James Thomas "Jim" Kolbe (born June 28, 1942) is a former Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from Arizona, serving from 1985 to 2007.


Kolbe was born in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, but when he was five, his family moved to a ranch in rural Santa Cruz County, Arizona. He attended Patagonia Elementary School and Patagonia Union High School, but graduated from the United States Capitol Page School in 1960 after serving for three years as a United States Senate Page for Barry Goldwater. He completed his higher education at Northwestern University in Evanston and Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, served in the United States Navy, and was a special assistant to Illinois Republican Governor Richard B. Ogilvie. He then moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he was a business executive.

In 1976, Kolbe ran for the Arizona Senate in a Tucson-area district and defeated a one-term Democrat who had been elected in the national Democratic wave of 1974. He served three terms in that body, and was majority whip from 1979 to 1982.

Congressional career

In mid-1982, Kolbe resigned from the state Senate to run in the newly created Template:Ushr. He lost to Democrat Jim McNulty, a member of the Arizona Board of Regents, by 2,400 votes. However, Kolbe sought a rematch in 1984. Buoyed by Ronald Reagan's massive national landslide that year (Reagan carried the 5th with 60 percent of the vote), Kolbe won by 6,000 votes, becoming the first (and as of the 2006 elections, only) Republican to represent southern Arizona in the House. He would never face another general election contest nearly that close, and was reelected 10 times. The district was renumbered the Template:Ushr after the 2000 census.

Kolbe served as chair of the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs of the House Appropriations Committee.

Kolbe is a leading moderate Republican. This served him well; although his district included most of Tucson's Republican-leaning suburbs, the brand of Republicanism practiced in southern Arizona has traditionally been a moderate one. Like his mentor, Goldwater, he is pro-choice. He was generally more supportive of environmental legislation than most Republicans, especially those from the West. He is a member of various moderate Republican groups such as the Log Cabin Republicans, the Republican Main Street Partnership, the Republican Majority For Choice, Republicans for Choice, Republicans For Environmental Protection and It's My Party Too. He is one of the four Republicans who voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act which was passed by the House of Representatives with 281-142 votes on October 2, 2003.

In 2002, Kolbe introduced the Legal Tender Modernization Act which would have ceased production of the U.S. one-cent piece (penny). In July 2006, Kolbe introduced the Currency Overhaul for an Industrious Nation (COIN) Act, which would round cash transactions to the nearest five cents. This act would effectively remove the penny from circulation. Kolbe argues that, because of inflation, the penny is virtually worthless, and that the U.S. should stop using the penny now that the costs of penny production exceed its value. Kolbe has received some media attention as one of the foremost promoters of eliminating the penny from circulation.

Kolbe faced his only substantive challenge of any sort in 2004, when State House Majority Whip Randy Graf challenged him for the Republican nomination. Graf ran well to Kolbe's right, but was best known for his hardline approach to illegal immigration. In contrast, Kolbe was a strong supporter of guest worker programs for immigrants. Immigration is a hot-button issue in the 8th, which takes up about half of Arizona's share of the Mexican border. Kolbe managed to fend Graf off, but by only 14 points. He easily won an 11th term in November.

On November 23, 2005, Kolbe announced that he would not seek a 12th term in 2006. His exit left the district open. While Kolbe had been reelected with almost no difficulty, it had been expected to be very competitive if he ever retired. (George W. Bush narrowly edged out Al Gore and John Kerry in Arizona's 8th.) Randy Graf, the Republican candidate for that seat, won the five-candidate primary on September 12, 2006. Kolbe refused to endorse Graf, who lost to Democrat Gabrielle Giffords in the November 2006 election. (Although Kolbe never officially endorsed Giffords, he was present at her victory party on election night).

Kolbe has endorsed State Senate President Tim Bee's bid to unseat Giffords in 2008. His support was subsequently withdrawn in July 2008.

Sexual orientation

Kolbe came out as gay in August 1996 after his vote in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act spurred efforts by some gay rights activists to out him.[1] He won re-election that year. In 2000, he became the first openly gay person to address the Republican National Convention, although his speech did not address gay rights. He is the second openly gay Republican to serve in Congress, the other being Steve Gunderson of Wisconsin.

Even after coming out, Kolbe's record on gay rights was somewhat mixed. He was lukewarm in his support of same-sex marriage and voted in support of the Defense of Marriage Act. However, he strongly supported the availability of universal civil unions.

Mark Foley scandal

Main article: Mark Foley scandal

In 2000, when Kolbe found out about former Congressman Mark Foley's "Internet communications with [adult]teenagers" he informed the office that oversaw the page program. He assumed the matter had been taken care of, although this was not brought to the public's attention until September 29, 2006[2] when it became public that Foley had sent sexually explicit and solicitative e-mails and instant messages to young adult male pages. Republican leaders had claimed that they had only recently been made aware of Foley's actions, despite Kolbe's actions.[3]

In October 2006, federal prosecutors in Arizona opened a preliminary investigation into a camping trip Kolbe took in 1996 that included two teenage former congressional pages, as well as National Park officials, then-current staff, and Kolbe's sister. During that trip he was accused of "acting inappropriately"; NBC News interviewed several people who were on the trip, and their accounts vary. One participant, who requested anonymity, said he was uncomfortable with the attention Kolbe paid to one of the former pages. He was "creeped out by it," he said, adding that there was a lot of "fawning, petting and touching" on the teenager's arms, shoulders and back by Kolbe. On June 5, 2007, federal investigators absolved Kolbe of any wrongdoing in the case. In a statement released by the Justice Department, "investigators have completed their work on the preliminary inquiry opened by federal prosecutors last fall, and see no reason to pursue it further." [4]

Current employment

Kolbe is now a fellow at the German Marshall Fund think tank and a consultant at Kissinger McLarty Associates. He focuses on issues that were his priorities when he was in Congress — trade, aid and migration. In the fall of 2007, he will be teaching a class on trade and globalization at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law in Tucson.


  1. Dunlap, David W. (August 3, 1996), “A Republican Congressman Discloses He Is a Homosexual”, The New York Times, <>. Retrieved on 25 November 2007 
  2. Weisman, Jonathan (October 9, 2006), “Lawmaker Saw Foley Messages In 2000”, The Washington Post: A01, <>. Retrieved on 25 November 2007 
  3. "Three More Former Pages Accuse Foley of Online Sexual Approaches", ABC News, October 5, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-10-05. 
  4. "Feds probe trip that Kolbe made with pages", NBC News, October 13, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-10-13. 

External links

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