Robert A. Brady (born April 7, 1945) is an American politician who served as the U.S. representative for from 1998 to 2019. He was the ranking Democrat and Chairman of the United States House Committee on House Administration from 2007 to 2019. He has served as Chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic Party for more than 30 years and is a registered lobbyist for NBC Universal and Independence Blue Cross.
Early life, education, and pre-congressional career
Brady was born in Philadelphia, the son of Enez (née Caterini) and Robert G. Brady, a police officer. +more His father was of Irish descent, and his maternal grandparents were immigrants from Italy. His mother Enez was also a Democratic committee member. He graduated from St. Thomas More High School and Martin Technical SchoolKonolige, Kit. "City Council: At Large for Dems, What Counts Is the 'Cutting' Edge. " Philadelphia Daily News (PA), May 5, 1983: E4. NewsBank: Access World News - Historical and Current.
but did not attend college, instead going to work as a carpenter and member of Carpenters Local 8. +more He became a part of the leadership of the union and remains a member of several unions.
He was elected a division committeeman for the Democratic Party in 1968. In 1974, his mentorCatherine Lucey, Christine Olley. +more "'Silver Fox' dies; led Council in '70s - George Schwartz ousted by Abscam. " Philadelphia Daily News (PA), March 27, 2010: 02. NewsBank: Access World News - Historical and Current.
and ward leader +more_Schwartz'>George X. Schwartz got him a job as a sergeant-at-arms in Philadelphia City Council. Gallagher, Maria. "Politics Still Turns Brady's Light On. " Philadelphia Daily News (PA), June 19, 1986: 05. NewsBank: Access World News - Historical and Current.
When Schwartz stepped down as ward leader in 1982 and eventually went to jail in the wake of the Abscam scandal, Brady was elected to succeed him as Democratic Leader of west Philadelphia's 34th Ward,Eichel, Larry. +more "69 New Democratic Ward Leaders Elected, and Likely to Be The Old Ones. " Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA), June 8, 1982: B07. NewsBank: Access World News - Historical and Current.
. a position that he still holds today.
In 1983 Brady ran for an at-large seat on Philadelphia City Council. He was endorsed by Frank RizzoEichel, Larry. +more "Committee Won't Back Candidate - Decision Reflects Democratic Split. " Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA), April 27, 1983: B01. NewsBank: Access World News - Historical and Current.
. and lost in the primary election.Konolige, Kit. "Goode Slate Tops in At-Large Races." Philadelphia Daily News (PA), May 18, 1983: 14. NewsBank: Access World News - Historical and Current.
After Wilson Goode won the 1983 Philadelphia mayoral election, Brady joined Goode's staff as liaison with organized labor. +moreAcker, Carolyn. "Goode Appoints 6 to Personal Staff. " Philadelphia Daily News (PA), December 21, 1983: 32. NewsBank: Access World News - Historical and Current.
. In 1986 he worked as an economic consultant on City Council's Economic Development Committee.
Since June 1986, Brady has been the Chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic Party.
Brady has been an professor at the University of Pennsylvania where he instructs graduate students in management and political science. In April 1991 he was appointed to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission by Governor +more'>Bob Casey Sr. , a position he held until his election to United States Congress in 1998.
In 1999 he married Debra Savarese, a former Philadelphia Eagles cheerleader.
U.S. House of Representatives
In November 1997, 17-year U. S. +more Congressman Tom Foglietta resigned from his seat in the House of Representatives after being named U. S. Ambassador to Italy by Bill Clinton. Mondics, Chris. "`Humbled' Bob Brady Is Sworn In \ The First District's New Cognressman Takes Over for Thomas Foglietta. " Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA), May 22, 1998: B01. NewsBank: Access World News - Historical and Current.
After a 1992 redistricting, the First District was becoming a majority Black district. +more Foglietta had defeated Black candidates in Democratic primaries in 1994 and 1996 and political observers assumed that his successor would be Black. Infield, Tom. "Old-Fashioned Politics Propels Victory by Brady \ He Didn't Need Slick Ads. He Has People Skills, Powerful Supporters, Money and Organization. " Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA), May 21, 1998: B01. NewsBank: Access World News - Historical and Current.
