John Sweeney

From OpenCongress Wiki

Jump to: navigation, search

John E. Sweeney was a Republican from New York who represented the state's 20th Congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007. He was defeated in the 2006 congressional elections by Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).




Sweeney was born August 9, 1955, in Troy, New York. He graduated from Russell Sage College in 1981 with a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and Criminal Justice and his J.D. from Western New England College School of Law in 1991. Sweeney was the New York State Commissioner of Labor under Governor George Pataki from 1995 to 1997, and served as Executive Director & Chief Counsel of the New York Republican Party from 1992 to 1995. Sweeney has three children, and lives in Clifton Park, New York.

Health Concerns

The congressman has been in and out of the hospital. He was recently diagnosed with vasculitis [2]

Congressional Career

He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1998 in Saratoga County.

Iraq War

Sweeney voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 that started the Iraq War.[1]

For more information see the chart of U.S. House of Representatives votes on the Iraq War.

2006 elections

In 2006, the Democrats nominated Kirsten Gillibrand to face Sweeney in his November 2006 bid for reelection. (See U.S. congressional elections in 2006) [3] Gillibrand defeated Sweeney 53% to 47% to take possession of the seat. [4]

Meet the Cash Constituents

Links to more campaign contribution information for John Sweeney
from the Center for Responsive Politics' site.
Fundraising profile: 2008 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by organization/corporation: 2008 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by industry: 2008 election cycle Career totals


Campaign tactics

A formal complaint was filed by one of his constituents, Lisa Scerbo of Mechanicville, N.Y. She filed the complaint with the Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards, which is in charge of franking mail in Congress. She charged that he violated the Congressional franking privileges. The constituent stated that he mailed 500 letters less than 90 days before New York's, September 12, primary.[5]

According to his deputy cheif of staff, Sweeney sent a letter on veterans' issues to 19,260 homes costing $9,685, on June 30, 2006. "The decision I made to send franked mail at that time was based on the endorsements from all five Independence Party county organizations and the information our office received unequivocally stating the congressman would not face a primary," said Carlson, his deputy chief of staff. [6]

Scerbo believes that Sweeney would be nominated by the Independence Party as a candidate for Sept. 12, primary. If Sweeney's name is on the ballot, he will have to repay the government for the franking cost or withdraw from the ballot. Sweeney's violation of the rules of the House depends on New York's election laws, which allows candidates to run for a nomination of more than one party.[7]

Fundraising Questions

Sweeney was recently criticized in an Albany Times Union editorial for hosting a Utah fundraising ski trip that included dinner at lobbyist Jeff Kimbell's house. Kimbell represents Novartis and Allergan, both pharmaceutical companies. The editorial asks, "Why Mr. Sweeney would be taking money from lobbyists at this point (after the Jack Abramoff scandal), though, or even raising it in the presence of one, is its own riddle. It takes the glow off his credentials as a crusader for reforming the way the House operates."[8]

Brad Card, brother of White House Chief of Staff, Andrew H. Card, Jr. is a Sweeney donor to the tune of $7,500 [9] and was a former top aide for Sweeney. Card was also one of the lobbyists [10] for the National Uniformity for Food Act [11] [12], which Sweeney co-sponsored. Sweeney took in donations tied to at least 4 proponents of the Act. [13]

Sweeney is among seven members of the House Appropriations Committee who have a political action committee which is either headed by a registered lobbyist or a former registered lobbyist with "business" before the Committee, "according to the Center for Public Integrity and campaign records." [14]

Jack Abramoff Link

In 2002, Sweeney received $1,000 from the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana and $1,000 from the Tigua Indian Reservation, both of which were clients of Jack Abramoff. [15] The Associated Press reported January 5, 2006, that Sweeney donated the $2,000 which he had received to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

John Sweeney's financial records are now being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice. [16]

Sweeney first received funding in April 2001 from Greenberg Traurig [17], which is now one of the top 13 contributors to the 2005-2006 Sweeney Campaign. [18]

Marianas Island Trip

In 2001, Sweeney travelled to the Northern Marianas Island to give a speech to its Chamber of Commerce. His trip was paid for by the Chamber of Congress, a client of Abramoff at the time, and he was accompanied by Tony Rudy, a former Tom DeLay aide tnen working for Abramoff. Federal law stipulates that members of Congress must disclose all trips funded by private sources, but Sweeney failed to do this. He claimed that he believed the trip to have been funded by the government of the islands. [19]

"Congressman Kick Ass"

During the 2000 election recount, Congressman Sweeney participated in the "Brooks Brothers Riot," which shut down the vote recount in Miami. [20] This led to his nickname of "Congressman Kick Ass" [21] from George W. Bush. Some in his district have been known to identify Sweeney as "Congressman Kiss Ass" [22]

Congressional Winter Challenge

On July 15, 2006, Sweeney refused to appear before a state committee investigating the annual Congressional Winter Challenge in Lake Placid, New York. The event, hosted by Sweeney, has attracted a few members of Congress including Reps. John McHugh (R-N.Y.), Anne Northup (R-Ky.), James Walsh (R-N.Y.), Pete Sessions (R-Texas) and Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.). Aides to other congressional members have attended. The event was intended to lobby members of Congress for aid to maintain the facilities in Lake Placid once used during the 1980 Winter Olympics. While the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA), a part of New York state government, is supposed to formally invites guests without input from Sweeney, the state power authority pays for $25,000 of the event’s costs. Since the annual event began in 1998, funding for ORDA has actually gone down. [23]

This led several New York state assemblymen to launch an investigation into whether or not the state money was being put to good use. Subpoenaed documents have shown that the event has been attended mostly by Sweeney's campaign donors [24], corporate lobbyists, congressional staffers and officials from the New York Power Authority and their families. [25]

ORDA's President, Ted Blazer, testified that Sweeney "helped assemble invitations to the annual Congressional Winter Challenge at Lake Placid - in apparent violation of a House Committee on Standards opinion". [26] Sweeney refused to testify.

