Ron Wyden

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Ron Wyden is one of the United States Senior Senators representing constituents from the State of Oregon. Wyden has been a Senator since 1996. He is a member of the Senate Committees on Finace, Intelligence, Aging, Budget, and Energy & Natural Resources. He is the chairman of both the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests and the Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness. Sen. Wyden is a strong advocate for the privacy rights of Americans. As Senator, he has been pushing for health care reform, energy independence, national security, consumer welfare and accountability.[1]

Personal Background

He was born Ronald Lee Wyden to Jewish parents Edith Rosenow and Peter H. Wyden on May 3, 1949 in Wichita, Kansas.[2] His parents fled the Nazis and moved to the United States and settled in Ridgefield, Connecticut in 1923, however his father was a journalist and their family moved around the country. After his parents divorced in 1960, Ron Wyden's mother moved to Palo Alto, California along with his younger brother. He grew up in Palo Alto and graduated from Palo Alto High School as a basketball star.[3][4]

Senator Wyden was married to Nancy Bass Wyden in September 2005. They have twin children, William
Rose.[5] Senator Wyden also has two adult children, Adam David and Lilly Anne, from his previous marriage to Nancy Oseran.[6]


Senator Wyden received a basketball scholarship after graduating high school from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He transferred to the University of Stanford, where he received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1974. He continued his studies at the University of Oregon School of Law and graduated with a Juris Doctor degree in 1974.[7]

Early Professional Career

In 1974 after graduating from College, Senator Wyden co-founded the Oregon chapter of the advocacy group for the elderly known as the Gray Panthers and served as Co-director until 1980. He also served as Director of the Oregon Legal Services for the Elderly from 1977 to 1979. The Senator taught Gerontology at different universities in Oregon before he started his political career.[8]

Political Career

Wyden started his political career as member of the United States House of Representatives of the 97th Congress on January 3, 1981 at the age of 31. He represented the third district of Oregon and was re-elected in seven succeeding Congressional elections until his resignation on February 5, 1996.[9]

Following his resignation as Congressman in 1996, Wyden entered the Senate race in Oregon during a special election to fill the seat vacated by former Republican Sen. Bob Packwood, who resigned before his term expired due to the unanimous decision of the Senate Ethics Committee to expel him from office because of ethical misconduct.[10] Wyden defeated Republican nominee Gordon Smith by a narrow margin, 48% to 47%.[11] He was sworn in as United States Senator on February 5, 1996 and was re-elected to a full term during the 1998 Senatorial race against John Lim, which he won by a large 61% to 31% margin.[12] In 2004, he won with 63% votes against his opponent Al King’s 31% votes,[13] and in 2010, he defeated Jim Huffman by 18%.[14]

Reputation as a Lawmaker

Senator Ron Wyden has established a reputation as a lawmaker with an independent voice, serving not just his constituents in the State of Oregon but all Americans. He is known as one of the leaders of bipartisan legislation. He tries to offer creative, common sense solutions on issues that will provide great impact on the lives of people. One of his priorities as a lawmaker is Health Care Reform, and he is known as one of the leading voices in the Senate to address the issue. He has pushed for the passage of the Healthy Americans Act through bipartisan legislation since 1994.[15]

In 1997, he collaborated with Iowa Sen. Charles Grassly (R) for the passage of a provision in the Senate Reform Bill to scrap secret holds, which would require any senator to reveal his identity if he did not agree on a particular legislation or nominee. Wyden and Grassley's bipartisan effort earned a majority vote (84-13) from their colleagues in the Senate in 2006.[16] In 2010 the two Senators began working together again to end secret holds as part of the Wall Street Reform Bill.[17]

In 2009, Wyden worked with Sen. Olympia Snowe from Maine to incorporate a provision in the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 requiring financial institutions who received bail-out money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to repay the cash portion of any bonus paid in excess of $100,000 or face an excise tax of 35% if not repaid within 120 days after the enactment of the amendment.[18]

Legislative Efforts/Actions on Internet Related Issues

Internet Tax Freedom Act

Senator Ron Wyden is a strong advocate for the issue of Digital Rights for All Americans. Together with with Congressman Chris Cox, they sponsored the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which prohibits multiple new, technologically discriminatory taxes targeted at the Internet. The Internet Tax Freedom Act was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on November 2008.[19]

