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Mike Gravel

"The United States is the largest economic unit in the world. Responsible stewardship of our economy requires that we maintain our superpower status, not only in terms of military capability, but in equally important areas such as the strength and solvency of our economy, the educational and physical health of our population, and a firm commitment to our moral principles and spiritual values. Strength in all these areas is vital to maintain our superpower status." - Mike Gravel

Statistics -

CAMPAIGN SLOGAN: "Let the People Decide."
FULL NAME: Maurice Robert Gravel
DATE OF BIRTH: May 13, 1930
AGE: 77
SPOUSE: Whitney Stewart
CHILDREN: Martin and Lynne
PETS: Ginger - Dog
RESIDENCE: Arlington County, VA
RELIGION: Unitarian
PROFESSION: Politician, Real Estate Developer
FAVORITE BOOK/LAST READ: Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower; American Theocracy; Collapse; House of War
TALENTS: Speaks French, can drive a cab and brake a train, skilled at house painting & construction
LAST MUSIC PURCHASE: Mozart, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Edith Piaf, John Lennon

QUICK FACT: Mike, a dyslexic, is most prominently known for his release of the Pentagon Papers, the secret official study that revealed the lies and manipulations of successive U.S. administrations that misled the country into the Vietnam War.  In addition, he waged a successful one-man filibuster in 1971 for five months that forced the Nixon administration to cut a deal, effectively ending the draft in the United States. 


Biography -

Maurice Robert "Mike" Gravel is a former two-term Democratic United States Senator from Alaska and is primarily known for his efforts in ending the draft following the Vietnam War and for having put into the public record the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Gravel and his second wife, Whitney Stewart Gravel, live in Arlington County, Virginia. They have two grown children, Martin Gravel and Lynne Gravel Mosier.

Gravel was born in Springfield, Massachusetts to French-Canadian immigrant parents, Marie Bourassa and Alphonse Gravel. There, he was raised and educated, in parochial schools, as a Roman Catholic, attending Assumption College Preparatory School. Gravel enlisted in the United States Army in 1951 and served in the Counter Intelligence Corps until 1954. A dyslexic, who talks about his learning disability openly, he attended Columbia University's School of General Studies, where he studied economics. Gravel was married to the former Rita Martin from 1958 until around 1980.

Gravel moved to Alaska in 1956, without funds or a job, looking for a place he could become a politician. He found work in several areas, including real estate sales, brakeman for the Alaska Railroad, and a successful property developer on the Kenai Peninsula. Meanwhile, he ran unsuccessfully for the territorial legislature in 1958 and for the Anchorage City Council in 1960. He ran for the Alaska House of Representatives representing Anchorage in 1962 and won. Gravel served in the Alaska House of Representatives from 1963 to 1966, winning re-election in 1964. During 1965 and 1966, he served as the Speaker of the House. He did not run for re-election in 1966, instead choosing to run for Alaska's seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, losing to incumbent Democrat Ralph Rivers.

In 1968 he ran against incumbent Democratic Senator Ernest Gruening, a popular former governor, for his party's nomination to the U.S. Senate. Gravel's campaign was based on his youth and his use of persuasive television advertisements, and he unexpectedly beat Gruening in the primary and went on to win the general election, gaining 45% of the vote against 37% for Republican Elmer E. Rasmuson and 18% for Gruening, who ran a write-in campaign as an Independent. Gravel served on the Environment and Public Works Committee throughout his Senate career. He also served on the Finance and Interior Committees and he chaired the Energy, Water Resources, and Environmental Pollution subcommittees.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s the Pentagon was in the process of performing calibration tests for a nuclear warhead that, upon investigation, was revealed to be obsolete. The Cannikin tests involved the detonation of nuclear bombs under the seabed of the North Pacific at Amchitka Island, Alaska. Gravel opposed the tests in Congress and organized worldwide environmental opposition to their continuation. The program was halted after the second test. Nuclear power was considered an environmentally clean alternative for the commercial generation of electricity and was part of a popular national policy for the peaceful use of atomic energy in the 1950s and 1960s. Gravel publicly opposed this policy in 1970. He used his office to organize citizen opposition to the policy and to persuade Ralph Nader's organization to join the opposition.

