Pete Stark

Pete Stark

Infobox Congressman
honorific-prefix = Congressman

name = Pete Stark
honorific-suffix =

state = California
district = 13th
term_start = January 3, 1993
term_end = Incumbent
preceded = Norman Mineta
succeeded = Incumbent
state2 = California
district2 = 9th
term_start2 = January 3, 1975
term_end2 = January 3, 1993
preceded2 = Don Edwards
succeeded2 = Ron Dellums
state3 = California
district3 = 8th
term_start3 = January 3, 1973
term_end3 = January 3, 1975
preceded3 = George P. Miller
succeeded3 = Ron Dellums
birth_date = birth date and age|1931|11|11
birth_place = Milwaukee, Wisconsin
death_date =
death_place =
restingplace =
restingplacecoordinates =
birthname = Fortney Hillman Stark, Jr.
nationality = American
party = Democratic
otherparty =
spouse = Deborah Stark
partner =
relations =
children =
residence = Fremont, California
alma_mater = MIT
University of California, Berkeley
occupation = Banking executive, politician
profession =
net worth =
cabinet =
committees = Ways & Means Committee
portfolio =
religion = Unitarian Universalist (atheist)

website =
footnotes =
nickname =
allegiance = United States of America
branch = Air Force
serviceyears = 1955-1957
rank =
unit =
commands =
battles =
awards =

Fortney Hillman "Pete" Stark, Jr. (born November 11, 1931) is an American politician from the state of California. A Democrat, he has been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1973, representing California's 13th congressional district in southwestern Alameda County.

The 13th district includes Alameda, Union City, Hayward, Newark, San Leandro and Fremont, as well as parts of Oakland and Pleasanton. Stark lives in Fremont.

Peter Stark is the first, and so far only, openly atheist member of the United States Congress. [ [ California lawmaker becomes highest ranking...]]

Early life and education

Stark was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He received an Bachelor of Science degree in general engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1953. [ [ MIT 'Loses' One Seat in US Congress] November 14, 1990] He served in the United States Air Force from 1955 to 1957. After leaving the Air Force, Stark attended the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and received his MBA in 1960. Stark enjoyed living in the Bay Area so much that he decided to settle there after graduating.

In 1963, Stark founded Security National Bank, a small bank in Walnut Creek. Within 10 years it grew to a $100 million company with branches across the East Bay.

Stark grew up as a Republican, but his opposition to the Vietnam War led him to switch parties in the mid-1960s. He printed checks with peace signs on them and placed a giant peace sign on the roof of his bank's headquarters.

Congressional career

In 1972, Stark ran in the Democratic primary against ten-term incumbent U.S. Representative George Paul Miller in what was then the 8th district. He won the nomination by a shocking 34-point margin. In the 1972 general election he won by a narrow 5-point margin. Since that election he has not faced a contest nearly that close and has been reelected 16 times. He has only dropped below 60 percent of the vote once (in 1980). Due to redistricting, his district has changed numbers twice, from the 8th (1973–75) to the 9th (1975–93) to the 13th (since 1993).

Today Stark is the longest-serving member of Congress from California. He has been a ranking member of the Banking and Currency Committee and powerful Ways and Means Committee. He also served as chairman of the Committee on the District of Columbia in the 103rd Congress. His voting record is generally very liberal, as indicated in the ratings section below, and he has been voted the most liberal member of Congress for two consecutive years. He was a founding member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

He is running for re-election in 2008 and was unopposed for the Democratic nomination. [ [ "County finalizes primary ballots"] ,, March 11, 2008.]

Committee assignments

*Committee on Ways & Means
**Subcommittee on Health (Chairman)
**Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support

Controversial statements

Stark has been known to make controversial statements through his political career.

In August 1990, Stark drew controversy for calling Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Wade Sullivan, an African American, "a disgrace to his race" for "supporting Bush Administration policies that Mr. Stark called "bankrupt and damaging to minority members". Stark was criticizing a speech by Sullivan who opposes proposals for federally-sponsored national health insurance (Stark had introduced legislation for national health insurance). Stark said that Sullivan had been influenced by George H. W. Bush administration officials such as Office of Management and Budget Director Richard Darman and White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu to change his positions on both abortion and health care. Stark later apologized for the controversy. [ [ Lawmaker Says His Racial Insult of Health Secretary Was Mistake] 4 August 1990. Associated Press.]

