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William Weld

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William Weld

William Weld
68th Governor of Massachusetts
In office
January 3, 1991 – July 29, 1997
Lieutenant Paul Cellucci
Preceded by Michael Dukakis
Succeeded by Paul Cellucci
United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts
In office
Preceded by Edward F. Harrington
Succeeded by Robert Mueller Acting
Personal details
Born William Floyd Weld
(1945-07-31) July 31, 1945
Smithtown, New York, United States
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Susan Roosevelt (1975–2002)
Leslie Marshall
Alma mater Harvard College
University College, Oxford
Harvard Law School
Religion Episcopalian

William Floyd Weld (born July 31, 1945) is an American attorney, businessman and Republican politician from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Weld, a moderate Republican, served as the United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts from 1981 to 1986 and as the head of the Department of Justice Criminal Division from 1986 to 1988.

He was elected Governor of Massachusetts in 1990 and served as the 68th Governor from 1991 to 1997. He was re-elected by the largest margin in Massachusetts' history in 1994 and was the Republican nominee for the United States Senate in 1996, losing to incumbent Democrat John Kerry. He resigned as Governor in 1997 to focus on his nomination by President Bill Clinton to serve as United States Ambassador to Mexico, but because of opposition by the more conservative Senate Foreign Relations committee Chairman Jesse Helms, he withdrew his nomination. He subsequently returned to the private sector and moved back to his home state of New York, where he launched an abortive attempt to be elected Governor of New York in 2006.


  • Background 1
    • Early career 1.1
  • Political career 2
    • U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts 2.1
    • Promotion to Justice Department 2.2
    • Governor of Massachusetts 2.3
      • Cabinet and administration 2.3.1
    • 1996 Senate Election 2.4
    • Ambassadorship nomination and resignation 2.5
  • Later career 3
  • Candidacy for Governor of New York 4
  • Presidential endorsements 5
    • 2008 presidential election 5.1
    • 2012 presidential election 5.2
  • Personal life 6
  • Books authored 7
  • Electoral history 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


William Weld's ancestor Edmund Weld was among the earliest students (Class of 1650) at Harvard College. He would be followed by eighteen more Welds at Harvard, where two buildings are named for the family. General Stephen Minot Weld Jr. fought with distinction in many major battles of the Civil War.

William Weld has a sense of humor about his background; when Massachusetts Senate president Billy Bulger publicly teased him about his all-American heritage and wealth, pointing out that his ancestors had come over on the Mayflower, Weld rose on the dais with a correction: "Actually, they weren't on the Mayflower. They sent the servants over first to get the cottage ready."[1]

Weld's father David (1911–1972) was an investment banker; his mother, Mary Nichols Weld (1913–1986), was a descendant of William Floyd, who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. His siblings are Dr. Francis "Tim" Weld, David Weld (d. 2005), and Anne (m. Collins).

Weld was educated at Middlesex School. He graduated with an A.B. Summa Cum Laude from Harvard College in 1966, studied economics at University College, Oxford, and graduated with a J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1970.

Early career

Weld began his legal career as a counsel with the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate impeachment inquiry, where one of his colleagues was Hillary Rodham. In 1978, he ran unsuccessfully for Massachusetts Attorney General, losing to Democratic incumbent Francis X. Bellotti by 1,532,835 votes (78.43%) to 421,417 (21.56%).

Following his appointment as United States Attorney for Massachusetts in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan, Weld expanded an ongoing public corruption investigation of the administration of Boston Mayor Kevin White. More than 20 city employees were indicted, pleaded guilty, or were convicted of a range of charges, including several key political supporters of the Mayor. He served for five years as United States Attorney.

Political career

U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts

In 1981, William Weld was recommended to President Reagan by Rudolph W. Giuliani, then Associate U.S. Attorney General, for appointment as the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts. During Weld’s tenure, the Attorney General’s office prosecuted some of New England’s largest banks in cases involving money laundering and other white-collar crimes. In 1985, the Boston Globe said Weld “has been by far the most visible figure in the prosecution of financial institutions.”

Weld gained national recognition in fighting public corruption: he won 109 convictions out of 111 cases.

In 1983, the Boston Globe stated: "The U.S. Attorney's office has not lost a single political corruption case since Weld took over, an achievement believed to be unparalleled in the various federal jurisdictions."