In 1971 Gravel played a key role in the release of the Pentagon Papers — a large collection of secret government documents pertaining to the Vietnam War — which were made public by former Defense Department analyst Daniel Ellsberg. Gravel inserted 4,100 pages of the Papers into the Congressional Record of his Senate Subcommittee on Buildings and Grounds. These pages were later issued by the Beacon Press as the "Senator Gravel Edition" — the most complete edition of the Pentagon Papers to be published. The "Gravel Edition" was edited and annotated by Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, and included an additional volume of analytical articles on the origins and progress of the war, also edited by Chomsky and Zinn. Also in 1971, Gravel embarked on a one-man filibuster against legislation renewing the military draft. Using various parliamentary maneuvers, Gravel was able to block the bill for five months before President Richard Nixon and Senate Republicans agreed to allow the draft to expire in 1973.

Six months before United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's secret mission to the People's Republic of China in July 1971, Gravel introduced legislation to recognize and normalize relations with the PRC. In 1973, Gravel introduced an amendment to empower the Congress to make the policy decision about the construction of the Alaska Pipeline. The amendment passed the Senate by a single vote. The pipeline has been responsible for 20% of the U.S. oil supply. Gravel opposed the Alaskan fishing industry in advocating American participation in the formation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). For two years he opposed legislation that permitted the U.S. to unilaterally take control of the 200-mile waters bordering its land mass. The legislation was passed, and the United States has signed but never ratified the UNCLOS. He helped secure a private grant to facilitate the first Inuit Circumpolar Conference in 1977, attended by Inuit representatives from Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. These conferences now also include representatives from Russia. In the early 1970s Gravel supported a demonstration project that established links between Alaskan villages and the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, for medical diagnostic communications. Gravel authored and secured the passage into law of the General Stock Ownership Corporation (GSOC), Subchapter U of the Tax Code, as a prerequisite to a failed 1980 Alaskan ballot initiative that would have paid dividends to Alaskan citizens for Pipeline-related revenue.

Gravel actively campaigned for the office of Vice President of the United States during the 1972 presidential election. At the 1972 Democratic National Convention, he was nominated by Bettye Fahrenkamp, the national committeewoman of Alaska. The senator then addressed the convention and won 226 delegate votes, coming in third behind Senator Thomas Eagleton of Missouri, who was convention Presidential nominee George McGovern's choice, and Frances "Sissy" Farenthold of Texas, in chaotic balloting after many delegates were unsatisfied by McGovern's choice. In 1974 Gravel was re-elected to the Senate, winning 58% of the vote against 42% for Republican C. R. Lewis. In 1980 Gravel was challenged for the Democratic Party's nomination by State Representative Clark Gruening, the grandson of the man Gravel had defeated in a primary 12 years earlier. Gruening won the nomination but went on to lose in the general election to Republican Frank Murkowski. 

In the years since, Gravel has been a real estate developer in Anchorage and Kenai, Alaska, consultant, and founder and head of The Democracy Foundation, which promotes direct democracy. Gravel led an effort to get a United States Constitutional amendment to allow voter-initiated federal legislation similar to state ballot initiatives. He argued that Americans are able to legislate responsibly, and that the Act and Amendment in the National Initiative would allow American citizens to become "law makers."

On April 17, 2006, Gravel became a declared candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in the 2008 election, announcing his run in a speech to the National Press Club. Short on campaign cash, he took public transportation to get to his announcement. Gravel's campaign is based primarily on his ardent support for direct democracy (the National Initiative), but also emphasizes his support for a national sales tax and abolition of the IRS, immediate withdrawal from the war in Iraq, a single payer national health care system, and term limits during his campaign.

