Patrick J. Kennedy

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This article is about the former member of the United States House of Representatives. For other persons named Patrick Kennedy, see Patrick Kennedy.
Patrick J. Kennedy
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Rhode Island's 1st district
In office
January 3, 1995 – January 3, 2011
Preceded by Ronald Machtley
Succeeded by David Cicilline
Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
In office
January 3, 1999 – January 3, 2001
Preceded by Martin Frost
Succeeded by Nita Lowey
Member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives
from the 9th (later to become the 7th) district
In office
1 January 1989 – 1 January 1993
Succeeded by Joanne Giannini
Personal details
Born Patrick Joseph Kennedy II
(1967-07-14) July 14, 1967 (age 47)
Brighton, Massachusetts
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Amy Savell
(m. 2011—present)
Relations Kara Kennedy (sister)
Edward M. Kennedy, Jr. (brother)
Children Owen Patrick Kennedy
Nora Kara Kennedy
Parents Ted Kennedy
Joan Bennett Kennedy
Residence Brigantine, New Jersey,
United States[1]
Alma mater Providence College (B.S.)
Occupation Politician
Religion Catholicism
Website Patrick Kennedy Homepage (Kennedy's section at the U.S. House of Representatives official website), ("Patrick J. Kennedy for U.S. Congress" campaign's official website)

Patrick Joseph Kennedy II (born July 14, 1967) is an American politician. He is the former U.S. Representative for Rhode Island's 1st congressional district, serving from 1995 until 2011. He is a member of the Democratic Party. The district includes all of Bristol County and Newport County, and parts of Providence County. Kennedy did not seek re-election in 2010. He is a member of the Kennedy family and the younger son of the longtime Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. At the time of his father's 2009 death, he was the last remaining member of the Kennedy family to serve in an elective office in Washington. When he retired in 2011, it was the first time since 1947 that there were no members of the Kennedy family in public office.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Patrick was born in Brighton, Massachusetts. He is the youngest of three children born to Senator Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy (1932—2009) and musician/socialite/former model Virginia Joan Bennett (born 1936). His sister Kara (1960—2011) was a television/film producer and his brother Ted Jr. (born 1961) is a lawyer. Patrick was named after his patrilineal great-grandfather, businessman/politician Patrick Joseph "P. J." Kennedy (1858—1929).

He graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts in 1986, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island in 1991.[3]

Rhode Island House of Representatives[edit]

Kennedy became the youngest member of the Kennedy family to hold elected office when, in 1988, he won election to the Rhode Island House of Representatives at age 21. He served two terms in the House serving District 9 in Providence, Rhode Island, choosing not to run for a third term. He was succeeded by Anastasia P. Williams.

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Committee assignments[edit]

From 1999 to 2001, he served as the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — the Democratic Hill committee for the U.S. House. It works to elect Democrats to the U.S. House and it plays a critical role in recruiting candidates, raising funds and organizing races in districts that are expected to yield politically notable or close elections. After his tenure as Chairman of the DCCC, Kennedy became a headliner at Democratic political events and fundraisers around the country. He was a Vice-Chairman of the Native American Caucus in the House of Representatives.

From 2001 until his retirement in 2011, Kennedy served on the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations and on its U.S. House standing subcommittees.

Political positions[edit]

He was a chief sponsor of one of the major pieces of legislation of 2008, the Mental Health Parity Act, a bill requiring most group health plans to provide coverage for the treatment of mental illnesses that is comparable to what they provide for physical illnesses.[4]

He is a strong proponent of adding a comprehensive prescription-drug benefit to the U.S. Medicare and has consistently opposed attempts to privatize the Medicare program. Kennedy has also made numerous speeches advocating the reorientation of the U.S. health-care system to preventive care. He has received numerous awards for his health-care advocacy, including being named the recipient of the Lymphoma Research Foundation’s Paul E. Tsongas Memorial Award as well as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Congressional Honors Award.[citation needed]

Health care[edit]

Kennedy is a vocal advocate for health care reform. During his career, he joined with Republican U.S. Senator Pete Domenici from New Mexico in introducing legislation that places mental illness under the umbrella of health insurance.

Among the rewards received on behalf of his work include the Society for Neuroscience — Public Service Award (2002), Eli Lilly and Company 2003 Helping Move Lives Forward Reintegration Awards, American Psychoanalytic Association 2003 President’s Award, American Psychiatric Association Alliance award (2003), and the Depression and Bipolar Support AlliancePaul Wellstone Mental Health Award (2003).