Internet Non-Discrimination Act of 2006

On March 2, 2006, Wyden introduced the Internet Non-Discrimination Act of 2006, a bill to ensure and promote a free and open Internet for all Americans, or Internet neutrality. If enacted, the bill would prevent network operators from interfering with any content or services transmitted through the network, or from discriminating subscribers through bandwidth allocation and charging companies for faster delivery of contents. The bill also aimed to protect consumers from Internet threats such as adware, viruses, spam, inappropriate and harmful materials for minors.[20] According to Wyden, his proposal is "plain and simple." He aims to keep the Internet "free from discrimination at all times."[21]

Action Against COICA

Sen. Wyden strongly opposed the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), which was proposed by Sen. Patrick Leahy on September 20, 2010. The proposed bill grants the Attorney General the power to execute in rem action against domain names dedicated in infringing activities, even if they are located outside the United States. Once the court issues an injunction or temporary restraining order against the domain names, the registrar, registry, Internet service provider (ISP), financial transaction provider, or Internet advertising service provider is to lock or stop doing business with the offending domain name.[22] In a speech delivered during the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Hearing, Sen. Wyden pointed out that he supported the objective of his fellow lawmakers to go after entities who are "stealing American intellectual property." But the senator also emphasized that any legislation should be passed without going against the First Amendment. In addition, he enumerated six points to consider in creating legislation that would not violate the First Amendment and would not cause harm to the Internet architecture. Based on his speech, these points included:[23]

  1. Don’t be hasty- Good public policy is not made on the back of a galloping horse. While both Congress and law enforcement are understandably eager to go after bad actors, both must be mindful of the precedents that they are setting in the U.S. and around the world. The law is best applied when the government’s assertions can be challenged before its actions are approved.
  2. Avoid collateral damage-Granting law enforcement broad authority to censor online content has a chilling effect on free speech. Narrowly focusing law enforcement’s authority on those who are deliberately breaking the law or infringing on others’ property rights for commercial gain.
  3. Preserve Fair Use and secondary liability protections- These safeguards are fundamental to Internet commerce and explain why American companies have been so successful in the global marketplace. The network effect is such a powerful driver of commerce on the Internet that any restriction on links and referrals is a serious barrier to economic activity.
  4. Be mindful of how remedies can threaten and shape the integrity or architecture of the Internet- Decisions made today can have lasting results.
  5. Avoid taking actions that will empower foreign regimes to censor the Internet- The United States has led the world in promoting free speech; our example cannot be allowed to give authoritarian regimes any excuse to go backwards.
  6. Recognize the difference between copyright infringement and counterfeits- A one-size-fits-all approach towards trademarks and copyright may not be appropriate.

In separate statements, Wyden promised that he would do everything in his capacity to block the passage of the bill in the Senate. According to him, COICA was the "wrong medicine" to combat online copyright infringement. He further describe the bill as a "bunker-busting cluster bomb" that would damage American innovation, jobs, and the security of the Internet.[24] The bill was never enacted.

Fight Against PIPA

On May 12, 2011, Senator Patrick Leahy introduced the Protect IP ACT of 2011 (PIPA), which was supported by 40 other senators in the Senate. The provisions of the bill were similar to COICA, which had been introduced the previous year by Sen. Leahy. As expected, Sen. Wyden is against PIPA and has promised to filibuster the bill on the Senate floor. He plans to reach out to his colleagues, both Republican and Democrat, and explain to them his reasons for widespread opposition against PIPA. The Senate was scheduled to vote for the passage of the bill on January 24, 2012.[25][26]

OPEN Act: Alternative Bill to PIPA

On December 17, 2011, Senator Wyden issued a press release informing the public that he had created a bipartisan coalition with Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Maria Cantwell (D-Washinton) to sponsor an alternative bill to protect intellectual property rights without harming current Internet architecture. The proposed legislation will be called Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN). According to the Senators, OPEN will target websites that are "willfully" and "primarily" infringing on copy-written materials. Violators will be subject to investigation through the International Trade Commission (ITC), and websites will only be shutdown once proven guilty. Senator Wyden said, “The OPEN act meets the same publicly-stated goals as SOPA or Protect IP without causing massive damage to the Internet. The OPEN act expands the ability of the ITC to investigate IP infringement -- providing a forum for due process without messing with the inner workings of the Internet. They believe that the same goals are met, without the collateral damage that SOPA and Protect IP will leave in their wake.”[27]

The Draft of the OPEN Act is available here.

