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, until election to the U.S. House, led Citizens Energy Corporation, a non-profit energy company; since 1999 he has continued to lead Citizens Energy.
He is the eldest son of U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy as well as the eldest grandson of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. and Rose Kennedy. George Skakel, his maternal grandfather, founded Great Lakes Coal & Coke Company.
|Joseph P. Kennedy II|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Massachusetts's 8th district
January 3, 1987 – January 3, 1999
|Preceded by||Tip O'Neill|
|Succeeded by||Mike Capuano|
Joseph Patrick Kennedy II|
September 24, 1952
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Sheila Brewster Rauch
(m. 1979; div. 1991)
Anne Elizabeth Kelly
|Children||2, including Joseph P. Kennedy III|
Robert F. Kennedy|
|Alma mater||University of Massachusetts Boston (BA)|
Kennedy was born in Brighton, a neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, the second of 11 children of Ethel (Skakel) and Robert Francis Kennedy. He was named after his grandfather Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., the patriarch of the Kennedy family.[a] He had a troubled youth and was expelled from several private schools as a result of his quick temper. He regularly got into fights with his younger brothers and male cousins. He was 15 when his father was assassinated. That night, he was on a Secret Service presidential fleet aircraft to Los Angeles with his sister Kathleen and brother Robert Jr. A restless, impulsive teenager, he left Milton Academy, a private, college preparatory school, in Milton, Massachusetts, later graduating from the Manter Hall School—also a private, college-preparatory school—in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1971.
Kennedy attended the University of California, Berkeley, in Berkeley, California, during 1972 but dropped out. After this he worked for several months as part of a federally funded program to combat and treat tuberculosis in the African American community in San Francisco, California. San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto personally praised Kennedy's work in the community. Kennedy resigned from his position in the program and returned to Massachusetts in the summer of 1973.
On February 22, 1972, Kennedy was on Lufthansa Flight 649 when it was hijacked. Shortly after the inflight movie began during the 747's flight from New Delhi to Athens, five gunmen seized the jet and forced it to land at Aden International Airport, where all hostages were released the following day.
In August 1973, a Jeep he was driving overturned, fracturing one of his brother David Kennedy's vertebrae and permanently paralyzing David's girlfriend, Pam Kelley. The police cited Kennedy with reckless driving and the judge temporarily suspended his driver's license. The Kennedy family paid for Kelley's initial medical treatment and her continued care during the years following the accident.
In 1986 incumbent Democrat and Speaker of the House Thomas Phillip "Tip" O'Neill Jr., who had held 8th Congressional district of Massachusetts seat since 1953, announced his retirement. Kennedy decided to run for the seat, which his uncle, former president John F. Kennedy, had held from 1947 to 1953. The Democratic nomination was contested by a number of well-known Democrats including state senator George Bachrach and state representative Mel King. However, Kennedy garnered endorsements from The Boston Globe and the retiring 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
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 that "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 Persian Gulf War.
After leaving the U.S. House, Kennedy returned to Citizens Energy. (During Kennedy's terms in the U.S. House, it had been run by his brother Michael.) Citizens Energy pursues commercial ventures aimed at generating revenues that, in turn, are used to generate funds that could assist those in need in the U.S. and abroad. It grew to encompass seven separate companies, including one of the largest energy-conservation firms in the U.S. Citizens Energy became one of the U.S.'s first energy firms to move large volumes of natural gas to more than thirty states. As a precursor to market changes under electricity deregulation in the late 1990s, Citizens Energy was a pioneer in moving and marketing electrical power over the power grid. In recent years, Kennedy has led the company into the renewable-energy industry, building solar farms along the East Coast and transmission lines to support charitable programs like one giving free solar panels to low-income families in California.
Since 1979, Citizens Energy has provided affordable heating oil to low-income families in Massachusetts and other cold-weather states. These charitable efforts were funded largely from profitable commercial ventures and donations.
Since returning to Citizens Energy, Kennedy also has sought to influence energy-related public policy, challenging the Bush administration to invest in energy conservation and efficiency and renewable energy, encouraging Congress to fully fund federal heating assistance programs, proposing that oil-consuming countries work together to balance oil prices against Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) manipulation, and calling for the federal government and major oil companies to use portions of royalties from oil and gas extracted from federal lands and waters to help low-income families with the high price of energy. Kennedy has been criticized for the salaries paid to himself and his wife. In 2012, as CEO of Citizens Energy and related organizations, Kennedy was paid a total of $796,000 in compensation, and his wife was paid an additional $344,000 as Director of Marketing.