Promotion to Justice Department

In 1986, President Reagan promoted Weld to head of the Criminal Division of the Justice Department in Washington, where Weld oversaw 700 employees. Weld was responsible for supervising all federal prosecutions, including those investigated by the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration, as well as the work of the 93 U.S. Attorneys (who by then included Rudy Giuliani in Manhattan). During this time, Weld worked on some of the Reagan administration’s most significant prosecutions and investigations, including the capture of Panama’s Manuel Noriega on drug trafficking charges.

In March 1988, Weld resigned from the Justice Department, together with United States Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns and four aides, in protest of improper conduct by U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese.[2] In July 1988, Weld and Burns jointly testified before Congress in favor a potential prosecution of Meese for his personal financial conduct, following a report by a special prosecutor investigating Meese.[2] Meese resigned from office in July 1988 shortly after Weld's and Burns' testimony.[2]

Governor of Massachusetts

In 1990, Weld announced his candidacy for Governor of Massachusetts, to replace the out-going Michael Dukakis.[3] Although Republicans made up under 14% of the Massachusetts electorate and a Republican had not won the gubernatorial election since 1970, Weld's moderate stances on social issues made him a viable candidate for office in the heavily Democratic state.[4] At the state Republican convention, party officials backed Steven Pierce over Weld, and initial polling had Pierce ahead by 25 percentage points.[5] Weld gained enough support to force a primary, and in an upset election, Weld won the Republican nomination over Pierce by a 60–40 margin.[6]

In the general election, he faced John Silber, the president of Boston University. Polls showed Weld anywhere from a statistical tie to trailing by as many as ten points.[7] Voter dissatisfaction with the state's Democratic majority gave Weld support for his promises to reduce the state deficit, lower the unemployment rate, and cut taxes.[8] On November 6, 1990, he was elected as the 68th Governor of Massachusetts by a 50–47 margin, to become the first Republican governor of Massachusetts since Francis W. Sargent left office in 1975.

During his governorship, Weld ended the state's borrowing, controlled Medicaid spending, reduced property taxes, and balanced seven budgets in a row (in a state where a balanced budget is constitutionally mandated but haphazardly enforced) while passing 19 tax cuts and never raising taxes. The business community reacted strongly to Weld's leadership. In a 1994 survey of chief executives conducted by the Massachusetts High Technology Council, 83% of those polled rated the state's business climate as good or excellent—up from only 33% at the beginning of his term. Proponents might claim that Weld's leadership changed the minds of 50% of the CEOs surveyed while others would note the national economic trends or other factors might play a part. Weld also reaped the benefits of the 1990s prosperity, as the state's unemployment rate fell by more than 3 percentage points during his first term, from 9.6% in 1991 to 6.4% in 1994. As a result, Weld received grades of A in 1992,[9][10] B in 1994,[11][12] and B in 1996[13][14] from the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, in their biennial Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's Governors.

In 1994, Weld won reelection with an impressive 71% of the vote in the most one-sided gubernatorial contest in Massachusetts electoral history. Weld carried all but five towns in the whole state, even carrying Boston.

Cabinet and administration

The Weld Cabinet
Governor William Weld 1991 – 1997
Lt. Governor Paul Cellucci 1991 – 1997
Secretary of Transportation and Construction Richard L. Taylor
James Kerasiotes
1991 – 1992
1992 – 1997
Secretary of Housing & Community Development Steven Pierce
Mary L. Padula
1991 – 1991
1991 – 1996
Secretary of Environmental Affairs Susan Tierney
Trudy Coxe
1991 – 1993
1993 – 1997
Secretary of Consumer Affairs Gloria Cordes Larson
Priscilla Douglas
Nancy Merrick
1991 – 1993
1993 – 1996
1996 – 1997
Secretary of Health and Human Services David P. Forsberg
Charlie Baker
Gerald Whitburn
Joseph V. Gallant
William D. O'Leary
1991 – 1992
1992 – 1994
1995 – 1996
1996 – 1997
1997 – 1997
Secretary of Elder Affairs Franklin P. Ollivierre 1991 – 1997
Secretary of Labor Christine Morris 1991 – 1996
Secretary of Administration & Finance Peter Nessen
Mark E. Robinson
Charlie Baker
1991 – 1993
1993 – 1994
1994 – 1997
Secretary of Public Safety James B. Roche
Thomas C. Rapone
Kathleen O'Toole
1991 – 1992
1992 – 1994
1994 – 1997
Director of Economic Affairs Stephen Tocco
Gloria Cordes Larson
1991 – 1993
1993 – 1996
Secretary of Education Piedad Robertson
Michael Sentance
1991 – 1995
1995 – 1996

