Bill Weld

"William Weld" redirects here. For other uses, see William Weld (disambiguation).
Bill 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 Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division
In office
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Stephen Trott
Succeeded by Edward Dennis
United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts
In office
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Edward Harrington
Succeeded by Robert Mueller (Acting)
Personal details
Born William Floyd Weld
(1945-07-31) July 31, 1945
Smithtown, New York, U.S.
Political party Republican (Before 2016)
Libertarian (2016–present)
Spouse(s) Susan Roosevelt (1975–2002)
Leslie Marshall (m. 2003)
Children 5
Alma mater Harvard University (BA, JD)
University College, Oxford

William Floyd "Bill" Weld (born July 31, 1945) is an American attorney, businessman, and politician who served as the 68th Governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997. He was the Libertarian Party's nominee for Vice President of the United States in the 2016 election, sharing the ticket with Gary Johnson.[1]

As a libertarian Republican,[2] Weld 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 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 social conservative Senate Foreign Relations committee Chairman Jesse Helms, he was denied a hearing before the Foreign Relations committee and withdrew his nomination.


Main article: Weld family

Weld was born in Smithtown, New York. His 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.[3][4]

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."[5]

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, and Anne (m. Collins). His maternal grandfather was ichthyologist and ornithologist John Treadwell Nichols, and his first cousin is novelist John Nichols.[6]

Weld was educated at Middlesex School. He graduated with an A.B. summa cum laude in classics 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.[7]

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 (78.4%) to 421,417 (21.6%).

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, 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.[8] In July 1988, Weld and Burns jointly testified before Congress in favor of a potential prosecution of Meese for his personal financial conduct, following a report by a special prosecutor investigating Meese.[8] Meese resigned from office in July 1988 shortly after Weld's and Burns' testimony.[8]

Governor of Massachusetts

Governor Weld presenting a grant to the City of Lowell in 1994
Governor Weld announcing the revival of "The Shoe" as Cummings Center with Cummings Properties president James McKeown and founder Bill Cummings.

In 1990, Weld announced his candidacy for Governor of Massachusetts, to replace the out-going Michael Dukakis.[9] Although Republicans made up under 14% of the Massachusetts electorate and a Republican had not won the gubernatorial election since 1970, Weld's liberal stances on social issues made him a viable candidate for office in the heavily Democratic state.[10] At the state Republican convention, party officials backed Steven Pierce over Weld, and initial polling had Pierce ahead by 25 percentage points.[11] 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.[12]

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.[13] 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.[14] 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.

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,[15][16] B in 1994,[17][18] and B in 1996[19][20] from the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, in their biennial Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's Governors. In 1993 he supported adoption of a gun control bill in Massachusetts that included limits on gun purchases under age 21, as well as prohibiting certain types of weapons, which was not ultimately passed.[21] He has since renounced this proposal.[22] During his term, he launched a successful effort to privatize many state's human services, laying off thousands of state employees.[23][24] After cutting state spending year-over-year for his first two years, the Republican Party lost its ability to sustain a veto in the legislature due to losses in the Massachusetts State Senate, forcing Weld to make greater concessions to Democratic legislators.[25]

In 1994, Weld won reelection with 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. Following his landslide victory, Weld briefly considered running for the presidency in 1996.

Cabinet and administration

The Weld Cabinet
GovernorWilliam Weld1991  1997
Lt. GovernorPaul Cellucci1991  1997
Secretary of Transportation and ConstructionRichard L. Taylor
James Kerasiotes
1991  1992
1992  1997
Secretary of Housing & Community DevelopmentSteven Pierce
Mary L. Padula
1991  1991
1991  1996
Secretary of Environmental AffairsSusan Tierney
Trudy Coxe
1991  1993
1993  1997
Secretary of Consumer AffairsGloria Cordes Larson
Priscilla Douglas
Nancy Merrick
1991  1993
1993  1996
1996  1997
Secretary of Health and Human ServicesDavid 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 AffairsFranklin P. Ollivierre1991  1997
Secretary of LaborChristine Morris1991  1996
Secretary of Administration & FinancePeter Nessen
Mark E. Robinson
Charlie Baker
1991  1993
1993  1994
1994  1997
Secretary of Public SafetyJames B. Roche
Thomas C. Rapone
Kathleen O'Toole
1991  1992
1992  1994
1994  1997
Director of Economic AffairsStephen Tocco
Gloria Cordes Larson
1991  1993
1993  1996
Secretary of EducationPiedad 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.[26] 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."[26]

The race was covered nationwide as one of the most closely watched Senate races that year. Noted for how civil their respective campaigns were of one another,[27] Kerry and Weld negotiated a campaign spending cap and agreed to eight separate debates leading up to the election.[28] Though facing a traditional uphill battle in a state where Democrats outnumbered Republicans 3-to-1, and running the same year as the presidential election, Weld was a popular incumbent governor and polled even with Kerry throughout the election.[29][30]

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. Notably, President Bill Clinton won Massachusetts in 1996 with 62% of the vote.