Beginning in 2005, Citgo Petroleum Company (Citgo), a wholly owned subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA)—the Venezuelan state-owned oil company—has been the primary donor of heating oil to Citizens Energy. The Wall Street Journal and others criticized Citizens Energy for continuing its relationship with the Venezuelan government and Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, a harsh critic of the United States. In response, Kennedy and others have argued that it is hypocritical to criticize a non-profit organization for accepting oil from Venezuela while numerous other American businesses are profiting from robust trade with Venezuela and at a time when the U.S. government has cut low-income fuel assistance.
Kennedy has since turned into a critic of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, the handpicked successor of Hugo Chávez, accusing him of "stealing democracy from the people" and calling for Maduro's removal.
Though Citgo donations reportedly dried up in 2015 owing to Venezuela's economic turmoil, the company was reported in 2009 to have donated 83 million gallons of oil over the two previous years, which was used to provide heating assistance to an estimated 200,000 families a year in 23 states.
In 1993 a Boston Globe poll showed Kennedy within one percentage point of popular incumbent William Weld in a hypothetical gubernatorial match-up, prompting prominent state Democrats to try and recruit him for the race. Though no other Democrat was polling near Weld, Kennedy decided to forgo the race and remain in Congress. Mark Roosevelt won the nomination and lost to Governor Weld by over 40 points.
Kennedy was considered the front runner for the Massachusetts governorship in 1998, but revelations about his personal life led to a tumultuous fall in public opinion polling, and he decided against running.
With the death of his uncle U.S. senator Ted Kennedy on August 25, 2009, Kennedy's name had been mentioned as a possible candidate for his uncle's seat representing Massachusetts in the United States Senate. In an Associated Press article, Democratic strategist Dan Payne said, "He wouldn't be human and he wouldn't be a Kennedy if he didn't give serious consideration to running for what is known as the 'Kennedy seat' in Massachusetts." However, Kennedy released a statement on September 7 explaining that he would not pursue the seat. The seat eventually went by appointment to Paul G. Kirk and later by election to Republican Scott Brown.
On February 3, 1979, Kennedy married Sheila Brewster Rauch (born March 22, 1949), a daughter of banker Rudolph Stewart "Stew" Rauch Jr., president then chairman of the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society, and Frances Stuart Brewster. On October 4, 1980, the couple had fraternal twin sons, Matthew Rauch "Matt" Kennedy and Joseph Patrick "Joe" Kennedy III. They were legally divorced in 1991.
His older son (by eight minutes), Matthew, and his wife Katherine gave birth to a daughter, Lily Frances Kennedy in 2013; Matthew and Katherine then welcomed their second child, Charlotte Ethel Kennedy in 2016. His younger son, Joseph III, and wife Lauren gave birth to a daughter, Eleanor Anne Kennedy in 2015, and a son in 2017, James Matthew Kennedy.
In 1993 Kennedy asked the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston for an annulment of the marriage, feeling 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 (born April 3, 1957)—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 Beth in a non-Catholic civil ceremony on October 23, 1993.
The Boston Archdiocese initially granted Kennedy the annulment, which was discovered by Rauch only after the decision in 1996. Sheila, who is an Episcopalian, wrote a book Shattered Faith: A Woman's Struggle to Stop the Catholic Church from Annulling Her Marriage, explaining that she was opposed to the concept of annulment because it meant in Roman Catholic theology that the marriage had never actually existed, and claiming that the Kennedy family influence made it possible to unilaterally "cancel" a 12-year marriage. A tribunal decision in favor of annulment is automatically appealed, and the decision is not effective until a second, conforming, sentence is granted. Instead of allowing the appeal to take place in the United States, Rauch appealed directly to the Holy See.
The original decision was overturned by the highest appellate tribunal of the Roman Catholic Church, the Roman Rota, in 2005. Rauch was not informed of the decision by the Boston Archdiocese until 2007.
As the first decision was never confirmed, there was no time at which the Church declared the marriage to be null or gave Kennedy permission to remarry. Because the Rota was sitting as a second-instance appellate court, Kennedy could appeal the decision to another Rotal panel.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 8th congressional district