On September 18, 2006, state Reps. Richard Brosky and Paul Tonto issued a final report highly critical of Sweeney and his involvement in the Congressional Winter Challenge. The lawmakers extracted promises from the organizations that oversee the Winter Challenge to remove Sweeney from the invitation process. [27]

Ties to boating industry

During the 2006 election cycle, Sweeney was one of the top recipients of campaign contributions from the National Marine Manufacturers Association PAC, the largest in the boating industry. The PAC had given Sweeney $4,000 in cash as of August 2006. [28] In addition, Sweeney also benefitted by using the PAC's yacht to throw two campaign fundraisers on board. [29]

Meanwhile, also in 2006, Sweeney introduced a bill that would allow boat manufacturers to take a tax deduction if they include personal flotation devices and electronic distress devices at no additional cost to consumers. [30]

On September 5, 2006, State Democrats sharply criticized Sweeney for accepting campaign donations from the PAC. Blake Zeff, a spokesman for the state Democratic committee, said, "There is a pattern of behavior with this particular congressman who we are trying to hold accountable for a record that has contributed to a feeling among voters of a culture of corruption in Washington." [31]

Principally as a result of these scandals, Sweeney was named in 2006 by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington as one of the twenty most corrupt US legislators. [32]

Earmark Reform

In September of 2006, Sweeney voiced his opposition to a House resolution that would require the identification of earmarks' sponsors in tax, authorization, and appropriations bills, claiming it to unfairly target members of the Appropriations Committee, of which he is a member. [33]

Wife's 911 call

In December of 2005, Sweeney's wife Gaia called 911 and told the operator that her husband was "knocking her around." After the phone went dead, an operator called the residence back and spoke to both Sweeney and his wife, who each claimed that there was no longer any problem. A police officer was sent to check on the situation (a routine procedure, even in cases where the original caller states that there is no problem). His report stated that Sweeney had scratches on his face but neither he nor his wife wanted medical attention or to file any charges. [34]

Following the election, the officer who Sweeney's campaign suspected of leaking the police report detailing the incident had been demoted. He claimed innocence in the matter and his union filed a grievance. [35]

Soon after, the Albany Times-Union reported that New York State Police released an altered version of the original police report. They did so because they believed the actual report to be a "political document" that would hurt Sweeney's chances for re-election (he was ultimately defeated in any case). [36]

Drunk driving and Its Aftermath

On November 14, 2007, Sweeney pleaded guilty, was fined $1,000, and had his driver's license suspended for six months after his arrest for driving while intoxicated. According to law enforcement officials, a 24-year-old female passenger was on Sweeney's lap while he drove, and he was pulled over his vehicle nearly struck a State Police cruiser.[2]

According to a law enforcement source, Sweeney summoned a cab for himself and two friends while at a club in Clifton Park, N.Y. early on the morning of Dec. 27. When the cab arrived, Sweeney wasn't ready to go. So he asked the driver to bring two of his friends home and come back and get him.

The source says Sweeney still wasn't ready to leave when the taxi returned. The driver waited 45 minutes and then Sweeney got in the car and the driver brought him to his Clifton Park home.

The source says Sweeney refused to pay the $80-plus cab fare. The cab company called police. State troopers showed up at the Sweeney home, but he didn't answer the door. The source says troopers called Sweeney's attorney and asked that Sweeney come to the barracks to be formally charged.

However, according to the law enforcement source, Sweeney's family brought payment and "something for the driver" to the cab company. The company then notified state police that they wanted to withdraw the complaint. [3]

Committees and Affiliations


Committees in the 110th Congress (2007-2008)

  • House Committee on Appropriations
    • Subcommittee on Foreign Operations Export Financing and Related Programs
    • Subcommittee on Homeland Security
    • Subcommittee on Transportation Treasury and Housing and Urban Development The Judiciary District of Columbia

Coalitions and Caucuses

  • New York Republican Party, Executive Director, 1992-1995
  • Co-Chair, Correctional Officers Caucus

Boards and other Affiliations

More Background Data

Wikipedia also has an article on John Sweeney. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.


  1. Roll call vote, Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.
  2. Robert Gavin, "Sweeney makes plea, apologies," Times Union (Albany, NY), November 15, 2007.
  3. Mark Mulholland,"[1]," January 7, 2008.

Articles and Resources








Health Articles

Local blogs and discussion sites


DC Office:
416 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-3220
Web Email

District Office- Clifton Park:
939 Route 146, Suite 430
Clifton Park, NY 12065
Phone: 518-371-8839
Fax: 518-371-9509

District Office- Delhi:
Senator Charles Cook Office Building
111 Main Street
Delhi, NY 13753
Phone: 607-746-9700
Fax: 607-746-9747

District Office- Glens Falls:
21 Bay Street
Glens Falls, NY 12801
Phone: 518-792-3031
Fax: 518-792-3031

District Office- Redhook:
7578 North Broadway
Red Hook, NY 12571
Phone: 845-758-1222