Path to Power
Ron Wyden was born in Wichita, Kan., in 1949, to Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. His reporter father moved the family around a lot. When Wyden's parents divorced in 1960, he, his mother and his brother found themselves in Palo Alto, Calif., where basketball took over Wyden's life.
After high school, the University of California at Santa Barbara offered Wyden a basketball scholarship and he accepted. Mid-way through he transferred to Stanford, where he gave up on his dream to play in the NBA. After graduating, he began studying law at the University of Oregon, where he also worked on the campaign of former U.S. Sen. Wayne Morse (D-Ore.). Wyden received his J.D. in 1974 and after failing to pass the bar exam three times, he founded Gray Panthers, an elderly advocacy group.
Though Wyden calls himself an "independent voice for Oregonians and the nation," over the course of his legislative career he has accumulated a liberal voting record.
In the 111th Congress he voted with his party 96.1 percent of the time.
Wyden works closely with Oregon's junior senator, Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
Wyden has also worked very closely with Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), with he sponsored his bipartisan health-care plan (Bennett was defeated for 2010 reelection in the GOP primary). He's also close to CIA Director Leon Panetta from their days together in the House.