In February 1998, Brady announced he would be running in the special election for Foglietta's vacated seat, despite not living within the district. +moreBunch, William. "Brady Eyeing Foglietta's Seat \ Incumbent Expected to Be Named Ambassador. " Philadelphia Daily News (PA), January 27, 1997: 14. NewsBank: Access World News - Historical and Current.
When asked his position on NAFTA, Brady said "I don't know what that was about. +more" When asked his position on abortion Brady said he had no position. Bunch, William. "Brady Leads the Bunch \ Dem Chief An Early Favorite For Congress . " Philadelphia Daily News (PA), February 5, 1998: 12. NewsBank: Access World News - Historical and Current.
On May 11, Brady left a debate between the congressional candidates early to attend a ward meeting. +moreand Russ Eshleman, Tom Infield. "Congress Candidates Debate. " Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA), May 12, 1998: B01. NewsBank: Access World News - Historical and Current.
The special election and primary election were held on May 19, 1998, with Brady running in both elections. He faced three opponents in the special election and three in the primary election. +more Brady won the special election with 74% of the vote and the primary election with 59% of the vote. His closest challenger in the Democratic primary was State Representative Andrew Carn, who received 21% of the vote. Bunch, William. "Brady Is D. C. -Bound \ Double Win in 1st District. " Philadelphia Daily News (PA), May 20, 1998: 09. NewsBank: Access World News - Historical and Current.
. Brady was sworn in by Newt Gingrich on May 21, 1998.
In his first general election in November 1998 he defeated Republican William M. Harrison, winning 81% of the vote. +more In his victory speech he defended President Bill Clinton, saying "We have business to take care of in Washington and it's not this business of embarrassing our President. "Blivaiss, Naomi. "Brady 1st in Pa. 's 1st District. " Daily Pennsylvanian, The: University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA), November 4, 1998. NewsBank: Access World News - Historical and Current.
Brady represented a heavily Democratic district and easily won each of his ten full terms, receiving at least 81% of the vote in each race and twice running unopposed. Republican Deborah Williams ran against Brady twice, in 2004 and 2016.
In his 20 years in congress, Brady was the primary sponsor of 14 pieces of legislation that were enacted into law and co-sponsored 200 bills that became law. Legislation that he co-sponsored mostly covered the areas of government operation, crime and law enforcement and transportation and public works. +more He voted against free trade deals and against the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. As a member of the United States House Committee on Armed Services, Brady was one of a select few permitted to view photos of the corpse of Osama bin Laden. "Oh he's dead," said Brady, "It's quite graphic. His brain and everything are coming out. ".
During the course of his congressional career, Brady estimated he helped bring $15.5 billion in federal funds to Philadelphia.
In November 2017, it was revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was investigating Brady for alleged payments that Brady's campaign made in 2012 to an opponent in order to get the opponent to withdraw from the race. In January 2018, he announced that he would not seek reelection. +more He said that his decision had nothing to do with the ongoing corruption probe, but that he instead wanted to spend more time with his family.
Brady is pro-choice and voted against President Bush's restrictions on funding to family planning groups in 2001. Report Syndicate, Roll Call. +more "How They Voted. " Sunday News (Lancaster, PA), May 20, 2001: P-4. NewsBank: Access World News - Historical and Current.
Over the years, he has supported minors' abortion rights, voting in 2005 for the right for those under 18 years of age to obtain abortions across state lines without parental consent. +more He voted against the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, which prohibits health insurance companies from offering abortion coverage in a plan to any citizen. He opposed a proposal to prohibit federally funded abortion services. Over the past fifteen years, organizations such as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL), the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, and Planned Parenthood rated him 100%.
Brady voted in favor of the Small Business Lending Fund and Tax Law Amendment. The September 2010 amendment provides loans to small business through financial institutions. +more He supported the Small Business Jobs Bill in October 2010.