Comment on ICANN Ethics Rules

On September 14, 2011, Sen. Wyden wrote to NTIA Assistant Secretary Lawrence Strickling about the issue of the "revolving door" at ICANN, referencing how some of the organization's staff and Board members had left their positions after obtaining high-paying industry positions. In his letter, Wyden pointed out that sale of domain names has become a multi-million dollar industry and it is expected to experience a significant growth due to the recent approval of ICANN's new gTLD expansion program. Sen. Wyden emphasized that he supported NTIA regulating Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, and suggested that IANA employees should be made subject to the same ethics rules as NTIA employees, in order to ensure that decisions are made impartially.[28] Senator Wyden recommended the inclusion of strict ethics guidelines highlighting transparency in the next contract negotiation for the administration of the IANA functions, whether it is made with ICANN or to any other organization.[29]

Wyden raised his concern after several reports and criticisms were written about the "revolving door" issue when Peter Dengate Thrush joined Minds+Machines as Executive Chairman of the company on July 15, 2011, immediately following the expiration of his term as Chairman of the ICANN Board on June 24, 2011. Minds+Machines is a company dedicated to providing domain name management solutions, including for new gTLD applications; Mr. Thrush voted for the approval of the implementation of the new gTLD Expansion Program, which opened on January 12, 2012.[30]

In response, Asst. Sec. Strickling informed Sen. Wyden that NTIA was actively exploring including provisions in the next IANA contract that would provide “a clear and enforced ethics and conflict of interest policy.” Strickling also cited the Notices of Inquiry conducted by the agency in connection with the IANA contract on February and June of 2011, wherein 136 comments were submitted by various Internet stakeholders who had also expressed their observation that ICANN's policies on accountability and transparency needs to be elevated.[31]

Award Received from the Electronic Frontier Foundation

On November 15, 2011, Sen. Wyden was one of the recipients of the 20th Pioneer Awards from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in recognition for his continuous advocacy in promoting online privacy rights, freedom of speech, and innovation. The foundation commended Wyden’s effort in adding Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides immunity to ISPs from liability related to restricting customers who publish harmful or inappropriate materials on the Internet. EFF also praised Wyden’s commitment to blocking the enactment of the Protect IP Act, which aimed to protect intellectual property rights but would've potentially curtailed freedom of speech and innovation and the present Internet architecture.[32]


  1. Meet Ron Wyden
  2. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  3. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) Path to Power
  4. Palo Alto To Honor Local Boy
  5. Wyden twins head home with parents
  6. About Senator Wyden
  7. United States Senator Ron Wyden Quick Facts
  8. National Journal Almanac-Sen. Ron Wyden (D)
  9. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  10. Packwood Resigns
  11. Democrat Wyden Wins U.S. Senate Race in Oregon
  12. 1998 Senatorial General Election Results-Oregon
  13. 2004 Senatorial General Election Results-Oregon
  14. 2010 Senatorial General Election Results-Oregon
  15. National Journal Almanac-Sen. Ron Wyden (D)
  16. Senate Approves Wyden-Grassley Plan to Get Rid of Secret Holds
  17. Wyden, Grassley want end to secret holds as part of Wall Street reform bill
  18. Wyden-Snowe Amendment Will Recover Taxpayer Dollars Paid-Out as Wall Street Bonuses
  19. Cox and Wyden Introduce Internet Non-Discrimination Act
  20. Bill Summary and Status Internet Non-Discrimination Act
  21. Internet Non-discrimination Act of 2006
  23. The Honorable Ron Wyden, Statement for the Record, U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary Hearing, “Targeting Websites Dedicated To Stealing American Intellectual Property”- February 16, 2011
  24. Senator Threatens to Block Online Copyright Bill
  25. Senate will vote next month on Protect IP copyright bill
  26. Wyden Delivers Floor Speech on the Motion to Proceed to Protect IP- Reaffirms his promise to filibuster the bill when it is brought to the floor in January
  27. Wyden, Moran, Cantwell Introduce IP Protection Bill that Will Not Break the Net
  28. Wyden Calls for Ethics Rules to Prevent Revolving Door for Internet Domain Name Regulators
  29. US extends ICANN’s IANA contract
  30. ICANN departures after Web suffix vote draw criticism
  31. NTIA Actively Exploring Inclusion of Ethics and Conflict of Interest Provisions in IANA Contract
  32. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) 20th Annual Pioneer Awards