Adam Laxalt: A look at the secret son of former Sen. Pete Domenici

Adam Laxalt has some serious political genes: Grandfather Paul Laxalt is a former senator and governor of Nevada, not to mention a best friend of Ronald Reagan; mother Michelle a high-profile Washington lobbyist.


Former Senator Pete Domenici introducing former White House chief of staff Jack Lew during the Senate Finance Committee hearing at the Capitol last week. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

“More than 30 years ago, I fathered a child outside of my marriage,” Domenici said in a statement to the Albuquerque Journal. “The mother of that child made me pledge that we would never reveal that parenthood, and I have tried to honor that pledge and so has she.”

But the carefully protected secret went public Wednesday, throwing the 34-year-old lawyer into the spotlight.

“I have lived my entire life as a private citizen and intend to remain one,” he told our colleague Rachel Weiner. “I plan to address personal issues privately and will not be commenting or joining any public discussion.”

Laxalt, who grew up in Alexandria and now practices law in Las Vegas, boasts an impressive resume: Jobs with Undersecretary of State John Bolton and Sen. John Warner, then five years as an officer and lawyer in the Navy including a deployment in Iraq.

Recently married, the strikingly handsome lawyer is a vocal conservative who has written op-eds for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, National Review Online, and American Spectator. He also appears to be a burgeoning community leader, recently named to the board of the local Catholic Charities.

All this came after a troubled adolescence. In a 1999 profile in Washingtonian magazine, Laxalt discussed his teenage alcoholism: He started drinking as a freshman at St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School in Alexandria, and hit bottom at Tulane in New Orleans. “I got down there and it was just too much fun, too many women, and too much booze,” he told Chuck Conconi. “Campus bars were open until 6 a.m. and Bourbon Street was open until 6 or 7 a.m.” After treatment at Hazelden, he transferred to Georgetown, where he got both his bachelors and law degree.

It is still unclear if Laxalt grew up knowing that Domenici was his father. In her statement to the Journal, she said the pregnancy was the result of “one night’s mistake” and that she chose to raise Adam as a single parent. Both her father and Domenici were Republican senators at the time; she said she asked the married Domenici, who has eight other children, to keep the matter “private between the two of us.”

Very private, it seems. Even Michelle’s sister, Kathleen, said she didn’t know the identity of of Adam’s father. “It was a big surprise to me,” she told us Wednesday. The subject was never discussed: “That was sort of a private thing for Michelle, and we respected that all these years.”

Also unclear: Why the news emerged now, more than three decades after Adam’s birth. In their statements, both parents suggest their hand was forced. “Recently information has come to me that this sacred situation might be twisted, re-written out of whole cloth, and shopped to press outlets large and small in a vicious attempt to smear, hurt and diminish Pete Domenici, an honorable man, his extraordinary wife, Nancy, and other innocents.” wrote Michelle.

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