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Richard Shelby

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Richard Shelby

Richard Shelby
United States Senator
from Alabama
Assumed office
January 3, 1987
Serving with Jeff Sessions
Preceded by Jeremiah Denton
Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee
Assumed office
January 3, 2015
Preceded by Tim Johnson
In office
January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2007
Preceded by Paul Sarbanes
Succeeded by Chris Dodd
Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee
In office
January 20, 2001 – June 6, 2001
Preceded by Bob Graham
Succeeded by Bob Graham
In office
January 3, 1997 – January 3, 2001
Preceded by Arlen Specter
Succeeded by Bob Graham
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 7th district
In office
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 1987
Preceded by Walter Flowers
Succeeded by Claude Harris
Member of the Alabama Senate
from the 16th district
In office
January 1971 – January 3, 1979
Preceded by ???
Succeeded by Ryan DeGraffenried
Personal details
Born Richard Craig Shelby
(1934-05-06) May 6, 1934
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
Political party Democratic (1964–1994)
Republican (1994–present)
Spouse(s) Annette Shelby (1960–present)
Children 2
Alma mater University of Alabama, Birmingham School of Law
Religion Presbyterianism
Website Senate website

Richard Craig Shelby (born May 6, 1934) is the senior United States Senator from Alabama. First elected to the Senate in 1986, he is the Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. born in Birmingham, Alabama, Shelby received his law degree from the University of Alabama School of Law in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He graduated in 1963. After law school, he went on to serve as city prosecutor (1963–1971). During this period he worked as a U.S. Magistrate for the Northern District of Alabama (1966–1970) and Special Assistant Attorney General of Alabama (1969–1971). He won a seat in the Alabama Senate in 1970. In 1978 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives from the 7th District, where he was among a group of Conservative Democrats known as the boll weevils.

Shelby won a tight race as a Democrat in 1986 for the U.S. Senate. Partway through his second term, he switched to the Republican Party in 1994; that year the Republicans gained the majority in Congress midway through President Bill Clinton's first term. Shelby was re-elected by a large margin in 1998 and has faced no significant electoral opposition since.


  • Early life, education, and early career 1
  • Alabama political career, 1978 - 1986 2
  • U.S. Senate 3
    • Elections 3.1
    • Tenure 3.2
      • 1980s 3.2.1
      • 1990s 3.2.2
      • 2000-2010 3.2.3
      • 2010-present 3.2.4
    • Political views 3.3
      • Earmarks 3.3.1
      • Space 3.3.2
      • Finance 3.3.3
      • Abortion 3.3.4
      • Taxes 3.3.5
      • Health care 3.3.6
      • Other 3.3.7
    • Group ratings (108th Congress) 3.4
    • Committee assignments 3.5
  • Buildings named after him 4
  • Electoral history 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Early life, education, and early career

Shelby was born in Birmingham, Alabama,[1] the son of Alice L. (née Skinner) and Ozie Houston Shelby.[2] He attended the University of Alabama, receiving an undergraduate degree in 1957. He attended the Birmingham School of Law, where he earned his Juris Doctor in 1961. He was admitted to the Alabama State Bar on August 29, 1961. He received an LL.B. from The University of Alabama in 1963.

Shelby is a member of the American Bar Association and Alabama State Bar, as well as the American Judicature Society, Alabama Law Institute, Delta Chi Fraternity, and Phi Alpha Delta legal fraternity.

Shelby was a city prosecutor in Tuscaloosa, Alabama from 1963 to 1971.[1] From 1966 to 1970, he was a U.S. Magistrate for the Northern District of Alabama; from 1969 to 1971, Shelby was a Special Assistant State Attorney General.

Alabama political career, 1978 - 1986

Shelby was elected to the Alabama Senate in 1970 and served until 1978. That year he ran for and was elected to the House of Representatives from the Tuscaloosa-based 7th District. He was re-elected three times. Shelby was one of the more Conservative Democrats in Congress, and a member of the boll weevils, a group of moderate to conservative-leaning Democrats who often worked with Republican President Ronald Reagan on defense issues.

Richard Shelby during his tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives

U.S. Senate


In United States Senate election in Alabama, 1986, Shelby won the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat held by Republican Jeremiah Denton, the first Republican elected to the Senate from Alabama since Reconstruction. He won a very close race as the Democrats regained control of the Senate. He was easily re-elected in 1992 even as Bill Clinton lost Alabama's electoral votes.