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 legalization 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 reportedly had a long-standing grudge against Weld stemming from Weld's investigation of Meese during the Iran-Contra affair. Weld publicly criticized 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 that 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.'"[31]

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 become tired of serving as governor. A bipartisan majority of Senators signed letters demanding that Helms advance his nomination, but Helms refused.[32] After an intensive six-week battle,[33] 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."[34]

Later career

Law firm and private equity partner

Weld was a partner in the Boston and Manhattan offices of the international law firm McDermott Will & Emery from 1997 to 2001, and head of the New York office from 2000 to 2001.[35] In December 2000, the private equity firm announced that Weld would join the firm, to be renamed Leeds Weld & Co., as a general partner, effective on January 1, 2001.[36] At the private equity firm, Weld later "reduced his role to a senior advisor while considering a run for New York governor" in 2005.[37] Weld rejoined McDermott Will & Emery in 2006.[35] Weld was admitted to the bar in New York in 2008.[38] In 2012, Weld moved to the Boston law firm of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky, and Popeo, becoming a partner there and a principal with the firm's government relations affiliate, ML Strategies LLC.[39][40]

2004 election

During the re-election campaign of President George W. Bush, who was running against Weld's old foe John Kerry, Weld helped Bush to prepare for the debates.

Kentucky college management

From January to October 2005, Weld was chief executive of Decker College in Louisville, Kentucky. His term ended as the college was closing under bankruptcy protection following a disagreement with the U.S. Department of Education about accreditation of its construction-related courses and online instruction. This matter would follow Weld into the 2006 race for Governor of New York, with former U.S. Senator from New York Alfonse D'Amato asserting that Weld was responsible and oversaw "multimillion dollar looting".[41][42] In March 2016, the Wall Street Street Journal posted an opinion article, expanding on a 2012 piece to make the case that the Department of Education's 2005 claim against Decker College was "factually erroneous," with revenge against Weld as a motive.[43]

Candidacy for Governor of New York, 2005–06

Having served as Governor of Massachusetts, Weld moved to New York in 2000. On April 24, 2005, it was reported that he was in talks with the New York Republicans to run for Governor of New York in 2006, against likely Democratic nominee Eliot Spitzer. Incumbent GOP Governor George Pataki announced on July 27 that he would not seek a fourth term. On August 19, 2005, Weld officially announced his candidacy for Governor of New York, seeking to become the second person after 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 R. 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.[44] Weld reportedly offered Faso the chance to join his ticket as a candidate for lieutenant governor, an offer Faso reportedly declined.[45] Faso gained increasing support from party leaders in various counties, including Westchester and Suffolk, both of which had large delegate counts to the state convention.

Bill Weld and Gary Johnson in June 2016

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.[46] 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.[47]

2008 elections

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.[48] 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 (after the new maximum allowed rose to $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.[49] Weld endorsed Mitt Romney in the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election.[50]

2016 Libertarian vice presidential nomination

Weld endorsed Ohio Governor John Kasich for the 2016 Republican primary.[51]

On May 17, 2016, Libertarian Party presumptive nominee and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson announced that he had endorsed Weld for vice presidential nomination in the presidential election.[52] Weld was formally nominated separately from and after Gary Johnson's nomination. Both candidates won their nominations on a second ballot after failing to attain a majority.[53] In Weld's case, all but him and one opponent remained on the second ballot. He accepted the Libertarian Party's nomination for vice president at the Libertarian National Convention in Orlando, Florida on May 29.[54]

Other activities

In February 2013, Weld publicly supported legal recognition for same-sex marriage in an amicus brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court.[55]

Weld is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.[56]

For a time, Weld wrote thrillers and works of historical fiction.[57]

Weld joined Our America Initiative's 2016 Liberty Tour a number of times, speaking alongside other libertarian leaders and activists such as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition executive director and former Baltimore Police Chief Neill Franklin, Free the People's Matt Kibbe, Republican activists Ed Lopez and Liz Mair, Conscious Capitalism’s Alex McCobin, Reason Foundation’s David Nott, Foundation for Economic Education’s Jeffrey Tucker, the Libertarian Party's Carla Howell, and author and journalist Naomi Wolf; the tour raised "awareness about third party inclusion in national presidential debates" and "spread the message of liberty and libertarian thought."[58][59][60]

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,[61] and had five children: David Minot (b. August 26, 1976) a professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara; Ethel Derby (b. October 26, 1977) a physician; Mary Blake (b. January 21, 1979) an attorney; Quentin Roosevelt (b. July 9, 1981) an attorney; and Frances Wylie (b. September 18, 1983).

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 liberalization of markets and free trade between the USA, Canada, and Mexico.



Weld has written three mass market novels:

Electoral history


  1. Peoples, Steve. "Libertarian Gary Johnson secures running mate". Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  2. on (April 29, 2006). "New York Libertarians Nominate William Weld for Governor". Ballot Access News. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
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  53. Libertarians pick former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld as vice presidential nominee after heated convention
  54. Clare Malone (May 29, 2016). "Gary Johnson has his vp pick: William Weld wins the nomination on the second ballot with 50.57% of vote.". Twitter.
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  58. Liberty Tour comes to Williamsburg to talk election, personal freedom
  59. Liberty Tour 2016 hits the road; will visit 40 states before election day
  60. Voice of the Voter: Weld in Maine
  61. "Susan Roosevelt Is Wed on L.I". The New York Times. June 8, 1975.

External links

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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
Preceded by
Jim Gray
Libertarian nominee for Vice President of the United States
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Political offices
Preceded by
Michael Dukakis
Governor of Massachusetts
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Paul Cellucci
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