Brady voted against the Secure Fence Act (2006), which authorized the construction of additional fencing along the U. S. +more-Mexico border, as well as the Immigration Law Enforcement Act of 2006. He supports Homeland Security Appropriations for border protection and The U. S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Technology project, which works towards improving the capability of the government to keep track of immigrants and control their entry and exit. Groups such as the National Latino Congreso/William C. Velásquez Institute, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and the anti-immigration Federation for American Immigration Reform have rated Brady between 50% and 100% for his pro-immigration political stances.
Attention to constituents
Brady claims to have once refused to receive a phone call from President Bill Clinton because he was busy helping a woman who had called seeking someone to come over and fix her toilet.
Philadelphia Democratic City Committee
Brady has been chair of the Philadelphia Democratic Party since June 1986, when he replaced previous chair Joseph Smith. +more In his first bid for chair, Brady had the support of Wilson Goode, Lucien Blackwell, and the majority of Philadelphia's 69 Democratic ward leaders, who felt Philadelphia's Democratic Party was suffering from fragmentation, low-morale and financial trouble after losing the District Attorney race to Republican Ron Castille. He was elected by a vote of 44-23.
Wilson Goode credited Brady for his victory over Frank Rizzo in the 1987 Philadelphia mayoral election, saying "without Bob Brady being the party chair, it was possible I could have lost the election."
A power struggle played out in the 1990 Democratic primary, with Brady's three party-backed candidates losing to candidates backed by William H. +more Gray III and the "Northwest Coalition", a group of high turnout Democratic wards in Philadelphia. After these losses Brady's leadership of the party was questioned but ultimately he won a new four-year term as chair. Wilson Goode supported Brady's re-election as chair, saying "Under Bob Brady's leadership, the Democratic Party has been more unified than it ever has been in the past two decades. ".
After winning election to US Congress in 1998, he would say that he still considered running Philadelphia's Democratic Party his top priority. Nicholas, Peter. +more "Not exactly a man of the House. " Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA), November 11, 2001: 18. NewsBank: Access World News.
In 2003, protestors surrounded Democratic Party headquarters as Democratic committee members were inside considering primary endorsements. Protestors were demanding the resignation of party treasurer Johnny Dougherty over allegations that Dougherty, in his other role as a labor union leader, denied Black workers from being selected to work on taxpayer funded projects. +moreThomas Fitzgerald. "Protesters converge on Democrats, urge Dougherty's ouster. " Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA), March 18, 2003: B02. NewsBank: Access World News.
The Democratic City Committee holds sway in judicial elections, where candidates will pay the party upwards of $35,000 for placement on a sample ballot. Brady has a large influence on this process, saying "I'm told I elect judges. +more That is the hand that was dealt me as party chairman 20 years ago. "Marcia Gelbart. "Even the power brokers seek appointed judges - Pa. 's judicial elections take cash and cachet. Two lawmakers want change. " Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA), April 17, 2005: A01. NewsBank: Access World News.
Through his tenure as chair, political consultants have praised his ability to unify the party. Bunch, William. +more "Brady Leads the Bunch \ Dem Chief an Early Favorite for Congress. " Philadelphia Daily News (PA), February 5, 1998: 12. NewsBank: Access World News - Historical and Current.
Thomas Fitzgerald. +more "Keeping the peace in a party divided - Philadelphia's top Democrat brings together unlikely allies in a pitch for unity in backing Mayor Street for reelection. " Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA), May 15, 2003: B01. NewsBank: Access World News.
.Tom Ferrick, Jr. "Burning ballots, changing politics." Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA), July 30, 2003: B01. NewsBank: Access World News.
.Infield, Tom. "Party Chief Brady Is Honored by His Ward." Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA), April 3, 1987: B07. NewsBank: Access World News.
Brady has received criticism for the low turnout in Philadelphia's Democratic primaries, which has been as low as 10%. Thomas Fitzgerald. +more "A well-oiled political machine slipped a cog in the primary - The city Democratic Party got only half of its candidates onto the top judicial slate. Voter turnout was a meager 10 percent. " Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA), May 19, 2005: B01. NewsBank: Access World News.
