January 31, 2005: Headlines: Congress: US News: Norm Coleman, head of the Senate subcommittee that oversees the Peace Corps, is an ambitious crusader: How does a Jewish kid from Brooklyn who loved the Dodgers and led student protests in college, who served as Bill Clinton's state campaign cochair in 1996, end up as a conservative, antiabortion Republican senator from Minnesota with a Hollywood-actress wife?

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Library: Peace Corps: Congress: Congressional Relations: January 31, 2005: Headlines: Congress: US News: Norm Coleman, head of the Senate subcommittee that oversees the Peace Corps, is an ambitious crusader: How does a Jewish kid from Brooklyn who loved the Dodgers and led student protests in college, who served as Bill Clinton's state campaign cochair in 1996, end up as a conservative, antiabortion Republican senator from Minnesota with a Hollywood-actress wife?

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Norm Coleman, head of the Senate subcommittee that oversees the Peace Corps, is an ambitious crusader: How does a Jewish kid from Brooklyn who loved the Dodgers and led student protests in college, who served as Bill Clinton's state campaign cochair in 1996, end up as a conservative, antiabortion Republican senator from Minnesota with a Hollywood-actress wife?

Norm Coleman, head of the Senate subcommittee that oversees the Peace Corps, is an ambitious crusader: How does a Jewish kid from Brooklyn who loved the Dodgers and led student protests in college, who served as Bill Clinton's state campaign cochair in 1996, end up as a conservative, antiabortion Republican senator from Minnesota with a Hollywood-actress wife?

Norm Coleman, head of the Senate subcommittee that oversees the Peace Corps, is an ambitious crusader: How does a Jewish kid from Brooklyn who loved the Dodgers and led student protests in college, who served as Bill Clinton's state campaign cochair in 1996, end up as a conservative, antiabortion Republican senator from Minnesota with a Hollywood-actress wife?

Ambitious crusader
Portrait: Norm Coleman
By Terence Samuel

It's hard not to notice Norm Coleman these days. The rise to prominence in Washington of the junior senator from Minnesota has been sharp and swift. He's close to the president. He's on trips to Southeast Asia with the majority leader, and last month, after only two years in the Senate, he made a nearly successful bid to chair the GOP Senate campaign committee in the new Congress, losing by a single vote. But it is his dogged pursuit of alleged corruption in the United Nations' former oil-for-food program in Iraq that has propelled Coleman into the public consciousness as Washington's chief tormentor of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
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Coleman has called for Annan's resignation, and the senator is expected to announce shortly a new round of hearings into what he contends is a multibillion-dollar scheme of bribes and kickbacks. The program allowed Iraq to sell embargoed oil to buy food and medicine; a Security Council panel was supposed to ensure that the cash was not used to rearm Iraq. Coleman believes that the alleged fraud allowed Saddam Hussein to retain his grip on power and that the funds may now be available to the Iraqi insurgents. "I'd like to find out if this money is fueling the insurgency in Iraq and cut it off," he says. After one hearing last fall, Coleman estimated that more than $21 billion was siphoned from the program, most of it on Annan's watch. Critics challenge that number and accuse Coleman of grandstanding; recently released U.N. audits suggest the fraud might be on a smaller scale. But the senator is undeterred. "We fund 22 percent of the U.N. operating budget, so we have a stake in making sure that things we invest in are working efficiently. . . . I hope we can get to the bottom of it," says Coleman. But both admirers and detractors wonder whether Coleman's desire to get to the bottom of the U.N. allegations is just a vehicle to take him to the top.

Up the ladder. "He's very ambitious, and his recent actions really illustrate that," says Steven Schier, a professor of political science at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. "I think you are going to see more of this, because I think this is a fellow who wants to run for the highest office you can find, and he's not going to stop."

A transplanted New Yorker who improbably served two terms as mayor of St. Paul, Minn., Coleman always seems to be in the middle of the action. He won one of the nastiest races of the 2002 campaign with 50 percent of the vote, defeating former Vice President Walter Mondale, who had stepped in as a Democratic standard-bearer after the incumbent senator, Paul Wellstone, was killed in a plane crash 11 days before the election.

From the very beginning, Coleman won admiration not just for his political skills and tenacity but for his resilience in the face of public setbacks and family tragedy. "He's a very talented politician," says Ron Ebensteiner, chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party. "What he was particularly good at was working across party lines, getting people of all parties, races, ethnicities going in the same direction."