On November 9, 1994, Shelby switched his party affiliation to Republican, one day after the Republicans won control of both houses in the midterm elections, giving the Republicans a 53-47 majority in the Senate. He won his first full term as a Republican in 1998 by a large margin. He has since faced no significant opposition in 2004 or 2010.[3] He will be running for a sixth term in 2016.[4]

Shelby has been popular in Alabama. A September 2009 poll showed he had a 58% approval rating, with 35% disapproving.[5]

The Wall Street Journal criticized Shelby for hoarding campaign and PAC contributions and not sharing them with other colleagues.[6]



In 1987, Shelby opposed Reagan's nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court; a move attributed to lobbying by Alabama African-American leaders who reminded Shelby that he had relied on support from African-American voters in defeating Denton in 1986.[7][8]


Shelby publicly feuded with President Bill Clinton during the first half of Clinton's first term. At a meeting with Vice President Al Gore, he turned to 19 Alabama TV cameras and denounced the Clinton program as "high on taxes, low on spending cuts".

Shelby served on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from 1995 to 2003, stepping down because of a Senate rule limiting committee terms to eight years. Shelby took an adversarial stance toward the intelligence community during both Clinton and Bush administrations. He helped sink Anthony Lake's nomination as CIA director in 1997 and promised to investigate the use of American-made satellites by the Chinese to gather intelligence. Shelby took a hard line on leaks of classified information. In 2000 he introduced a bill (vetoed by President Clinton) "that would have broadened the law that criminalizes release of national defense information."[9] According to the Washington Post:

"Civil liberties groups and news organizations, which argued that the legislation would chill their ability to get information from officials, lobbied for the veto. . . . In 2002, with George W. Bush in the White House, Shelby reintroduced his language, but then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft said that "rigorous investigation" and enforcement of existing laws—not new legislation—were the best way to fight leaks.[9]

In 1991 Shelby supported the 1991 Crime Bill S.1241[10] sponsored by then Senator Joseph Biden that instituted a national waiting period for handgun purchases as well as a federal ban on semi-automatic firearms.[11]

In 1999, he opposed the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act, which repealed parts of the Glass–Steagall Legislation, and was the only Republican Senator and one of eight Senators overall to vote against it.[12][13][note 1]


Shelby was highly critical of CIA Director September 11 attacks. From 2003 until 2007, he chaired the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. He is a member of the Appropriations Committee where he chaired its subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science and Special Committee on Aging. He lost his chairmanships in 2007 when the Democrats regained control of the Senate.

In 2004, a federal investigation concluded that Shelby revealed classified information to the media when he was a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.[14] Specifically, Shelby revealed classified information on June 19, 2002 to Carl Cameron, the chief political correspondent on Fox News. The information consisted of two messages intercepted by the National Security Agency on September 10, 2001, but not translated until the day after the attacks—"the match is about to begin" and "tomorrow is zero hour." The Department of Justice declined to file criminal charges against Shelby and transferred the case to the Senate Ethics Committee. It dismissed its probe into the alleged leak.

Shelby, in his role as chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs, opposed proposed legislation that would have permitted additional competition in the title insurance industry.[15]

Shelby is co-chair of the Congressional Privacy Caucus and Zero Capital Gains Tax Caucus. He is also the Senate co-chair of the National Security Caucus. In addition, he is a member of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Senate Centrist Coalition.

In February 2010, Shelby placed a hold on more than 70 of President Obama's nominees to various government posts, in a protest over an Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker contract and the FBI's Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center.[16][17][18] Shelby lifted all but three of the holds 3 days later, saying that "The purpose of placing numerous holds was to get the White House’s attention on two issues that are critical to our national security—the Air Force’s aerial refueling tanker acquisition and the FBI’s Terrorist Device Analytical Center (TEDAC). With that accomplished, Sen. Shelby has decided to release his holds on all but a few nominees directly related to the Air Force tanker acquisition until the new Request for Proposal is issued."[19] White House spokesman Robert Gibbs criticized Shelby for "hold[ing] up qualified nominees for positions that are needed because he didn't get two earmarks"; Shelby denied the holds were over earmarks.[17][19]


Shelby's extraodinarily high campaign contribution spending has been criticized; from 2008 until 2014 he had reimbursed himself and his wife more than half a million dollars from his campaign and leadership PACs.[6] The Wall Street Journal called him a "stingy lawmaker".[20]

Political views


In 2010 Shelby initially opposed[21] the Republican Party moratorium on earmark funding.


