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Christopher J. Lee

For other people named Christopher Lee, see Christopher Lee (disambiguation).
Chris Lee
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 26th district
In office
January 3, 2009 – February 9, 2011[1]
Preceded by Thomas M. Reynolds
Succeeded by Kathy Hochul
Personal details
Born Christopher John Lee
(1964-04-01) April 1, 1964 (age 50)
Kenmore, New York
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Michele Lee
Children One child
Residence Clarence
Alma mater University of Rochester (B.A.)
Chapman University (M.B.A.)
Religion Protestant

Christopher John "Chris" Lee (born April 1, 1964) was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives for New York's 26th congressional district. He served from January 2009 until he resigned February 9, 2011 [2] after it was revealed that he had solicited a woman on Craigslist and emailed a shirtless photo of himself.[3]

Family, education and business career

Lee was raised in Tonawanda, New York[4] in a politically active family. His sister ran regional affairs in western New York for former Governor George Pataki, and his father was the finance chairman on several campaigns for former U.S. Rep. Jack Quinn.[5]

Lee earned a B.A. in economics and finance from the University of Rochester and a Master of Business Administration from Chapman University in California.[6] At Rochester, he was a member of the Psi Upsilon Fraternity.

During his campaign for Congress, it emerged that Lee was fired from a sales job in Buffalo at Ingram Micro (now in Amherst) when he was 25 years old. He had obtained his supervisor's password and accessed customer accounts to change their credit limits with the company. This meant that the customers could purchase on account more of Ingram's products, thus increasing Lee's commission. Lee and another employee were fired. During the campaign, Lee issued a statement: "At my first job out of college, I made a mistake and broke company policy and was let go. What's important is that I learned from that mistake, and have had a successful career building a business and creating jobs for families here in Western New York."[7]

Lee moved to California where he worked for Microtek Laboratory as director of sales before returning to New York in 1995 to work for Enidine, Inc., a company founded by his father. He worked at Enidine in various roles including Pacific Rim sales manager, director of international sales and marketing, and then general manager.[8][9] Enidine manufactured products for commercial aviation, and for the industrial and defense markets and had manufacturing capabilities in Orchard Park, New York, as well as Bad Bellingen, Germany and Yokohama, Japan.[10][11] Under Lee's direction, the business was transformed "from a small machine shop in western New York to a global enterprise," according to The New York Times.[12]

In 2003, Lee became Automation Group President of International Motion Control (IMC) of Erie County, another company founded by his father.[13][14] He oversaw the group's acquisition of the solenoid valve firm Evolutionary Concepts Inc., and worked at IMC until it was sold to the ITT Corporation for nearly $400 million.[15][16][17]

Chris Lee and his wife, Michele, have one child.[18][19]

Chris Lee's father established the Patrick P. Lee Foundation, where Chris Lee served as director.[20] The foundation promotes cancer and mental illness awareness, education, prevention, and research in Western New York.[21]

Political campaigns

Lee announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for the United States House of Representatives in New York's 26th congressional district in April 2008.[22] He was endorsed by the incumbent Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds.[23][24][25] and ultimately supported by all seven of the district's Republican county chairmen, who met in May 2008 to announce Lee would hold the party's official endorsement.[26] His candidacy garnered the support of state GOP Chairman Stephen Minarik in an election year in which the Republican party was looking for self-financed candidates.[27][28] Lee won reelection in 2010 with 76 percent of the vote in a district that consistently votes Republican, according to The Weekly Standard.[29]

U.S. House of Representatives

Committee assignments

First term

In Congress, Lee was a conservative who voted with the Republican party 93% of the time during his first term.[30][31] He voted "no" on the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell,[12] and "no" on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and the health care reform bills. He voted with the Democrats to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, provide compensation to the 9/11 responders, overhaul the nation's food safety system, and reauthorize the America Competes Act. In 2009, Lee supported the proposed "Student Internet Safety Act," which was aimed at protecting children from internet predators.[32]

Although Lee was a fiscally conservative budget hawk, he obtained $29.7 million in federal funds (known as earmarks) for his district—more than any of the Democratic members of Congress in neighboring districts. Lee explained that earmarks can be helpful in promoting job growth and said it is better to have earmarks than to have spending decisions made by unelected bureaucrats. He obtained earmarks for a small arms practice range for an Air Reserve station, high speed rail, and local defense contractors.[33]

He was criticized for liberal use of the franking privilege to send constituents glossy newsletters, some of which were described as promotional whereas others only gave constituents information on new legislation and proposals.[34] In August 2010, Lee proposed a plan to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States. The plan involved lowering the corporate tax rate, student loan forgiveness for students who enter fields related to manufacturing, and trade reform to open up new markets.[35]

In December 2010, he met with representatives of online travel agencies to pressure them into complying with a law that requires websites to show when regional airlines are operating any part of a flight. “It's embarrassing that this stuff has not been done”, Lee said. “I made that painfully clear to them. No excuses.”[36]

Second term and resignation

In the wake of the January 2011 shooting of U.S. Representative Giffords and others in Tucson, Arizona, Lee said "I think what we need to look at is ensuring there are sufficient background checks to make sure that those who are unstable don’t have access to weapons of that nature."[37]

On February 9, 2011, Lee was found to have been soliciting at least one woman on Craigslist. Claiming to be a 39-year-old divorced lobbyist but using his real name, he used a Google Gmail account to send a woman, a shirtless photo taken with his BlackBerry phone.[38][39][40] The woman searched his name, discovered he was a married Congressman, and turned over her email correspondence to the New York news blog Gawker. After confirming the facts, Gawker published its exposé on February 9, 2011.[41][42][43]

Lee resigned from office the same day.[2] He also issued a statement of apology, saying, “I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents.... I have made profound mistakes and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness.”[12] Lee did not return to Western New York after his resignation.[44]

Democrat Kathleen Hochul filled his seat after winning the special election on May 24 set by Governor Andrew Cuomo.[45]


External links

  • Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Project Vote Smart
  • GovTrack
  • OpenCongress
  • Federal Election Commission
  • On the Issues
  • The Washington Post
  • C-SPAN programs
  • SourceWatch
Preceded by
Thomas M. Reynolds
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 26th congressional district

2009 - 2011
Succeeded by
Kathy Hochul

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