Donald L. Ritter
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Donald Lawrence "Don" Ritter (born October 21, 1940) was a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania. He represented Pennsylvania's 15th congressional district from 1979 to 1993.
Early life and education
Ritter was born in Washington Heights, Manhattan, in New York City, the son of Frank and Ruth Ritter. He attended New York City's P.S. 70 Elementary School, the Joseph H. Wade Junior High School, and the Bronx High School of Science. He then attended Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, graduating with a B.S. in Metallurgical Engineering in 1961. He went on to receive an M.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1963 and an Sc.D. (Doctor of Science in Physical Metallurgy) from M.I.T. in 1966. He worked as a research assistant at M.I.T. (while obtaining his doctorate) from 1961 to 1966.
Academic and private work
Ritter was a scientific exchange fellow for the United States National Academy of Sciences-Soviet Academy of Sciences, Baikov Institute in Moscow from 1967 to 1968. He was an assistant professor at the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and a contract consultant for General Dynamics, Pomona from 1968 to 1969.
He was a metallurgy faculty member and assistant to the vice president for research at Lehigh University from 1969 to 1976, and later the manager of research program development at Lehigh University from 1976 to 1979. He also worked as an engineering consultant to industry.
House of Representatives
After winning a 5-way primary election, Ritter was elected as a Republican to the 96th United States Congress in 1979, defeating 16-year incumbent Democrat Fred B. Rooney. He was reelected to six succeeding Congresses. He held the seat for seven terms, or 14 years, until losing it to challenger Paul F. McHale, Jr. in the 1992 election.
Ritter represented the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania, including the cities of (Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton). As a senior member of the United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce and United States House Committee on Science and Technology, Ritter sought to bring a greater degree of science to the legislative process, particularly to environmental and energy regulation, and was often referred to by peers as a "scientist-congressman." He is one of the few Sc.D.-level scientists to ever serve in the U.S. Congress.
Ritter's Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania district had a substantial industrial (corporate and labor union) and university constituency. Ritter was a supporter of free market, small government policies, though he also cast trade votes in favor of his district's steel and apparel industries. At the same time, Ritter supported the North American Free Trade Agreement when it was debated and passed in the House.
Ritter was the leading advocate in the Congress for the use of Risk assessment to put hazards, particularly energy and environmental ones, in more rational perspective that he believed better prioritized and reduced risks that were most dangerous to people's health and the environment. In that regard, Ritter often clashed heavily with Washington, D.C. environmental lobbying groups.
Ritter was a Congressional champion for the Total Quality Movement in the United States, building bridges into the U.S. Congress for world TQM founders and leaders such as W. Edwards Deming, Joseph M. Juran and Armand V. Feigenbaum. He also started Quality Valley USA in his district to further total quality management and the economic advantage to be derived from it by its citizens and workers.
In his district, Ritter promoted the Lehigh River as a "linear environmental center-of-gravity" to serve the leisure, recreation and creative economic development needs of his constituents. Later, Ritter authored, along with neighboring Pennsylvania Congressman Peter H. Kostmayer, legislation that created the Lehigh-Delaware National Heritage Corridor, which has since become a primary environmental and recreational focus in the Lehigh Valley.
Ritter also championed human rights. Having lived in the former Soviet Union and speaking fluent Russian, he opposed what he saw as Soviet expansionist activity in Afghanistan, Cuba, Central America, Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, Ukraine and elsewhere. In addition to his service on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Ritter was the founding chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Baltic States and Ukraine whose co-chairman was U.S. Senator Don Riegle (D-MI). In addition to being one of the few Sc.D.-level scientists in the history of the Congress, he also was one of the few to ever speak Russian fluently.
With respect to Ritter's 14-year voting record in the U.S. Congress, he enjoyed consistently high rankings from conservative interest groups and correspondingly low rankings from liberal ones. However, he represented a district that, while ancestrally Democratic, had a considerable tinge of social conservatism. Also, substantial numbers of Hungarian, Polish, Slovak and Ukrainian-Americans resided in his Lehigh Valley district and supported Ritter's strong anti-Communism.
Congressional initiatives on Afghanistan
Ritter's experience with Afghanistan began with the Soviet Union's invasion of that country in 1979. He spent the next 10 years in Congress working with Afghans to evict the Soviet invaders. Ritter speaks fluent Russian and had studied Russian literature, culture and history as a hobby while at M.I.T.
He authored the "Material Assistance" to Afghanistan legislation in the Congress (Ritter-Tsongas) in 1982, created the Congressional Task Force on Afghanistan (Ritter-Humphrey) to promote such "material assistance" of all kinds to the Afghan resistance, convened meetings on Afghanistan with representatives of the United States Department of State, Defense Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation to enhance U.S. assistance to the Afghan resistance fighters, and used his ranking position on the Congressional Helsinki Commission, extending its purview away from its traditional focus on Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, to call attention to the Soviets' illegal invasion, occupation and destruction of Afghanistan, which violated the Helsinki Accords.
Post Congressional Career
National Environmental Policy Institute, NEPI, 1993-2002
For nearly ten years after leaving Congress, Ritter served as founder, chairman and president of the National Environmental Policy Institute (NEPI). NEPI was one of the leading groups seeking environmental policy changes in the 1990s that sought greater involvement of states and localities in national policy making. NEPI promoted the use of risk assessment and peer-reviewed science in the regulatory decision process. NEPI's aim was to replace some of the Washington-based politically charged environmental decision making with what it believed was more fact and science-based, common sense decision making by engaging an expanded, less partisan contingent of citizens and decision-makers from the states, cities and localities.
NEPI conducted two large "working groups" of some 40 to 50 individuals from different perspectives, Reinventing EPA and Environmental Policy, which at the time built on Vice President Al Gore's "Reinventing Government" "Democratizing Environmental Policy" initiatives. Both involved greater involvement of the scientific community and bipartisan representation from the states and localities, plus leadership in the Congress and the Administration. Numerous publications resulted from NEPI and collaborating institutions and individuals. NEPI's annual national "Reinventing EPA and Environmental Policy" Conferences in Washington drew participation of some 250-300 people and leadership from those same bodies, including Governors, Mayors, State Legislators, Chairmen of Congressional Committees, Cabinet members, Environmental Protection Agency Administrators and White House officials, environmental advocacy group, leaders, and leading legal and scientific figures. NEPI also conducted working groups on policy implication of highly technical but policy-significant issues of bioavailability and sediments.
Ritter founded and chaired the Afghanistan Foundation in 1996. Since 2002, he has been active in developing a market economy in Afghanistan: personally as a businessman and investor in Afghan companies and public policy wise in promoting free market policies of the Afghan government through the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce (AACC) and the Afghan International Chamber of Commerce (AICC)
Ritter was a resident of Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, in the Lehigh Valley, for 25 years. He now resides in Washington, D.C., but has spent some one-third of his time in Afghanistan since the September 11, 2001 attacks.
He was formerly married to Edith Duerksen Ritter with whom he has two children, a son, Jason Alexei, and a daughter, Kristina Larissa.
- Donald L. Ritter at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- The Political Graveyard
|United States House of Representatives|
Fred B. Rooney
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 15th congressional district
Paul F. McHale, Jr.