Kirsten Gillibrand was born Kirsten Elizabeth Rutnik on December 9, 1966, in Albany, New York. She took the surname Gillibrand when she married the British venture capitalist Jonathan Gillibrand in 2001. Both of her parents were lawyers, and her maternal grandmother, Dorothea “Polly” Noonan, served as an adviser to longtime Albany mayor Erastus Corning II.
After earning an A.B. at Dartmouth College (1988) and a J.D. at the UCLA School of Law (1991), Gillibrand practiced law privately in Manhattan for a brief period. In 1992 she took leave from private practice to serve as a law clerk to U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Roger Miner. And in the late '90s, Gillibrand was Special Counsel to President Bill Clinton's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Andrew Cuomo.
In 1999-2000, Gillibrand worked on Hillary Clinton's 2000 U.S. Senate campaign. From 2001-05 she was a partner at the Manhattan law office of Boies, Schiller & Flexner. And in 2006 she was elected, as a Democrat, to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Two months after being re-elected to Congress in November 2008, Gillibrand resigned from the House when New York Governor David Paterson appointed her to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton, who had accepted the position of Secretary of State in Barack Obama’s newly formed cabinet. Gillibrand subsequenty won a special election in 2010, and then a regular election in 2012.
In 2009 Gillibrand was one of just seven senators who voted against a proposal to defund the notoriously corrupt community organization ACORN. A spokesman for Gillibrand explained that the senator “believes that eliminating funding for the important programs that ACORN provides would be harmful to the thousands of hard-working New Yorkers who need extra assistance in the middle of this economic crisis.”
In a November 2013 appearance on ABC's This Week—at a time when millions of Americans were losing individual health-insurance plans that were not authorized under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)—Gillibrand, who had voted in favor of the Act, was asked whether the President had misled Congressional Democrats into falsely believing that people would be able to keep their plans if they wished. “He should've just been specific [when speaking publicly about it],” she replied. “No, we all knew.”
Gillibrand has a close political relationship with the Working Families Party, which has consistently endorsed her campaigns over the years, and on whose ballot line she ran in both 2006 and 2008. “I am honored to have the support of the Working Families Party,” said Gillibrand in 2010. “I look forward to working closely with these progressive champions to fight for our communities, and New Yorkers across the state.” In a November 2014 press release, she urged New Yorkers “to support the Working Families Party’s efforts to win a Democratic majority in the New York State Senate, so we can pass a full progressive agenda for New York.”
In July 2014 Gillibrand announced her support for the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran, an agreement which virtually guaranteed that Tehran would be able to develop nuclear weapons within a decade or so. For details about the accord's provisions, click here.
In September 2014 Gillibrand condemned Senate Republicans who opposed the expansion of paid-family-leave benefits to all workers nationwide. “In every other industrialized, wealthy country in the world they have paid leave,” the senator said. “Europe has up to six months. Even Afghanistan and Pakistan have paid leave, but we do not have paid leave in this country, and because of that when forced to meet a family need, an urgent care need, often times women are forced to leave the workplace because they cannot take that time off unpaid.”
One of Gillibrand's high-priority issues is the sexual abuse of young women on college campuses. In January 2015, the senator invited Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz—who had made headlines by dragging a mattress around her campus to protest the school administrators' allegedly unsatisfactory handling of her sexual-assault claims against a male student—to attend President Obama's State of the Union address as her guest. The girl's allegations were ultimately judged to be false.
In a Time op-ed piece in May 2015, Gillibrand wrote that women in college had “a one-in-five chance of being sexually assaulted.” To address this purported rape epidemic, she co-sponsored legislation known as the Campus Accountability & Safety Act. But according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the actual incidence of sexual assault on campus was just 6.1 per 1,000—lower, even, than the incidence of off-campus rapes. National Review reports that when Gillibrand was made aware of this, “she quietly deleted references to the false statistics on her website, yet pressed on with her legislation anyway.”
Though Gillibrand opposed amnesty for illegal immigrants during her time in the House of Representatives, she reversed her position when she joined the Senate. Emphasizing “the important role all immigrants play in our economic prosperity,” she now favors comprehensive immigration reform that offers “a real path to earned citizenship” and “an immediate end to illegal, warrantless home raids.” Lamenting, further, that “current law is unfairly punishing thousands of young people who have spent most of their lives in America,” Gillibrand has co-sponsored DREAM Act legislation designed, as she puts it, “to provide every child the opportunity to get a good education and earn their way to legal status.” She has also voted repeatedly against bills calling for the completion of a fence to prevent illegal immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border.
In 2014 Gillibrand co-sponsored the Minimum Wage Fairness Act, which called for a 39% increase in the minimum wage to be phased in over a two-year period, and the Paycheck Fairness Act, which barred employers from paying women less than their equally qualified male co-workers. The latter bill is founded on the demonstrably false premise that gender-based wage discrimination pervades the American workplace.
In the summer of 2015, Gillibrand supported the nuclear deal that the Obama administration negotiated with Iran—an agreement allowing the terrorist regime in Tehran to inspect its own Parchin nuclear weapons research site, conduct uranium enrichment, build advanced centrifuges, buy ballistic missiles, fund terrorism, and have a near-zero breakout time to a nuclear bomb. For additional details about the accord, click here.
Gillibrand had previously received financial support from the Iran Lobby, i.e., the Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC), during her first run for senator. She also had picked up money from Hassan Nemazee, a former IAPAC trustee who had served as the national campaign finance director for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid before he pled guilty to a fraud scheme encompassing hundreds of millions of dollars.
In an April 2017 interview with New York magazine, Gillibrand said that her perspective regarding politics resembled that of fellow Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine): “I know Susan’s worldview is similar to my worldview. Which is that we’re here to help people, and if we’re not helping people, we should go the f--k home.” In June 2017, Gillibrand repeated her profanity during a speech to hundreds of activist supporters at the annual Personal Democracy Forum at New York University: “Has [President Donald Trump] kept any of these promises? No. Fuck no.” Later in the event, Gillibrand said that if Democrats are not helping people, “we should go the f--k home.”
In January 2018, Gillibrand condemned President Trump's reference to “chain migration,” a term for the policy whereby, as NumbersUSA describes it, massive numbers of foreign nationals “are allowed to immigrate to the United States because citizens and lawful permanent residents are allowed to sponsor their non-nuclear family members.” Said Gillibrand: “I think a lot of President Trump’s Rhetoric is racist. When someone uses the phrase 'chain migration,' it is intentional in trying to demonize, literally trying to demonize families and make it a racist slur. It is not right. We have to change the debate. These are people. These are families.”
For an overview of Gillibrand's voting record on an array of key issues during her career as a legislator, click here, here, and here.
Among Gillibrand's staunchest supporters are the 21st Century Democrats, EMILY's List, and Planned Parenthood.
For additional information on Kirsten Gillibrand, click here.