Tuesday, June 4, 2013

New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenburg Passes Away At Age 89

New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg passed away from complications related to viral pneumonia on Monday. The consistently liberal Senator had championed stronger public health and environmental regulations while in office. The five term democrat was the last remaining WWII veteran in the US Senate.

Sen. Lautenberg had made a fortune building Automatic Data Processing, one of the world’s largest payroll-
services companies. A generous Democratic campaign donor, he entered politics after deciding he might as well bankroll his own ambitions.

“I supported Birch Bayh, Ted Kennedy, Gary Hart, John Glenn,” he told the Trenton Times in 1982. “I thought, ‘If I’m willing to support them, why shouldn’t I support myself?’ ”

First elected in 1982, he built a reputation as a scrappy politician who thought government had enabled his own rise to wealth and thus favored expansive federal programs.

As chair of the Senate’s Appropriations transportation subcommittee, the former two-pack-a-day smoker crusaded against the tobacco industry and in 1989 won a smoking ban on almost all domestic airline flights. That was credited with opening the way for restrictions on smoking in public buildings.

Sen. Lautenberg was instrumental in passing laws that raised the legal drinking age to 21, prohibited those convicted of domestic violence from buying guns and required companies to disclose the chemicals they release into the environment, an early “right-to-know” provision that became a model for others.
The son of Polish and Russian immigrants, Lautenburg was born in Paterson, NJ in 1924. After graduating from high school in the township of Nutley in 1941, Lautenburg served in the US Army Signal Corps in the European theater during WWII.

After the war, Lautenburg graduated from Columbia Business School with much of his tuition paid for by the GI Bill. After working as a salesman for Prudential Insurance, Lautenburg got a job as a salesman for payroll management firm Automatic Data Processing and rose through the company's ranks to become CEO by the 1970s.

Luatenburg briefly retired in 2000, only to successfully campaign back in 2002 with the sudden retirement of fellow New Jersey Democrat Robert Toricelli after Toricelli had been accused of accepting bribes and illegal campaign donations.

On Tuesday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) announced that a special election to fill the Senate Seat is set to take place in October. The governor also said he would likely appoint a placeholder who would serve as Senator until the election was held, although Christie didn't name any specific individual.

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