But Coleman has inspired some detractors along the way. "He's the best self-promoter we've ever had to deal with in our state," says Michael Erlandson, chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, or DFL, as the Democratic Party is known in Minnesota. "I think that his career shows that he is ambitious and opportunistic, that nothing is beyond the realm."
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A partisan view, no doubt. But just how does a Jewish kid from Brooklyn who loved the Dodgers and led student protests in college, who served as Bill Clinton's state campaign cochair in 1996, end up as a conservative, antiabortion Republican senator from Minnesota with a Hollywood-actress wife? "God only knows," Coleman says, laughing. "I've been lucky. Doors have opened for me."

Antiwar protester. Some see a gate-crasher rather than a door opener. But either way, it's a story full of twists. Coleman grew up on Avenue O in Brooklyn, one of eight children in a Reform Jewish home, and attended the same high school as New York Sen. Chuck Schumer. After graduating from Long Island's Hofstra University in 1971, where he led protests against the Vietnam War, Coleman got a law degree at the University of Iowa in 1976 and went to work in the human-rights section of the Minnesota attorney general's office.

In 1981, he married actress and model Laurie Casserly, whose mother, Lois, was one of the early leaders of the antiabortion movement in Minnesota. The couple's first child, Adam, died within weeks of birth from a genetic condition known as Zellweger syndrome. Nine years later, their fourth child, Grace, just a few months old, succumbed to the same ailment. The couple has two other children, Jacob, 18, and Sarah, 15.

The family tragedies had a profound effect. By the time he made his first foray into politics, seeking the DFL endorsement for mayor of St. Paul in 1989, Coleman was solidly antiabortion. Losing two kids "certainly strengthened my resolve to value every life," he says, and allowed him to gain some perspective. "I know what the worst thing in the world is," he says. "Everything else is manageable."

He failed to get the DFL endorsement in 1989, but in 1993 he challenged the party's choice in the primary and won, and was elected mayor in November. Very quickly, he managed to offend a number of other DFL constituencies. He clashed with teachers over vouchers and with municipal unions over privatization. So even though he got credit for revitalizing St. Paul's downtown, bringing a National Hockey League franchise back to Minnesota, and improving the city's credit rating, he was on the outs with his party. He didn't sit still: In December 1996, Coleman switched parties and became a Republican. "I've always wanted to change things, and for some reason, my old party became the party defending big government and fighting against change in government," he says.

A year later, Coleman ran for governor against his old boss and patron Hubert Humphrey III, the DFL candidate, and beat him. But in a wild three-way race, both of them lost to a political neophyte named Jesse Ventura. So Coleman went back to his job as mayor of St. Paul and before long had picked up the U.S. Senate seat.

"He's quick to bounce back," Erlandson admits. Adds Schier: "What you're seeing from him now is an established pattern of behavior. It's not like he got to the Senate and we're saying, 'What happened to Norm Coleman?' Norm Coleman has always been aggressive. [He] has always been relentless."
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Now, as chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, a panel of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Coleman and his oil-for-food investigation are attracting the attention of the world. The hearings are reminiscent of a time when chairmen of the fabled subcommittee used their powers to galvanize public outrage and catapult themselves into the spotlight. Then Sen. Harry Truman used the predecessor committee to shine a light on Pentagon waste during World War II, and Sen. Joseph McCarthy pursued his infamous anti-Communist investigations in the 1950s. Richard Nixon served on the committee, and Robert F. Kennedy was once its chief counsel.

Clearly, the subcommittee can be a powerful perch. So, is Coleman running for president? "No one in my position is going to answer that for you," Coleman says, directly sidestepping the question. He says he will seek re-election in 2008 and does not intend to run for president then. But, at 55, he notes pointedly, "I'm a young man." Point taken.

"Norm Coleman has always been aggressive. [He] has always been relentless."

Born: Aug. 17, 1949, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Family: Married to the former Laurie Casserly. Two children, Jacob, 18, and Sarah, 15.

Education: Hofstra Univ., B.A., 1971; Univ. of Iowa, J.D., 1976.

Public service: Minnesota attorney general's office, 1976-93; mayor, St. Paul, Minn., 1993-2001; U.S. senator, 2002-present; chairman, Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations; member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee.