Shelby has supported development of the Space Launch System (SLS), but disagreed with how funds for the program have been spent.[22] and favors competition for the strap-on booster design.[23][24] The SLS earmark has been opposed by fiscal conservative groups, including the Tea Party.[25][26][27] When President Obama decided to cancel Constellation, the Bush-era NASA program that was to provide America's next manned rocket and instead give NASA a new $6 billion to ramp up a commercial space industry while NASA studies deep-space missions, Shelby ridiculed the plan as a "faith-based initiative".[28]


Both under the Bush Administration, in 2008, and the Obama Administration, beginning in 2009 Shelby took a leading role in the resistance to bailing out the banks and other corporations (such as AIG).[29]

In 2010, Shelby voted to block three amendments to regulate banks, including an amendment #3812 to S. 3217 to cap ATM fees at $0.50 per transaction, and to bar banks borrowing tax payer money through TARP funds to use those funds for their own benefit.[30] Sen. Shelby also believes that bank oversight violates the right to privacy and is against the Government Office of Financial Research being able to collect any financial data it needs to regulate the bank industry.[31]

In 2011 Shelby opposed the nomination of Nobel Economics Prize laureate and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Peter Diamond to serve on the board of the Federal Reserve, on the grounds that professor Diamond "lacked the necessary qualifications".[32] Since becoming Senate Banking Chairman Shelby has made "regulatory relief and financial regulation reform his top priority".[33] In May 2015 he revealed the so-called “Shelby Bill”, easing regulatory restrictions on smaller banks and increasing scrutiny of the Federal Reserve.[33]


He is pro-life and against abortion.[34]


He has been a staunch advocate of a flat tax and of the Bush Administration's tax cuts.[35] He cites disagreements with the Democrats on tax policy as one of the main reasons he became a Republican; he feels the Democrats are too willing to enact tax increases.[36]

Shelby is a signer of Americans for Tax Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge.[37]

Health care

Shelby opposed President Barack Obama's health reform legislation; he voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009,[38] and he voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.[39]

Following Senator Ted Cruz's 21-hour speech opposing the Affordable Care Act, Shelby joined Cruz and 17 other Senators in a failed vote against cloture on a comprehensive government funding bill that would have also continued funding healthcare reform.[40]

Shelby won the 2012 American Association for Cancer Research Distinguished Service Award for his commitment to biomedical research to defeat cancer.[41]


Among the bills sponsored by Shelby over the years have been bills to make English the sole language of the federal government[42], to limit federal government spending by statute, and to provide a moratorium on certain forms of immigration, and the Federal Marriage Amendment.

In 1999, Shelby was one of ten Republican senators to vote for the acquittal of President Bill Clinton on the charge of perjury when Clinton was tried in the Senate in 1999, although he voted for Clinton's conviction on the charge of obstruction of justice.

Shelby opposed the initial bailout proposal to extend billions of dollars in loan money to the Big Three US Auto Manufacturers. He is often seen as a front man for the GOP Senate opposition. In late 2008, he opposed a Federal government bridge loan for US-owned auto companies, saying: "We don't need government—governmental subsidies for manufacturing in this country. It's the French model, it's the wrong road. We will pay for it. The average American taxpayer is going to pay dearly for this, if I'm not wrong."

Group ratings (108th Congress)

See current Lawmaker Ratings at The Hill

Committee assignments

Senator Shelby as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs

Buildings named after him

  • The Shelby Hall Research Center at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, named for Senator Shelby and his wife, a professor emerita at that university. The 200,000 square feet (19,000 m2) new center opened in 2007 and combines mathematics, chemistry and biology research in one building.[52]
  • The Richard C. and Annette N. Shelby Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research Building at the University of Alabama at Birmingham opened in April 2006. The 12 story building cost $70 million and is 310,000 square feet (29,000 m2).[53]
  • The Senator Richard C. and Dr. Annette N. Shelby Center for Engineering Technology, part of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering at Auburn University, was dedicated on April 18, 2008. Shelby helped secure $30 million of the $54 million cost of Phase I of the project.[54]
  • In Mobile, Alabama, Shelby Hall houses the University of South Alabama College of Engineering and School of Computer and Information Sciences. The 155,000 square feet (14,400 m2) facility was named after Senator Richard C. and Dr. Annette N. Shelby for their commitment to higher education in the state of Alabama. Senator Shelby was instrumental for securing $40 million in Federal grants to fund the $50 million project.[55] The building was dedicated on Sunday, September 9, 2012.[56]
  • The 207,000-square-foot Shelby Center for Science and Technology was dedicated at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in October, 2007.[57] The $60 million facility is named for Sen. Richard Shelby.[58] It includes 18 teaching laboratories, 13 classrooms, 15 research laboratories, two teaching auditoriums, and 146 offices.[59]

