Joseph Patrick Kennedy II (born September 24, 1952) is an American businessman and Democratic politician.
He served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from the 8th congressional district of Massachusetts from 1987 to 1999. In 1979 he founded and led, until election to the U.S. House Citizens Energy Corporation, a non-profit energy company; since 1999 he has continued to lead Citizens Energy.
He was named after his uncle Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., who was a bomber pilot in World War II. He is the eldest son of U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Skakel Kennedy and a member of the Kennedy family.
In 1986, incumbent Democrat and Speaker of the House Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, who had held 8th Congressional district seat since 1953, announced his retirement. Joe Kennedy Jr. decided to run for the seat his uncle and former President John F. Kennedy had held from 1947 to 1953. The Democratic nomination was contested by a number of well-known Democrats with long records of public service: State Senator George Bachrach and State Representative Mel King. However, Kennedy garnered endorsements from The Boston Globe and the retiring Tip O'Neill. Kennedy won the primary with 53%. He won the general election with 72% of the vote. He won re-election in 1988 (80%), 1990 (72%), 1992 (83%), 1994 (99%), and 1996 (84%).
Kennedy's legislative efforts in U.S. House of Representatives included:
Expanding the availability of credit to working Americans to buy homes and to open businesses.
Requiring public disclosure of bank-lending practices in poorer neighborhoods and disclosure of bank home-mortgage approvals and refusals by race, sex, and income. Subsequent Federal Reserve Board studies based on these newly required disclosures found widespread evidence of discriminatory-loan practices. One study found that white borrowers in the lowest-income category were approved for mortgages more than African American borrowers in the highest-income category. Data from Boston; Chicago, Illinois; and Minneapolis, Minnesota, found that African Americans were turned down at three times the rate of whites.
Helping create hundreds of thousands of new affordable-housing units nationwide by introducing tax credits to stimulate private investment in neighborhood housing developments after federal housing assistance had been cut by seventy-five percent during the 1980s.
Chairing the House Banking Subcommittee on Consumer Credit and Insurance and holding the first U.S. congressional hearings to expose the lack of access to insurance in low-income neighborhoods.
Proposing a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution as a vehicle to end skyrocketing deficits, reduce interest rates, and free up investment capital for business growth rather than government bonds while fighting to end corporate tax breaks and subsidies.
Overhauling federal public-housing law for the first time in almost sixty years, giving local housing authorities the ability to raise standards while protecting those who depend on public housing for shelter.
Co-chairing the U.S. Congressional Biotechnology Caucus and proposing to preserve and expand federal research and development accounts that stimulate the creation of new technologies and build the foundation for new jobs and business growth.
Proposing the "Mom and Pop Protection Act" to help corner-store owners to install safety equipment and a "National Stalker Reduction Act" to require all states to enact comprehensive anti-stalking legislation, track stalkers, and establish a national domestic-violence database to track violations of civil-protection orders.
Protecting kids from alcohol by proposing to limit television advertising of beer and wine between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. and to keep outdoor alcohol advertisements away from schools.
Launching a bipartisan initiative in Massachusetts to fight child hunger which helped lead to an expansion of school breakfast and lunch programs
In 1991, Kennedy boycotted a speech to the U.S. Congress by the United Kingdom's Queen Elizabeth II "in protest to the British occupation in northern Ireland".
In March 1998, following a year of family troubles that included the skiing death of his brother Michael LeMoyne Kennedy, he announced that he planned to retire from the U.S. House, citing "a new recognition of our own vulnerabilities and the vagaries of life". An editorial in The Boston Globe observed, "... Kennedy has remained steadfast in his political life to issues and constituencies no poll would have led him to: the poor, the homeless, disadvantaged children, and others swamped in the current tide of prosperity." He served in the U.S. House for six terms, until January 1999. In his final speech on the U.S. House floor, Kennedy delivered "an impassioned plea for unity and forgiveness" in the midst of Congressional debate regarding the proposed articles of impeachment of President Bill Clinton.
Throughout his career in the U.S. House, Kennedy served on the House Banking Committee, where he played an active role in the federal saving-and-loan bailout, credit-reporting reform, the overhaul of The Glass–Steagall Act of 1933 and financial modernization. Kennedy also served on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, passing legislation to strengthen the veterans' health-care system, to investigate the causes of Gulf War syndrome, and to provide medical treatment for veterans of the first Persian Gulf War.
On February 3, 1979, Kennedy and Sheila Brewster Rauch (born March 22, 1949) were married in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania. She is a daughter of Rudolph Stewart Rauch and Frances Stuart Brewster. (Both the Brewster and Rauch families were socially prominent with a tradition in coachbuilding; the Brewsters had owned Brewster & Co., an American coachbuilder.) The couple had twin sons, Matthew Rauch Kennedy and Joseph P. Kennedy III (born 1980, in Boston); and were legally divorced in 1991.
Two years later, Kennedy asked the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston for an annulment of the marriage on the grounds of "lack of due discretion of judgment", meaning that he was mentally incapable of entering into marriage at the time of his wedding. An annulment would give the marriage the status of never having existed, and allow Kennedy to marry Anne Elizabeth "Beth" Kelly—his former staff member—in a Roman Catholic ceremony, as well as allow him to participate in other sacraments of the church, such as Holy Communion, not available to a divorced person who remarries. Rauch refused to agree to the annulment, and Kennedy married Kelly (born April 3, 1957) in a non-Catholic civil ceremony on October 23, 1993.