilege that office conveys, along with some advantage of having toiled in the background to see the process from the ground up.

“Having been staff, you know the ins and outs of the Senate,” said Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who was a senior Senate aide for more than a decade before her election. “You have a better sense of how things get done behind the scenes.”

Ms. Collin’s route is not typical in the Senate, though several current senators spent a year or two working in Senate offices before embarking on their own political careers. It is more common in the House for top staff members to succeed their bosses.

And interim senators are not usually expected to be too productive, given their temporary standing in a body that traditionally honors longevity and proven vote-getting ability above all else. But times evidently are changing.

Mr. Kirk gave his maiden speech last month, covering Mr. Kennedy’s pet issue of health care. Mr. LeMieux, who was appointed in August and has considerably less experience in Washington than the other two, has already been granted the role of delivering his party’s response to President Obama’s weekly address. And Mr. LeMieux has introduced his first bill — on Medicare fraud.

“Our phrase in the office is we are going to get six years out of 16 months,” said Mr. LeMieux, who also served as deputy attorney general in Florida and once lost a bid for the Legislature.

Mr. Kaufman, 70, seems determined to put his experience inside and outside of the institution to work before he exits at the end of next year.

After running Mr. Biden’s office from 1976 to 1995, Mr. Kaufman, who has an engineering degree from Duke and an M.B.A from the Wharton School, was co-chairman of the Center for the Study of Congress at the Duke law school. While there, he taught about how things get done on Capitol Hill — lessons he is now trying to apply himself.

He has immersed himself in complex Wall Street issues, joining a bipartisan group of senators working to restore federal controls on certain types of securities trading.

As a member of the Judiciary Committee, he played an active role in pushing through a financial fraud measure signed into law in May.

At the same time, he has traveled twice to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Not forgetting his roots, Mr. Kaufman has instituted weekly recognition of outstanding federal workers.

“He has really been able to jump into all these issues,” said Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, who recently called Mr. Kaufman as the lead-off witness at a banking subcommittee hearing on the risks presented by the explosion in automated trading.

Mr. Kaufman is discovering that he enjoys the job, even dealing with reporters, a prospect that unnerved him when he was chief of staff to Mr. Biden.

“I always figured if I screwed up, I screwed him up, not just me,” Mr. Kaufman said. “So if I just screw myself up, who cares?”

He has achieved something of rock-star status among Senate professional staff, validating the usually unspoken view of many top aides that they could certainly do the senator’s job very ably if provided the chance.

He received an ovation at a reunion of Senate chiefs of staff this year and, according to those attending, recounted a story where he was asked by new colleagues riding in a Senate elevator which was more difficult — his new job or his old one. Mr. Kaufman said the staff role was tougher.

“I knew immediately I had given the wrong answer,” he said.


The Delaware Liberal blog comments on the New York Times article
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