Electoral history

Alabama's 7th congressional district, 1978:[60]

  • Richard Shelby, Democrat – 77,742 (94%)
  • Fulton Gray, Conservative – 3,285 (4%)
  • Jim Scruggs, Republican – 1,841 (2%)

Alabama's 7th congressional district, 1980:[61]

  • Richard Shelby (inc.), Democrat – 122,505 (73%)
  • James E. "Jim" Bacon, Republican – 43,320 (26%)
  • Joe Walker, Libertarian – 2,132 (1%)
  • Mary Owensby, Statesman – 847 (<1%)

Alabama's 7th congressional district, 1982:[62]

  • Richard Shelby (inc.), Democrat – 124,070 (97%)
  • James Jones, Libertarian – 4,058 (3%)
  • Write-in candidates – 11 (0%)

Alabama's 7th congressional district, 1984:[63]

  • Richard Shelby (inc.), Democrat – 135,834 (97%)
  • Charles "Chuck" Ewing, Libertarian – 4,498 (3%)

United States Senate election in Alabama, 1986:[64]

  • Richard Shelby, Democrat – 609,360 (50.2%)
  • Jeremiah Denton (inc.), Republican – 602,537 (49.7%)

United States Senate election in Alabama, 1992:[65]

  • Richard Shelby (inc.), Democrat – 1,022,698 (65%)
  • Richard Sellers, Republican – 522,015 (33%)
  • Jerome Shockley, Libertarian – 31,811 (2%)
  • Write-in candidates – 1,275 (0%)

United States Senate election in Alabama, 1998:[66]

  • Richard Shelby (inc.), Republican – 817,973 (63%)
  • Clayton Suddith, Democrat – 474,568 (37%)
  • Write-in candidates – 864 (0%)

United States Senate election in Alabama, 2004:[67]

  • Richard Shelby (inc.), Republican – 1,242,200 (68%)
  • Wayne Sowell, Democrat – 595,018 (32%)
  • Write-in candidates – 1848 (0%)

United States Senate election in Alabama, 2010:

  • Richard Shelby (inc.) – 967,861 (65%)
  • William G. Barnes – 515,049 (35%)


  1. ^ 52 Republicans and 38 Democrats voted for the bill. Shelby voted against it as did 7 Democratic Senators: Russell Feingold (Wisc.), Tom Harkin (Iowa), Barbara Mikulski (Maryland) and Paul Wellstone (Minn.) Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Illinois) voted "present", while Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) did not vote.