On April 26, 2007 he took part in the first Democratic presidential debate at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, South Carolina. During the debate he suggested a Democratic bill criminalizing the war in Iraq. He also advocated positions such as opposing preemptive nuclear war. He stated that the Iraq War had the effect of creating more terrorists and that the "war was lost the day that George Bush invaded Iraq on a fraudulent basis". Overall, Gravel gained considerable publicity by shaking up the normally staid multiple-candidate format. In a recent television appearance Mike Gravel discussed numerous positions and suggestions. He suggested a program of "Kelso economics". Responding to a caller on a CSPAN program asking about marijuana and the drug war, Gravel stated “That one is real simple, I would legalize marijuana. You should be able to buy that at a liquor store.” Some of his political leanings and convictions may also be learned from the content of his 1972-published manifesto, Citizen Power, in which he advocated the implementation of numerous populist ideas, such as 

  • a guaranteed annual income (dubbed the "Citizen's Wage"),

  • public financing of elections,

  • progressive tax with no deductions or exemptions,

  • steps against the military-industrial complex (which he calls the "Warfare State"),

  • a national law to do away with voter registration and other barriers to voting,

  • abolition of the death penalty,

  • universal health care, school vouchers,

  • a drastic reduction in government secrecy, and an end to America's imperialistic foreign policy.

The book also contained the complete text of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the complete platform adopted by the Populist Party during the 1892 presidential election.


Platform Issues -

Iraq War:

Senator Gravel's position on Iraq remains clear and consistent: to commence an immediate and orderly withdrawal of all U.S. troops that will have them home within 60 days. The sooner U.S. troops are withdrawn, the sooner we can pursue aggressive diplomacy to bring an end to the civil war that currently consumes Iraq. Senator Gravel seeks to work with neighboring countries to lead a collective effort to bring peace to Iraq.

One of the leading opponents of the Vietnam War, Senator Gravel was one of the first current or former elected officials to publicly oppose the planned invasion of Iraq in 2002. He appeared on MSNBC prior to the invasion insisting that intelligence showed that there were indeed no weapons of mass destruction, that Iraq posed no threat to the United States and that invading Iraq was against America’s national interests and would result in a disaster of epic proportions for both the United States and the Iraqi people.

Today, more than four years into the invasion, the death toll of U.S. troops has climbed over 3,300 with over 50,000 more permanently maimed, some having lost limbs, others their sight. Tens of thousands more are afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and urgently need psychological care. The Iraqi civilian death toll nears three-quarters of a million, and still there remains no end in sight to the bloodshed.

As President, Senator Gravel will call for a U.S. corporate withdrawal from Iraq and hand over reconstruction contracts to Iraqi businesses which will empower Iraqi nationals to reconstruct their own country.


Senator Gravel firmly opposes a military confrontation with Iran and advocates a diplomatic solution to the current situation. Several signs indicate that the Bush administration is moving towards a military confrontation with Iran and Syria; the deployment of a "major strike group" of ships to the Persian Gulf, the detaining of six Iranian officials of a consular office flying the Iranian flag, pointed accusations that both nations are fueling the insurgency in Iraq and the President’s remarks that the U.S. would disrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria to those insurgents. The threat of war against another sovereign nation while wars continue to rage in Iraq, the Palestinian Authority and Afghanistan, only serves to further threaten global stability.

The National Initiative for Democracy:

The National Initiative for Democracy is a federal ballot initiative. The central power of government is lawmaking. Therefore, the people must be empowered to make laws if they are ever to gain control of their government.

Read more about The National Initiative.

Fair Tax:

There is only one entity in the U.S. that pays taxes: the individual. Businesses and corporations do not, they merely collect taxes from consumers of their products and pass on the taxes to the government. The Fair Tax proposal calls for eliminating the IRS and the Income Tax and replacing it with a progressive national Sales Tax on new products and services. To compensate for necessities, such as food, lodging, clothing, etc there would be a “prebate” to reimburse taxpayers for the taxes paid on necessities.

Read more about The Fair Tax.

Global Warming/Climate Change:

Senator Gravel believes that global climate change is a matter of national security. As President, he will act swiftly to reduce America's carbon footprint in the world by passing legislation that caps emissions, and lead the fight against global deforestation, which today is second only to the energy sector as a source of greenhouses gases.

However, any legislation will have little impact on the global environment if we do not work together with other global polluters. Today, China and India are surpassing the U.S. in carbon emissions. Fighting global warming can only be effective if it is a collective global effort. As President, Senator Gravel will see that the U.S. launches and leads a massive global scientific effort to end energy dependence on oil and integrate the world's scientific community in this task.