On October 18, 2007, Stark made the following comments on the House floor during a debate with Congressman Joe Barton of Texas: "Republicans sure don't care about finding $200 billion to fight the illegal war in Iraq. Where are you going to get that money? Are you going to tell us lies like you're telling us today? Is that how you're going to fund the war? You don't have money to fund the war or children. But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the President's amusement." [ [ YouTube video] , October 18, 2007.] ["The John Ziegler Show", KFI, October 18, 2007 (7PM hour) and October 19, 2007 (7PM hour) ( [ podcast] retrieved October 22, 2007)] Following the initial criticism to his statements, when asked by a radio station if he would take back any of his statements, Stark responded "Absolutely not. I may have dishonored the commander in chief, but I think he’s done pretty well to dishonor himself without any help from me." ["KCBS", " [ Stark Stands Behind GOP Accusations] ", October 18, 2007.] Five days later on October 23, 2007, Stark said, "I apologize for this reason: I think we have serious issues before us, the issue of providing medical care to children, the issue about what we’re going to do about a war that we’re divided about how to end." [ [ Stark apologizes, calls on Congress to provide health care to children and end the war in Iraq] , October 23, 2007.]

In "The Bottom Line", Interviews by Jan Helfeld, Stark when upset about having to answer questions about national debt, told the interviewer, "Listen, you get the fuck out of here... I'll throw you out the window!" [ [ Pete Stark Blows Up Over National Debt]]

Other controversies include calling Congressman Scott McInnis of Colorado a "little wimp" and a "little fruitcake" and challenging him to a fight during a Ways and Means Committee meeting in 2003.cite news|title=Stark's Latest Gaffe Is Just One In a Long Line|first=Jonathan| last = Weisman | publisher=Washington Post | date = 24 October 2007 | url =|accessdate =2007-12-31 | pages = A17] In a 2001 debate, he falsely stated that all of the children of Congressman J. C. Watts of Oklahoma were "born out of wedlock." In another debate, he called Congresswoman Nancy Johnson of Connecticut a "whore for the insurance industry" and suggested that her knowledge of health care came solely from "pillow talk" with her husband, a physician.

Political views


Stark voted against the bipartisan May 2008 farm subsidy bill, which was supported by over most House Democrats and over half of House Republicans, in part because of its cost. [ [ Pete Stark]]

He also voted against both readings of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which gave $700 billion dollars to troubled investment banks. Stark argued that "the proposed bailout will only help reckless speculators who have been caught on the wrong side of the come line." Criticizing the bill as corporate welfare, he said "The bill before us today is basically the same three-page Wall Street give-away first put forth by President Bush" before the vote on the first bailout. [] []

Health care

Stark is known to have a longstanding interest in health care issues and has been critical of the fate of the uninsured under the current administration.cite news
first = Matthew
last = Benjamin
coauthors = Kerry Young
url =
title = 46 Million Live in U.S. Without Health Insurance
work = New York Sun
page = 2
date = August 30, 2006
accessdate = 2007-10-01

Along with John Conyers, in April 2006 Stark brought an action against George W. Bush and others alleging violations of the Constitution in the passing of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which cut Medicaid payments.cite news
url =
title = 11 House Members to Sue Over Budget Bill
work = USA Today
publisher = Associated Press
date = 28 April 2006
accessdate = 2007-10-01
] The case, "Conyers v. Bush", was ultimately dismissed.cite news
url =
title = Judge Dismisses Budget Bill Lawsuit
work = ABC News
publisher = Associated Press
date = 6 November 2006
accessdate = 2007-10-01

Iraq War

Pete Stark was an early opponent of the Iraq War, against the resolution authorizing military force against Iraq, on October 10, 2002. In part he said, "Well then, who will pay? School kids will pay. There'll be no money to keep them from being left behind — way behind. Seniors will pay. They'll pay big time as the Republicans privatize Social Security and rob the Trust Fund to pay for the capricious war. Medicare will be curtailed and drugs will be more unaffordable. And there won't be any money for a drug benefit because Bush will spend it all on the war. Working folks will pay through loss of job security and bargaining rights. Our grandchildren will pay through the degradation of our air and water quality. And the entire nation will pay as Bush continues to destroy civil rights, women's rights and religious freedom in a rush to phony patriotism and to courting the messianic Pharisees of the religious right."