  1. ^ a b "Richard C. Shelby, Jr.".  
  2. ^ "1". Retrieved 2010-11-03. 
  3. ^ "Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.)". Roll Call. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  4. ^ Dean, Charles (June 30, 2014). "Could the Tea Party challenge Sen. Richard Shelby? Sure, but there are $17 million reasons not to". Retrieved July 1, 2014. 
  5. ^ "SurveyUSA News Poll #15743". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  6. ^ a b Colby Itkowitz (1 October 2014). "Sen. Shelby eats and travels in style on campaign and PAC funds, but doesn’t share". Washington Post. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  7. ^ Minzesheimer, Bob (October 5, 1987). "President to stick with Bork to end". USA TODAY. 
  8. ^ "Heflin: When in Doubt, Don't". October 7, 1987. 
  9. ^ a b Pincus, Walter (2006-02-17) Senator May Seek Tougher Law on Leaks, Washington Post
  10. ^ "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote". Retrieved 2010-11-03. 
  11. ^ Biden, Joseph (June 6, 1991). "S.1241".  
  12. ^ "Consumer Unit Born of 2008 Crisis Would Be Shelby Target". Businessweek. October 23, 2014. Retrieved October 27, 2014. 
  13. ^ Congressional roll-call: S.900 as reported by conferees: Financial Services Act of 1999, Record Vote No: 354, November 4, 1999, Clerk of the Senate. Sortable unofficial table: On Agreeing to the Conference Report, S.900 Gramm-Bliley-Leach Act, roll call 354, 106th Congress, 1st session Votes Database at The Washington Post, retrieved on October 9, 2008
  14. ^ Lengel, Allan; Priest, Dana (2004-08-05). "Investigators Concluded Shelby Leaked Message". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  15. ^ Scott Woolley (November 13, 2006). "Magazine Article". Retrieved 2010-11-03. 
  16. ^ Collins, Gail (February 6, 2010). "No Holds Barred". The New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  17. ^ a b "CNN Fact Check: How transparent is the Senate's hold process?". CNN. February 12, 2010. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  18. ^ Wilson, Scott., Murray, Shailagh. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama holding up Obama nominees for home-state pork. The Washington Post. 6 February 2010.
  19. ^ a b "Richard Shelby lifts hold on Obama nominees - Meredith Shiner". Politico.Com. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  20. ^ Allysia Finley (24 September 2014). "Stingy Republican Lawmakers". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  21. ^ Beasley, Jere (16 December 2010). "Senator Shelby doesn’t like the Earmark Ban". Jere Beasley Report. Retrieved 27 September 2011. 
  22. ^ Morring, Frank (25 August 2011). "Senators Disagree On SLS Approach". Aviation Week and Space Technology. Retrieved 27 September 2011. 
  23. ^ Shelby, Richard. "Letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden -- July 10, 2011" (PDF). 
  24. ^ "A (partial) SLS competition in the works?". Space Politics. 
  25. ^ Wilkinson, Everett. "TEA Party Catches Congress Hiding Earmark In Space". Tea Party Wire. 
  26. ^ Gasser, Andrew. "Are Republican Senators Trying to Kill NASA?". Tea Party in Space. 
  27. ^ Simberg, Rand. "Blame Congress and Pork, Not NASA". 
  28. ^ Roop, Lee. "SpaceX's Elon Musk, Sen. Richard Shelby spar over Obama space policy". The Huntsville Times. 
  29. ^
  30. ^ Grim, Ryan (May 18, 2010). "Attempt To Cap ATM Fees At 50 Cents Blocked In Senate". Huffington Post. Retrieved May 19, 2010. 
  31. ^ Cover, Matt (May 7, 2010). "Sen. Shelby: Financial Reform Violates Privacy". Retrieved May 19, 2010. 
  32. ^ [2] NY Times June 6, 2011
  33. ^ a b Michael Flaherty (12 May 2015). "Senate Banking bill proposes several changes for Fed: source". Reuters. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^ "The Taxpayer Protection Pledge Signers 112th Congressional List" (PDF). Americans for Tax Reform. Retrieved November 30, 2011. 
  38. ^ U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote
  39. ^ "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  40. ^ "Twenty-five Republicans buck Cruz on shutdown".  
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^ "New Auburn University tech center dedicated to U.S. Sen. Richard C. and Dr. Annette N. Shelby". The Birmingham News. April 24, 2008. 
  55. ^ Busby, Renee (September 9, 2012). "USA dedicates new Shelby Hall building on campus". Press-Register. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  56. ^ "Shelby Hall Dedication" (PDF). University of South Alabama. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  57. ^
  58. ^
  59. ^
  60. ^ Guthrie, Benjamin J. (April 1, 1979). "Statistics of the congressional election of November 7, 1978" (PDF).  
  61. ^ Ladd, Thomas E. (April 15, 1981). "Statistics of the presidential and congressional election of November 4, 1980" (PDF).  
  62. ^ Ladd, Thomas E. (May 5, 1983). "Statistics of the congressional election of November 2, 1982" (PDF).  
  63. ^ Ladd, Thomas E. (May 1, 1985). "Statistics of the presidential and congressional election of November 6, 1984" (PDF).  
  64. ^ Dendy, Dallas L., Jr. (May 29, 1987). "Statistics of the congressional election of November 4, 1986" (PDF).  
  65. ^ Dendy, Dallas L., Jr. (May 31, 1993). "Statistics of the presidential and congressional election of November 3, 1992" (PDF).  
  66. ^  
  67. ^ Trandahl, Jeff (June 7, 2005). "Statistics of the presidential and congressional election of November 2, 2004".  

Further reading

  • Bamford, James (2004). A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies. New York: Doubleday. pp. 127–131.  

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Walter Flowers
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 7th congressional district

January 3, 1979 – January 3, 1987
Succeeded by
Claude Harris
United States Senate
Preceded by
Jim Folsom
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Alabama
(Class 3)

1986, 1992
Succeeded by
Clayton Suddith
Preceded by
Richard Sellers
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Alabama
(Class 3)

1998, 2004, 2010
Most recent
Preceded by
Jeremiah Denton
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Alabama
January 3, 1987 – present
Served alongside: Howell Heflin, Jeff Sessions
Preceded by
Arlen Specter
Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee
Succeeded by
Bob Graham
Preceded by
Bob Graham
Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee
Preceded by
Paul Sarbanes
Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee
Succeeded by
Chris Dodd
Preceded by
Tim Johnson
Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee
Preceded by
Barbara Mikulski
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
John McCain
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