Universal Healthcare Vouchers:

Senator Gravel advocates a universal health-care voucher program in which the federal government would issue annual health care vouchers to Americans based on their projected needs. Under the Senator's plan, all Americans would be fully covered and would be free to use their vouchers to choose their own health care professional. No one would ever be denied health insurance because of their health, wealth, or any other reason. A universal health-care voucher plan will also relieve American businesses of the financial responsibility of insuring their workers while ensuring that their workers get adequate care.


Senator Gravel favors protecting our borders and monitoring the flow of illegal immigrants into our country. He also favors a guest worker program and setting up naturalization procedures that would fairly bring existing illegal immigrants into legal status.

The senator's position is that America must address the root cause of illegal immigration. Any discussion of Mexican immigration must include NAFTA and the concept of "free trade." The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been a disaster for the working class of both the US and Mexico. A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that over 1,000,000 US jobs were lost as a result of NAFTA, a third of them manufacturing jobs. In Mexico, 1.3 million farm workers lost their jobs in the same period. This has led to a wave of immigrant workers looking for work in the US job market.

Major structural changes must be made to NAFTA in order to restore lost jobs. Reforming unfair trade policies will stimulate job growth on both sides of the border and allow Mexican workers to remain in their motherland. We must make fair trade a priority if we are to rebuild the American middle class.

LGBT Rights:

Senator Gravel supports same-sex marriage and opposes the Defense of Marriage Act. He supports expanding hate-crime legislation and opposes laws that allow discrimination against sexual orientation, as well as discrimination on the basis of one's gender identity or expression. In the absence of full marriage rights, the senator supports domestic partner benefits for all Americans. He strongly opposes the military's 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' legislation on the grounds that it is unconstitutional, as it restricts the rights of gay Americans, and he opposes any state or national constitutional amendment that restricts the rights of the LGBT community.

Social Security:

Senator Mike Gravel wants to put real money, rather than borrowed money, in the Social Security Trust Fund, investing it properly and identifying the interests of individual beneficiaries so they can leave their surplus funds to their heirs. He also calls on Congress to stop raiding the Social Security Trust Fund. This is key to ensuring that Social Security will be around long after the Baby Boomers are gone for the next generation of Americans who have paid into it.

Veterans Affairs:

Senator Mike Gravel enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1951 and served for three years as an adjutant in the Communications Services and as a Special Agent in the Counter Intelligence Corps. Our war veterans are not, as some would have it, a “special interest” but are our primary interest. As President, Sen. Gravel would ensure that veterans receive full and unambiguous funding for their most important needs, including health care that is indexed to the increasing cost of care and medicine. He would also make permanent the 100 percent disability ratings of those diagnosed as suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He would also make sure that the VA system is fully financed and has sufficient well-trained personnel to provide the finest care that is available. As the senator says, “We can do no less and will do much more.”


No Child Left Behind has left far too many children behind. We have a dire situation in America; 30% of our kids do not graduate from high school. Nearly a third of our children are condemned to a substandard economic existence. Education in America must be properly funded. However, money will not solve all the problems. For example, Washington D.C. ranks first in dollars spent, yet ranks last in achievement. We need to approach education comprehensively. We must properly fund education while raising the overall standard of living in America and making education a vital part of a healthy, thriving community.

Prison/Drug Reform:

The United States incarcerates more people and at a higher rate than any other peacetime nation in the world. According to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics the number of US residents behind bars has now reached more than 2.3 million.

We are losing an entire generation of young men and women to our prisons. Our nation’s ineffective and wasteful “war on drugs” plays a major role in this. We must place a greater emphasis on rehabilitation and prevention. We must de-criminalize minor drug offenses and increase the availability and visibility of substance abuse treatment and prevention in our communities as well as in jails and prisons.

We must increase the use of special drug courts in which addicted offenders are given the opportunity to complete court supervised substance abuse treatment instead of being sentenced to prison. We must eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing laws. We must increase the use of alternative penalties for nonviolent drug offenders. Drug defendants convicted of nonviolent offenses should not be given mandatory prison sentences. We should emphasize the criminalization of the importers, manufacturers, and major distributors, rather than just the street venders. Prisons in this country should be a legitimate criminal sanction -- but it should be an extension of a fair, just and wise society.

