At a Glance
- Career History:
Chief of Staff
(January 2009 to October 2010); U.S. Representative (2003 to 2008); Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair (2005 to 2007); Investment banker at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (1999 to 2002); Aide to President
(1993 to 1999)
- Birthday: Nov. 29, 1959
- Hometown: Chicago, Ill.
- Alma Mater: Sarah Lawrence College, B.A. (liberal arts), 1981; Northwestern University, M.A. (speech and communication), 1985
- Spouse: Amy
- Religion: Jewish
Path to Power
The son of an Israeli immigrant, Emanuel grew up north of Chicago, and began his career at Illinois Public Action, a consumer rights group. He got an early start in politics when ex-Rep. Tony Coelho (D-Calif.) recruited him to join the DCCC in the 1980s, and he went on to work for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (D), whom he would later run to succeed.
Clinton White House
In 1991, after volunteering on an Israeli army supply base during the Persian Gulf War, he joined Bill Clinton's campaign for president, and worked vigorously as a fundraiser. When Clinton won, Emanuel became a top aide in his White House, working on welfare reform, gun control and children's' health care, an issue he would embrace in Congress as well.
As White House chief of staff, Emanuel followed his pragmatic political instincts, which often put him at odds with his party's more liberal wing. He got into hot water when he called progressives "[expletive] retarded" for threatening to run ads against centrist Democrats who disagreed with the president's health-care reform push.
While in the House, the Illinois Democrat was a member of the moderate, pro-growth New Democrat Coalition, and in his 2006 book, "The Plan," he outlined his ideas for revising the tax code, including making it easier to understand and lowering rates for the middle class. He told The Washington Post that Americans prefer governing from the center "and not polarization."
The 2008 Democratic primary tore Emanuel between Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y), whose husband he served as a senior aide, and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) - and Obama's chief strategist David Axelrod, one of Emanuel's closest friends.
Emanuel did not endorse in the contest until after Obama had claimed a majority of pledged delegates. After years in both the Clinton White House and Chicago politics, Emanuel is also close to the family of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.