In a March 7, 2008, speech to the Cleveland City Club, Kennedy acknowledged having bipolar disorder and being a recovering alcoholic. He and his siblings have legal custody of their mother, who has long struggled with alcoholism. Kennedy is co-founder of One Mind for Research, which seeks to increase resources and efficiency in brain disorder research.[5]

Political campaigns[edit]

Earlier official Congressional photo of Kennedy.

Kennedy campaigned for the seat being vacated by U.S. Representative Ronald Machtley (who was retiring) in the 1994 Rhode Island 1st congressional district election. He won the election, defeating Republican candidate Kevin Vigilante. He was one of four Democrats in the 1994 congressional elections to win a congressional seat that had just been held by a Republican, while Republicans gained dozens of seats to take over the U.S. House. He has been re-elected in each subsequent election.

He considered running against Republican Lincoln Chafee in the 2000 U.S. Senate election in Rhode Island, later won by Chafee. During the 2000 U.S. Senate recruiting phase, U.S. Representative Richard A. Gephardt, then-U.S. House Minority Leader, appointed Kennedy to the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations, a high-profile assignment that led Kennedy to pass up the U.S. Senate opportunity for 2000. He again considered running against Chafee in 2006, but did not.

Kennedy did not run for another term in 2010.[6] He finished his 8th term at the completion of the 111th United States Congress.

2008 presidential election[edit]

On January 28, 2008, Kennedy joined his father in endorsing Barack Obama in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, stating that Obama was the "perfect antidote to George Bush".[7] Prior to that, Kennedy had joined his first cousin Timothy Shriver in endorsing U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd from Connecticut.

Personal issues and incidents[edit]

Drug and alcohol use[edit]

Kennedy has acknowledged being treated for cocaine use during his teenage years, and admitted that he abused drugs and alcohol while he was a student at Providence College.[8] He sought treatment for an OxyContin addiction in 2006.[9] Due to his experience with addiction, Patrick J. Kennedy has started to advocate against the legalization of marijuana.[10][11]

Rape accusation against William Kennedy Smith[edit]

During Easter weekend in 1991, Kennedy and his father were in Palm Beach, Florida, along with Patrick's cousin, William Kennedy Smith. At Au Bar, Patrick met a 27-year-old Testas Restaurant waitress, Michelle Cassone, and Smith met another woman, Patricia Bowman. Both women returned with the Kennedys to the family's beachfront retreat, where a series of events took place that resulted in Smith being charged with raping Bowman. The prosecution alleged that the three Kennedys collaborated to cover up this alleged crime. In a widely covered trial, Smith was acquitted.[12]

Capitol Hill intoxicated-driving accident[edit]

On May 4, 2006, Kennedy crashed his automobile into a barricade on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., at 2:45 a.m. A United States Capitol Police official said the congressman had appeared intoxicated when he crashed his car, but Kennedy claimed that he was merely disoriented from prescription medications Ambien and Phenergan.[dead link][13] Anonymous sources are alleged to have seen Kennedy drinking at the nearby Hawk & Dove bar prior to the accident.[14][15] Kennedy also stated to officers that he was "late for a vote". However, the last vote of the night had occurred almost six hours earlier. The standard field sobriety test was not administered, and Kennedy was driven home by an officer.

On May 5, 2006, Kennedy admitted that he had an addiction to prescription medication and announced he would be re-admitting himself to a drug-rehabilitation facility at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where he has sought treatment for prior addictions.[16] He has stated that he has no recollection of the car crash. On May 8, 2006, Kennedy got a show of support when he was endorsed by the Rhode Island Democratic Party.[17] On June 5, 2006, Kennedy was released from drug rehabilitation.[18]

On June 13, 2006, Kennedy made a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to a charge of driving under the influence of prescription drugs.[19] He was sentenced to one-year probation and a fine of $350. Two of the three charges (reckless driving and failure to exhibit a driving permit) were dismissed. He was also ordered to attend a rehabilitation program that includes weekly urine tests, twice-weekly meetings with a probation officer, near-daily Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and a weekly meeting of recovering addicts.[20]

On Friday, June 12, 2009, Kennedy again announced that he has "checked into a medical facility for treatment". In a statement to the press, Kennedy said that his recovery is a "lifelong process" and that he will do whatever it takes to preserve his health. "I have decided to temporarily step away from my normal routine to ensure that I am being as vigilant as possible in my recovery," Kennedy said.