2nd Amendment Rights:

While Senator Gravel fully supports the 2nd Amendment, he believes that fundamental change must take place with regards to gun ownership. The senator advocates a licensing program where a potential gun owner must be licensed as well as properly trained with a firearm before they may own one.

Women's Right to Choose:

Senator Gravel supports a woman's right to choose and a woman's control over her own body. That is why the Senator supports the Constitutional right of all Americans to privacy under the 14th Amendment and the 1973 Supreme Court Case, Roe v. Wade, which upholds this principle. Any decision on reproductive rights should remain between a woman and her doctor. There should be no room for interference from politicians and judges.


Voting Record -

For Gravel's Voting Record on issues such as Abortion, Civil Rights, Environment, Gun Control, Immigration, and more, please see:



"There are Americans who say that by leaving Iraq, we would be saying that our soldiers died in vain. But the only thing worse than soldiers dying in vain, is more soldiers dying in vain. The longer our presence sustains the violence, the more innocent civilians will die as well.” 

"We have become a nation ruled by fear. Since the end of the Second World War, various political leaders have fostered fear in the American people--fear of Communism, fear of terrorism, fear of immigrants, fear of people based on race and religion, fear of Gays and Lesbian in love who just want to get married, and fear of people who are somehow different. It is fear that allows political leaders to manipulate us all and distort our national priorities."

"What is the essence of this country that we are being patriotic about? A real love of America -- an authentic patriotism -- must be based on more than a moralizing grumph, a smug assertion, a bumper-sticker slogan. We've all heard the phrase, "my country right or wrong." I think we can all agree, this leaves something to be desired. No, I think a true patriotism -- a truly MacArthuresque love of country -- can leave some room for loving the sinner, but hating the sin. The American who calls a critic or doubter to task as un-American is -- himself -- in that instant, the true anti-patriot. It is the American who defends the right to disagree, and who hears and sees and embraces the voices of diversity, who is the truest and greatest lover of America."

"We can feed the collective fantasy that our good intentions and heroic efforts were thwarted by the cowardice and incompetence of others. But if that's what we take from our experience in Iraq, we will never learn the true lessons and we will be condemned to repeat the same mistakes."

"The inability to admit a mistake and assume responsibility is not just a morally bankrupt way to walk through life; it is a dangerous and deadly way to lead a nation. When I am president, I will open up all secret files relating to the Iraq war and expose all officials who lied to the public in promoting it. (That's right, Dick, your files too.) My Justice Department will prosecute everyone who lied under oath or ripped off the American taxpayer by exploiting the Iraq reconstruction effort. And I will pardon no one."

"Those who seek national leadership positions must tell Americans the truth. Americans can handle the truth. Having reliable information is the only way to dispel the fear-based culture that our leaders have drugged us with for the last 60 years, concealing reality. The reality is, the United States is No. 1 only in weaponry, consumer spending, government and personal debt, in the number of people we have in prison and, I would say, in delusion." 

"We are a moral and fair-minded people. As a nation, we must put aside our arrogance and demand that our leaders work together with other nations and peoples, treating them as equals. There is no other way to reverse the environmental threat of global warming, a threat more real than nuclear proliferation. In the global village, the United States produces the most pollution and supplies the largest amount of weaponry, facts that our leadership ignores. We have a failure of leadership––a leadership that fails to face reality."

"Politicians are averse to dealing critically with the military establishment and our defense policies for fear of having their patriotism questioned. We should be guided by President Eisenhower's warning that an inordinate emphasis on military power breeds a culture of militarism that threatens other vital areas of our society; and that eventually, an inordinate emphasis on military power will guarantee our collapse as a great nation and as a democracy. Unfortunately, no president since Dwight Eisenhower has even dared to acknowledge the problem."

"The U.S. as the mightiest nation in the world claims the right to police the world, but the cost of this declared right is a bloated defense budget and a defense industry that knows no limits. Our militarized economy is both a direct cost to American taxpayers and an indirect cost in the loss of funding for education, healthcare, and infrastructure. Some around the world are beginning to ask: who polices the policeman?"


We thank the following resources:

Mike Gravel Official Website
Project Vote Smart
On the Issues



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