Spencer Bachus

Spencer Bachus Spencer Thomas Bachus III (1947- ) is a former Republican representative to Congress for the Sixth District, which covers Birmingham and many of the surrounding counties. Serving from 1993 to 2015, he is a conservative who was among the first Republicans to serve in the Alabama State Senate since Reconstruction. He has also been a businessman and a lawyer and has served in the Alabama National Guard.

Bachus was born in Birmingham, Jefferson County, on December 28, 1947, to Spencer Thomas and Edith Wells Bachus. He attended Birmingham public schools and Auburn University, where he was a member of the Phi Kappa Tau social fraternity and received his bachelor's degree in 1969. Following graduation, he joined the Alabama National Guard, and served from 1969 to 1971. He then entered the University of Alabama Law School, where he earned a law degree in 1972. The following year, he was admitted to the Alabama State Bar and became a partner in the law firm Bachus, Crowson, Harris, Strickland, and Dempsey. In addition to practicing law, he also owned a sawmill.

In 1982, Bachus was elected to represent the Seventeenth District in the Alabama State Senate. He declined to seek a second term after existing district lines were declared unconstitutional and redrawn. Instead, Bachus successfully campaigned for the Forty-sixth District seat in the Alabama House of Representatives, where he served from 1984 to 1986. During his term in the legislature, Bachus assisted in authoring the state's domestic abuse statutes and the first law to penalize repeat drunk driving offenders and was elected vice chairman of the influential Jefferson County delegation in the Alabama House of Representatives. In 1986, he was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in New Orleans and left the legislature that same year to manage Guy Hunt's campaign for Alabama governor. In 1987, he was elected to the Alabama State Board of Education, serving until 1991. In 1990, Bachus ran unsuccessfully for Alabama Attorney General and the following year became chair of the Alabama Republican Executive Committee.

Also 1990, the U.S. Justice Department required Alabama to redraw its Sixth and Seventh congressional districts after they were deemed racially biased. The changed boundaries shifted the largely African American population of Birmingham from the Sixth to the Seventh District, and the Sixth District, which includes parts of Bibb, Chilton, Coosa, Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair, and Tuscaloosa Counties, became a majority white district aligned with the Republican Party. In 1992, Bachus campaigned for the Sixth District and won a runoff election with 59 percent of the vote, defeating Democratic incumbent Ben Erdreich in the general election by a seven-point margin. Bachus easily overcame Democratic opposition in his reelection campaigns of 1994. He married Linda Hinson on July 1, 1995, and the couple would have five children. Bachus was reelected easily in 1996 and 1998 and ran unopposed in the following six general elections. He was challenged in the 2004 Republican primary by attorney Phillip Jauregui, known for defending Alabama Supreme Court chief justice Roy Moore in court, and by Tea Party activist Stan Cooke in 2010 but easily won both primary elections.

In Congress, Bachus has held a wide variety of assignments, serving on the Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Committee, Judiciary Committee, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Veteran's Affairs Committee, and more than 50 caucuses. As chair of the Banking Oversight Committee, his discovery of $11 million in loans to four banks with ties to then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton by Community Development Financial Institute (CDFI) led to the resignation of two top officials in 1997. He authored the 2003 Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act, which renewed the national credit system and added safeguards against identity theft. In October 2009, he assisted in amending the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which helped decrease identity theft and increase consumer access to credit reports. While chairman of Banking's Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, Bachus assisted in an investigation that uncovered a scheme by foreign countries that supported terrorism to introduce counterfeit $100 bills into the U.S. markets; the investigation led to the International Counterfeiting Prevention Act of 1996. Since early in his congressional career, Bachus has advocated for international debt relief for underdeveloped countries as a method to improve education and nutrition for impoverished families and in 2007 joined a one-day fast to promote debt relief. As an opponent of Internet gambling, which is overseen by the Banking Committee, he cosponsored the 2006 Goodlatte-Leach Internet Gambling Prohibition Act and Internet Gambling Prohibition Act. Two years later, he opposed the Payment Systems Protection Act, which placed a moratorium on enforcement until "unlawful Internet gambling" was defined.

While on the Transportation Committee, in 1998 he assisted in adjusting the Federal Highway Funding formula, which provided more than $200 million in federal transportation funds to Alabama for projects such as Corridor X and the Northern Beltline. He obtained funding for the construction of a new airport control tower at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, improvements at the Shelby County Airport, and a flood control levee in Northport.

Bachus became the subject of media scrutiny in the latter 2000s for accusations of insider trading in the stock market, and some of these actions eventually led to an ethics investigation. While serving as an influential ranking member of the House Committee on Financial Services in 2007, Bachus engaged in rapid-fire trades with a number of short-term stock options, earning large sums from the transactions. During the financial crisis of 2008, he attended private briefings from Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Bank chairman Ben Bernanke. Bachus subsequently made numerous trades that increased in value as the financial market collapsed. In 2011, he became chairman of the committee on Financial Services, and later that year, the Office of Congressional Ethics investigated him for possibly engaging in insider trading, based on his financial disclosure forms. They closed the case on April 30, 2012, after no evidence of violations was found. Just prior, legislation was enacted to restrain federal lawmakers from profiting from nonpublic information, and Bachus's committee held hearings on the topic.

In 2012, Bachus defeated state senator Scott Beason, noted author of Alabama's immigration legislation, in the Republican primary with 59 percent of the vote. He left Congress in 2015; he donated his congressional papers to the Auburn University Libraries. Bachus was succeeded by Gary Palmer, a conservative from Haleyville, Winston County, who cofounded the Alabama Family Alliance that later became the Alabama Policy Institute. Bachus has received numerous awards over the years for his public service. These include Alabama Republican of the Year from the Young Republican Federation of Alabama, the Jefferson Award from the Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Commissioner's Merit Award from the Alabama Department of Human Resources in 1986, and the Congressional Cooperation Award from the Common Ground Awards-Search for Common Ground. He is a senior partner in the Bachus, Dempsey, Carson, and Steed law firm, and currently lives in Vestavia Hills near Birmingham.

Further Reading

  • McCutcheon, Chuck and Christina L. Lyons. Congressional Quarterly's Politics in America 2010, the 111th Congress. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 2009.

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