1996 Senate Election

On November 30, 1995, Weld announced that he would challenge incumbent Democratic Senator John Kerry in the 1996 election.[15] Weld, who was among the first reasonably well-funded Republican Senate candidates in Massachusetts since Edward Brooke was unseated in 1978, said of the race, "I've spent some time recently considering where I can do the most good for the people of Massachusetts, and right now the fights that matter most to the people of this state are in another arena, Congress."[15]

The race was covered nationwide as one of the most closely watched Senate races that year. Kerry and Weld held several debates and negotiated a campaign spending cap of $6.9 million at Kerry's Beacon Hill mansion. In the end, Senator Kerry won re-election with 53 percent to Weld's 45 percent—the last seriously contested Senate race in Massachusetts until the special election for Ted Kennedy's seat in 2010.

Ambassadorship nomination and resignation

In July 1997, Weld was nominated to become United States Ambassador to Mexico by President Bill Clinton. His nomination stalled after Senate Foreign Relations committee Chairman Jesse Helms refused to hold a hearing on the nomination, effectively blocking it. Helms was also a Republican and their party held the majority in the chamber, but Helms objected to Weld's moderate stance on social issues such as his support for gay rights, abortion rights, and the legalisation of medical marijuana. This refusal to hold hearings was also rumored to be at the request of former United States Attorney General and friend of Helms, Edwin Meese. Meese had a long-standing grudge against Weld stemming from Weld's investigation of Meese during the Iran-Contra affair. Weld publicly criticised Helms, which the White House discouraged him from doing, but Weld relished the opportunity, saying: "It feels like being in a campaign. I feel newly energized. I love to stir up the pot. I seem to click on more cylinders when the pot is stirred up." Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said that Weld's chances of being confirmed weren't "very good, and he hurt himself by attacking the chairman unfairly and with political rhetoric that was just uncalled for." There was speculation that the White House would let his nomination "die", but he refused, saying that he hoped President Clinton "does not plan to give in to ideological extortion" and that "I wanted to send a message that I wanted to be captain of my ship [the nomination] even if it's going to bottom." Some speculated that attacking the more conservative Helms was a way to position him to pick up votes from fellow moderate Republicans in a potential run for President in 2000, but he rejected this, saying that "I've had a lot of people come up to me on the street and say, 'Give 'em hell. That's the Bill Weld we know and love.'"[16]

Weld resigned the governorship on July 29, 1997, to devote his full attention to campaigning for the ambassadorship, even though few thought he would be successful; there was speculation that he was really resigning because he had tired of serving as Governor. A bipartisan majority of Senators signed letters demanding that Helms advance his nomination, but he refused.[17] After an intensive six-week battle,[18] Weld conceded defeat and withdrew his nomination on September 15, 1997. He commented sarcastically, "I asked President Clinton to withdraw my name from the Senate so I can go back to New England, where no one has to approach the government on bended knee to ask it to do its duty."[19]

Later career

Weld ran the Manhattan office of Chicago based international law firm McDermott Will & Emery. He has also worked for the New York Private Equity firm Leeds, Weld & Co. until his exit in 2005, when the company's name was changed to Leeds Equity Partners.

Weld has also flirted with the arts. He writes thriller novels for the mass market and has done a little acting.

During the re-election campaign of President debates.

William Weld was seen taking the New York State Bar examination at the Jacob Javits Convention Center on February 27 and 28, 2007. His name appeared on the pass list for the February 2007 New York State Bar Examination. Weld was admitted to practice law in the State of New York in 2008.

In February 2013, Weld publicly supported legal recognition for same-sex marriage in an amicus brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court.[20]

Candidacy for Governor of New York

Despite having served as Governor of Massachusetts, Weld has lived in New York since 2000. On April 24, 2005, it was reported that he was in talks with the Sam Houston to serve as Governor of two different U.S. states. His main opponent in the GOP race was former Assembly Minority Leader John Faso. Early in the campaign, former New York Secretary of State Randy Daniels and Assemblyman Patrick Manning also waged campaigns for the governorship.