During the 2019 Philadelphia City Council elections, Working Families Party candidates Kendra Brooks and Nicolas O'Rourke were running for two seats reserved for minority party candidates. Despite this being no threat to Democratic candidates running for City Council, Brady threatened expulsion of Democratic ward leaders and committee members who supported Working Families Party candidates.
In June 2020, Northeast Philadelphia ward leader Brian Eddis called on Brady to resign as chair due to "lack of diversity in the party. " Brady called a meeting of clergy members and party officials to discuss how to handle racial justice protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the violent confrontations that had occurred near the statue of Christopher Columbus in Marconi Plaza. +more No consensus was reached.
In March 2021, Brady reportedly asked Court of Common Please candidate Caroline Turner to drop out of the race in exchange for his help in getting her a judicial appointment at a later date. Brady also reportedly warned that she would not get the endorsement of Philadelphia's 2nd Democratic Ward. +more Brady and the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee disputed the memo's claim through an attorney and asserted no such ask ever took place. The Intercept reported, "Louis Agre, a lawyer for the city party said that Turner requested the meeting. "She said she wanted to show respect," he said. Agre, who also represents Philadelphia’s 21st Ward on the city committee, said that Brady said he never asked her, or anyone else, to drop out of the race, nor did he offer support for a judgeship appointment. "He never asked her to get out of the race, he never threatened her," Agre said. " The 2nd Ward later endorsed Turner on March 25. Turner would go on to be defeated by Philadelphia Democratic City Committee-endorsed candidates in the Primary election.
2007 Philadelphia mayoral campaign
On January 25, 2007 Brady announced that he would seek the Democratic Party nomination for mayor of Philadelphia. He was the second sitting U. +moreS. Congressman after Chaka Fattah to announce his candidacy for mayor. On March 6, Brady failed to list his city pension on the financial-interests statement he filed with his nominating petitions. Within a week Milton Street filed a petition challenge to remove Brady from the ballot for failing to disclose his pension income. Another challenge was brought by a group of voters, and supported by mayoral candidates Tom Knox and Dwight Evans. On April 13, 2007, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that Brady's failure to not list part of his income would not keep him off the primary ballot. On May 15, 2007, Brady lost the Democratic mayoral primary to Michael Nutter.
Power and influence
The Philadelphia Inquirer described him as "the longtime boss of the Democratic City Committee, one of the few old-fashioned big-city political machines left. Running against him could equal career suicide. +more" *Politico described him as "the old-school politician and party boss - known in Congress as a fixer and backroom dealmaker. " * In 2001, the political website PoliticsPA described him as a "consummate 'backroom politician' (and we say that with respect!)" and said that he might be the best county party chair in Pennsylvania. In 2003, the Pennsylvania Report said that Brady has "managed effectively to balance his multiracial district and city Democratic party. " * In 2009, the Pennsylvania Report noted that "[w]hile he still would like to be Mayor, Brady's influence and power in Philadelphia remains strong. " * Pennsylvania State Senator Anthony Williams said he is "probably one of the most politically astute politicians in the last 20 years, and that's rarefied air. " J. Whyatt Mondesire, head of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP, said no one can match "Brady's relationships with politicians across the Democratic landscape. " *In 2015, during Pope Francis' visit to the United States, he stole the glass that the Pope drank from and then drank from it himself, had his wife and two others drink from it, had Sen. Bob Casey, his wife and mother as well as Rep. Joseph Crowley stick their fingers in the glass. He said he also planned to have the Philadelphia police dust the glass to lift the Pope's fingerprints. Brady said, "I'm sure it's blessed if the Pope drank out of it. Why not?" and "If not, I'm saying it is. " Additionally, in 2009, Brady stole the glass used by former President Barack Obama after his inauguration. *Congressman Brady has many times been a teller for the Joint session of the United States Congress to count and certify the Electoral College vote for president and Vice President. Congressman Brady is noted for incorrectly stating "Electoral Vote"; he instead says "Electorial Vote".