Rhode Island auto accident[edit]

In an earlier incident, on April 15, 2006, Kennedy was involved in an automobile accident with off-duty U.S. Coast Guard Warrant Officer Thomas Guthlein in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Portsmouth police did not issue a citation to either driver.[21] Guthlein is quoted in the Daily News (New York City) as saying "I never really got that close to him ..... It was just a regular traffic accident".

Political controversies[edit]

"Never worked"[edit]

In 2003, Kennedy was criticized for saying ""I don't need Bush's tax cut. I have never worked a fucking day in my life." His staff explained that Kennedy's comment as a satirical argument against tax cuts for the wealthy, including him, some of whom have inherited their money.[22]

Retention of donor's money[edit]

In 2007, the Kennedy camp stated that they would retain $6,600 in donations from Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu, who had been convicted that year of a Ponzi scheme fraud. Kennedy is one of the few Democrats not to return or donate these contributions.[23]

Communion controversy[edit]

In February 2007, Kennedy was asked to refrain from receiving Holy Communion by his bishop, Thomas Tobin. Kennedy later said that the bishop had asked priests not to give him the sacrament "because of the positions that I’ve taken as a public official," particularly on abortion. Tobin acknowledged that he had requested Kennedy not to receive communion but not that he had asked priests to deny Kennedy the sacrament.[24]

Criticism of Senator Scott Brown[edit]

Kennedy criticized Republican Senator Scott Brown for demanding to be sworn in as a Senator as soon as the election results from the 2010 Massachusetts special senate election were certified. "Brown's whole candidacy was shown to be a joke today when he was sworn in early in order to cast his first vote as an objection to Obama's appointment to the NLRB," [25] Senator Brown responded “I was elected and the votes are certified and I’m here to do my job. It’s unfortunate that he would use mean-spirited comments like that at a time when we’re just trying to solve the problems of the Commonwealth” [26]

Troop withdrawal from Afghanistan[edit]

On March 10, 2010, Kennedy spoke regarding the maneuvering stratagem to the war in Afghanistan during a debate of a measure calling for the end of the war. He yelled so loudly at times about the war in Afghanistan that he went hoarse until he was finally finished with his 3 minute time limit.[27] He anticipated that some would object to his demand to withdraw from Afghanistan by claiming such withdrawal would dishonor those who have already fallen. His comment was, "Somewhere—I can't believe I even heard this—someone said 'Oh, I can't go to a funeral, and tell the parents of someone who just died that they lost their child in vain'. Somewhere, I heard that during the Vietnam War." After requesting an additional 30 seconds and being granted the time, Kennedy also went after the media for lack of coverage of the war, citing only two press members in the gallery at the time and "24/7" media coverage of the resignation of Eric Massa.

Kennedy embraces President Obama at his father's funeral.

Private life and family[edit]

He resides in Brigantine, New Jersey. Kennedy announced his engagement to sixth-grade history teacher Amy Savell (born c. 1979) (daughter of Jerry[28] and Leni Savell) on March 28, 2011.[29] Amy has a daughter, Harper Petitgout (born c. 2008), from her previous marriage to Mark Petitgout. They married on July 15, 2011 in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.[30] Patrick and Amy have two children:

  • Owen Patrick Kennedy (born April 15, 2012)[31]
  • Nora Kara Kennedy (born November 19, 2013)[32]

His father, Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, died on August 25, 2009. Patrick made a tearful eulogy at the funeral, saying that "He [Ted] would be very proud to see you all out here today paying a final respect and tribute to his memory". He further elaborated on his experiences with his father as a child, saying his father would stay at his bedside during his frequent bouts of ill health.[33][34]

Patrick Kennedy suffers from bipolar disorder.[35]