When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

January 22, 2005: This Week's Top Stories Date: January 22 2005 No: 391 January 22, 2005: This Week's Top Stories
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Dodd has ring side seat at Inauguration 21 Jan
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Trey Aven monitored Ukraine elections 21 Jan
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Anthony Shriver considers race for Florida Governor 20 Jan
Thomas Tighe says internet brought funds to DRI 20 Jan
Stacy Jupiter researches Australia ecosystems 20 Jan
Libby Garvey is education activist 20 Jan
David McIntyre captures medals on land and in water 19 Jan
Carol Bellamy new president of World Learning 18 Jan
Reed Hastings crossed "Latino Caucus'' 18 Jan
RPCVs sponsor Freeze for Food to aid Colombia farmers 18 Jan
RPCVs urge Bush to aid Democracy in Ukraine 17 Jan
Tom Petri proposes changes in student loan program 17 Jan
Golden Globe Win for Jamie Foxx in RPCV's "Ray" 17 Jan
Stephen Smith is new consul-general in Australia 17 Jan

Ask Not Date: January 18 2005 No: 388 Ask Not
As our country prepares for the inauguration of a President, we remember one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century and how his words inspired us. "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."
Coleman: Peace Corps mission and expansion Date: January 8 2005 No: 373 Coleman: Peace Corps mission and expansion
Senator Norm Coleman, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee that oversees the Peace Corps, says in an op-ed, A chance to show the world America at its best: "Even as that worthy agency mobilizes a "Crisis Corps" of former Peace Corps volunteers to assist with tsunami relief, I believe an opportunity exists to rededicate ourselves to the mission of the Peace Corps and its expansion to touch more and more lives."
RPCVs active in new session of Congress Date: January 8 2005 No: 374 RPCVs active in new session of Congress
In the new session of Congress that begins this week, RPCV Congressman Tom Petri has a proposal to bolster Social Security, Sam Farr supported the objection to the Electoral College count, James Walsh has asked for a waiver to continue heading a powerful Appropriations subcommittee, Chris Shays will no longer be vice chairman of the Budget Committee, and Mike Honda spoke on the floor honoring late Congressman Robert Matsui.
RPCVs and Peace Corps provide aid  Date: January 4 2005 No: 366 Latest: RPCVs and Peace Corps provide aid
Peace Corps made an appeal last week to all Thailand RPCV's to consider serving again through the Crisis Corps and more than 30 RPCVs have responded so far. RPCVs: Read what an RPCV-led NGO is doing about the crisis an how one RPCV is headed for Sri Lanka to help a nation he grew to love. Question: Is Crisis Corps going to send RPCVs to India, Indonesia and nine other countries that need help?
The World's Broken Promise to our Children Date: December 24 2004 No: 345 The World's Broken Promise to our Children
Former Director Carol Bellamy, now head of Unicef, says that the appalling conditions endured today by half the world's children speak to a broken promise. Too many governments are doing worse than neglecting children -- they are making deliberate, informed choices that hurt children. Read her op-ed and Unicef's report on the State of the World's Children 2005.
Changing of the Guard Date: December 15 2004 No: 330 Changing of the Guard
With Lloyd Pierson's departure, Marie Wheat has been named acting Chief of Staff and Chief of Operations responsible for the day-to-day management of the Peace Corps. Although Wheat is not an RPCV and has limited overseas experience, in her two years at the agency she has come to be respected as someone with good political skills who listens and delegates authority and we wish her the best in her new position.
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Former Peace Corps Deputy Director Bill Moyers leaves PBS next week to begin writing his memoir of Lyndon Baines Johnson. Read what Moyers says about journalism under fire, the value of a free press, and the yearning for democracy. "We have got to nurture the spirit of independent journalism in this country," he warns, "or we'll not save capitalism from its own excesses, and we'll not save democracy from its own inertia."
RPCV safe after Terrorist Attack RPCV safe after Terrorist Attack
RPCV Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, the U.S. consul general in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia survived Monday's attack on the consulate without injury. Five consular employees and four others were killed. Abercrombie-Winstanley, the first woman to hold the position, has been an outspoken advocate of rights for Arab women and has met with Saudi reformers despite efforts by Saudi leaders to block the discussions.
Is Gaddi Leaving? Is Gaddi Leaving?
Rumors are swirling that Peace Corps Director Vasquez may be leaving the administration. We think Director Vasquez has been doing a good job and if he decides to stay to the end of the administration, he could possibly have the same sort of impact as a Loret Ruppe Miller. If Vasquez has decided to leave, then Bob Taft, Peter McPherson, Chris Shays, or Jody Olsen would be good candidates to run the agency. Latest: For the record, Peace Corps has no comment on the rumors.
The Birth of the Peace Corps The Birth of the Peace Corps
UMBC's Shriver Center and the Maryland Returned Volunteers hosted Scott Stossel, biographer of Sargent Shriver, who spoke on the Birth of the Peace Corps. This is the second annual Peace Corps History series - last year's speaker was Peace Corps Director Jack Vaughn.

Read the stories and leave your comments.






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Story Source: US News

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