In December 2005, Weld received the backing of the Republican county chairs of New York State during a county chairs meeting. Several chairs of large counties abstained from voting or did not attend the meeting, which led to talk that Weld was not as popular as thought. During his early campaign, Weld was publicly endorsed by Republican State Chairman Stephen J. Minarik and was rumored to be backed by Pataki. Despite reports of a possible public endorsement by Pataki, no endorsement was made.

On April 29, 2006, Weld received the Libertarian Party's nomination.[21]

On May 31, 2006, Weld started the Republican State Convention by announcing his choice of New York Secretary of State Christopher Jacobs of Buffalo as his running mate for lieutenant governor. In the following days, Weld received some criticism for his choice of Secretary Jacobs, because Jacobs had donated $250 to the gubernatorial campaign of Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in 2004. Weld said he chose Jacobs, a member of the Buffalo Board of Education, because of Jacobs' work on education reform and upstate economic development issues. Secretary Jacobs has been an advocate of charter schools and for the revitalization of the upstate economy. Weld also said he chose Secretary Jacobs because he was an "Albany outsider" and could bring this perspective to state government. When he was selected by Weld, Jacobs had only served for six weeks as secretary of state in Pataki's Cabinet.

On June 1, 2006, the Republican State Convention voted 61% to 39% to endorse Faso. On June 5, Stephen J. Minarik, the chairman of the state Republican Party, who had been Weld's most prominent backer, called on Weld to withdraw in the interest of party unity.[22] Weld formally announced his withdrawal from the race the following day and returned to private life.

Spitzer would go on to defeat Faso by the largest margin in New York gubernatorial history, winning 70–28.[23]

Presidential endorsements

2008 presidential election

Weld publicly endorsed Mitt Romney for the presidency on January 8, 2007. Weld served as the co-chairman for Romney's campaign in New York State.[24] On the same day that Weld endorsed Romney, Gov. and Mrs. Weld also raised $50,000 for Romney's exploratory committee. Weld personally made a donation of $2,100, the maximum allowed per person per election at the time. He later donated another $200 (the new maximum allowed was $2,300).

Weld was also active in campaigning for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in New Hampshire where both Governors have been known to travel together. Weld went on to endorse Barack Obama over John McCain for the presidency of the United States.[25]

2012 presidential election

Weld endorsed Mitt Romney in the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election.[26]

Personal life

Weld's first wife, Susan Roosevelt Weld, formerly a professor at Harvard University specializing in ancient Chinese civilization and law and then General Counsel to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, is a great granddaughter of Theodore Roosevelt. They married on June 7, 1975,[27] and had five children (David, Ethel, Mary, Quentin and Frances). They divorced in 2002. His second and present wife, the writer and novelist Leslie Marshall, is a former daughter-in-law of Ben Bradlee of The Washington Post.

Weld was a principal at Leeds, Weld & Co., which describes itself as the United States's largest private equity fund focused on investing in the education and training industry. Weld co-chaired the Independent Task Force on North America under the Council on Foreign Relations, which studied the integration of the USA, Canada and Mexico.

Books authored

Weld has written three novels for the mass market:

  1. Stillwater ISBN 0-15-602723-2
  2. Mackerel By Moonlight ISBN 0-671-03874-5
  3. Big Ugly ISBN 0-7434-1037-8

Electoral history


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  21. ^ Hammer of Truth
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External links

  • Appearances on C-SPAN
  • USA Today interview July, 2000
  • Clinton Impeachment testimony
  • NACDL Notes on the Kevin White investigation
  • Official Commonwealth of Massachusetts Governor Biography
Legal offices
Preceded by
Edward Harrington
U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Robert Mueller
Party political offices
Preceded by
George Kariotis
Republican nominee for Governor of Massachusetts
1990, 1994
Succeeded by
Paul Cellucci
Preceded by
Jim Rappaport
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Massachusetts
(Class 2)

Succeeded by
Jeff Beatty
Political offices
Preceded by
Michael Dukakis
Governor of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Paul Cellucci
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