When Kennedy decided not to run for reelection in 2010, he cited his decision on the fact that his life "has taken a new direction". Mark Weiner, a major Democratic fundraiser in Rhode Island and one of Kennedy's top financial backers, said "It's tough to get up and go to work every day when your partner is not there, I think he just had a broken heart after his father passed away."[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Darryl R. Isherwood (15 February 2013). "Kennedy rules out 2014 run, endorses Pallone for Senate". Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  2. ^ Levenson, Michael (February 13, 2010). "Pondering a Congress without Kennedys". The Boston Globe. 
  3. ^ Staff writer (n.d.). "Kennedy, Patrick Joseph, (1967 - )". (a database module of, a part of the U.S. Library of Congress website). Retrieved September 1, 2009. 
  4. ^ Rucker, Philip (12 March 2010). "Patrick Kennedy discusses leaving Congress after 16 years". The Washington Post. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ “”. "Rep. Patrick Kennedy: 'Won't Seek Reelection'". YouTube. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  7. ^ Staff writer (January 28, 2008). "Patrick Kennedy to Join Father in Endorsing Obama for President". The Associated Press via The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 1, 2009. [dead link]
  8. ^ Staff writer (April 19, 2001). "Approval Ratings Fall for Rhode Island Rep. Kennedy". Fox News. Retrieved September 1, 2009. 
  9. ^ Staff writer (March 16, 2007). "Rep. Kennedy: I Was Hooked on OxyContin". The Associated Press via the San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved September 1, 2009. [dead link]
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Bell, Rachael (Undated). "William Kennedy Smith". "Crime Library" on truTV. Retrieved August 31, 2009.
  13. ^ [dead link]Miga, Andrew (May 5, 2006). "Police Report Filed in Kennedy Car Crash". The Associated Press. 
  14. ^ [dead link]Wedge, Dave (May 5, 2006). "Pat cites pills in car wreck". Boston Herald. 
  15. ^ [dead link]Wedge, Dave (May 12, 2006). "Cops Told Pat K Was at Watering Hole Before Crash". Boston Herald. 
  16. ^ Miga, Andrew (May 6, 2006). "Rep. Patrick Kennedy to Enter Drug Rehab". The Associated Press via The Washington Post. Retrieved September 1, 2009. 
  17. ^ Mayerowitz, Scott (May 9, 2006). "Kennedy Gets Support from Democratic Party — The U.S. Representative, Who Entered Drug Rehabilitation Treatment in Minnesota Last Week, Is Among Those Endorsed by R.I. Democrats at Their Convention". The Providence Journal. Retrieved September 1, 2009. 
  18. ^ [dead link]Lewis, Richard (June 5, 2006). "Rep. Kennedy Released from Drug Rehab Clinic". Reuters. 
  19. ^ [dead link]Miga, Andrew (June 13, 2006). "Patrick Kennedy pleads guilty to DUI". The Associated Press. 
  20. ^ Akers, Mary Ann (July 13, 2006). "Life After Fender Bender". Roll Call. Retrieved September 1, 2009. 
  21. ^ [verification needed]Portsmouth Rhode Island Police Accident Report #06-157-AC (PDF format)
  22. ^ Lynch, Dotty; Chaggaris, Steve (June 27, 2003). "Washington Wrap". CBS News. Retrieved September 1, 2009. 
  23. ^ Staff writer (September 4, 2007). "Arrest Warrant Issued For Fugitive Fundraiser Hsu". KTVU News. Retrieved September 1, 2009. 
  24. ^ "Bishop bars Patrick Kennedy from Communion over abortion". CNN. November 22, 2009. 
  25. ^ EDT (2010-02-05). "Patrick Kennedy's sour grapes over Scott Brown". Washington Examiner. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  26. ^ EDT (2010-02-05). "Brown slaps back at Patrick Kennedy". Washington Examiner. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  27. ^ Press, Associated (2010-03-10). "Patrick Kennedy rips media coverage of war". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ Williams, Eric. "Patrick's day!". Boston Herald. Retrieved July 16, 2011. 
  31. ^ Drake, Danny (April 17, 2012). "Patrick Kennedy, wife bring baby Owen home from N.J. hospital". Providence Journal. 
  32. ^ "It's a girl for Patrick and Amy Kennedy". providencejournal. November 19, 2013. 
  33. ^ "As Kennedy laid to rest, a papal prayer request is revealed -". CNN. August 30, 2009. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  34. ^ "Broadcast Yourself". YouTube. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  35. ^ "Famous Bipolar People Who Have Come Out and Are Still Alive". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  36. ^ Thursday, February 11, 2010 (2010-02-11). "Patrick Kennedy won't seek re-election". Washington Times. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Ronald Machtley
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Rhode Island's 1st congressional district

Succeeded by
David Cicilline