In January 2003 Stark supported a reinstatement of the draft, partly in protest against the call to war but also saying, "If we're going to have these escapades, we should not do it on the backs of poor people and minorities."cite news
first = Edward
last = Epstein
url =
title = Stark Joins Call to Restore Draft
work = Common Dreams NewsCenter
date = 23 January 2003
accessdate = 2007-10-01
] In October 2004, Stark was one of only two members of Congress to vote in favor of the Universal National Service Act of 2003 (HR 163), a bill proposing resumption of the military draft.

Stark voted against authorizing the Iraq war and has opposed every funding bill for the war while the Republicans controlled Congress. However, he chose not to stand against the Democratic legislation to continue funding the war on March 23, 2007, despite other liberal Democrats voting against the bill. In a statement posted on his website he stated, "Despite my utmost respect for my colleagues who crafted this bill, I can't in good conscience vote to continue this war. Nor, however, can I vote 'No' and join those who think today's legislation goes too far toward withdrawal. That's why I'm making the difficult decision to vote 'present'."cite web
date = 23 March 2007
url =
title = "Congressional Record: U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act, 2007"
work =
accessdate = 2007-09-30
] Stark was the only member of Congress to take this position.

2008 financial crisis

On September 25, 2008, Stark and Oregon Democrat Rep. Peter DeFazio signed a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proposing a one quarter of one percent “transaction tax” on all trades in financial instruments including stocks, options, and futures. On September 29, 2008, Stark voted against HR 3997, the Finance Bill backed by President Bush, House Speaker Pelosi and Presidential Candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. Stark's vote helped defeat the bill. Explaining his vote, Stark stated:

"President Bush tells us that we face unparalleled financial doom if this $700 billion bailout is not approved today. He and his Treasury Secretary – a former Wall Street fat cat – tell us that we have reached the point of 'crisis.' That is a familiar line from this President. It sounds like the disastrous rush to war in Iraq and the subsequent stampede to enact the Patriot Act. As I opposed the Iraq War and the Patriot Act, I stand in opposition to his latest rush to judgment." []

On October 3, 2008, Stark voted against HR 1424, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. With this vote, Stark became the sole member of the House of Representatives from the San Francisco Bay Area to oppose the bill. [] Explaining his vote, Stark stated:

"You're getting the same kind of misinformation now, the same kind of rush to judgment to tell you that a crisis will occur. It won't. Vote 'no.' Come back and help work on a bill that will help all Americans." []


Quote box
quote=" [I am a] Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being. I look forward to working with the Secular Coalition to stop the promotion of narrow religious beliefs in science, marriage contracts, the military and the provision of social service."|source=Statement from Stark, January 2007cite news
url =
title = Stark's atheist views break political taboo
publisher = San Francisco Chronicle
date = March 14, 2007
accessdate = 2007-12-21
] |align=right|width=50%

Stark is the first openly atheist member of Congress, as announced by the Secular Coalition for America.cite news
url =
title = Congressman Holds No God-Belief
publisher = Secular Coalition for America
date = March 12, 2007
accessdate = 2007-10-01
] Stark acknowledged his atheism in response to an SCA questionnaire sent to public officials in January 2007.

On September 20, 2007, Stark reaffirmed his atheism by making a public announcement in front of the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard, the Harvard Law School Heathen Society, and various other atheist, agnostic, secular, humanist, and nonreligious groups.cite news
first = Amanda
last = Phillips
url =
title = U.S. Rep. Pete Stark "Comes Out" as an Atheist
work = Common Dreams NewsCenter
date = 27 September 2007
accessdate = 2007-10-01


External links

* [ Congressman Pete Stark] official U.S. House website
* [ Interview with Jan Henfeld]
* [ "The bottom line is I don't trust this president and his advisors"] , "", October 10, 2002, Stark's speech against the resolution authorizing military force against Iraq, delivered on the floor of the House
* [ "California Congressman Pete Stark Reflects on Life Under a Republican in the House"] , "BuzzFlash", August 5, 2005
* [ "The War on Our Children"] , Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), "In These Times", November 25, 2005
* [ Medicare for All] Rep. Pete Stark, "The Nation", February 6, 2006
* [ "First 'Nontheistic' Member of Congress Announced"] , Daniel Burke, "Beliefnet", March 14, 2007

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