Pictured during a presentation ceremony Nov. 19 are (from left) former U.S. Sen. Edward E. (Ted) Kaufman, who served from 2009-10; Lynne Kaufman; Susan Brynteson, vice provost and May Morris University Librarian, University of Delaware Library; and L. Rebecca Johnson Melvin, head of the Manuscripts and Archives Department and curator of the Joseph R. Biden Jr. Senatorial Papers, University of Delaware Library.

Kaufman history

University Library receives Sen. Ted Kaufman oral history interview


11:47 a.m., Nov. 25, 2014--The University of Delaware Library has announced the gift of an oral history transcript from former U.S. Sen. Edward E. (Ted) Kaufman, who served from 2009-10. 

The oral history was conducted in a series of interviews in 2011 and 2012 by Senate Historian Donald A. Ritchie under the auspices of the Office of the Secretary, U.S. Senate.

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Kaufman made the presentation to the UD Library on Nov. 19.

“The library is honored to add this important transcript to its extensive Kaufman resources,” said Susan Brynteson, vice provost and May Morris University Librarian. “I am most appreciative of the desire of Sen. Kaufman and the Senate Historical Office to place this significant transcript in the University of Delaware Library. This is a wonderful new resource to inform scholars about Sen. Kaufman’s unique Senate career, both as senator from Delaware and longtime chief of staff to Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.”

The library celebrated this addition to Special Collections during the Nov. 19 event, with Kaufman and his wife Lynne Kaufman in attendance. 

Kaufman served as U.S. senator from Delaware from 2009-10. Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner appointed Kaufman to fill the Senate seat left vacant when Joseph R. Biden Jr. was elected vice president of the United States. 

Prior to his service as senator, Kaufman was on Biden’s U.S. Senate staff from 1973-95, first as state director and then as chief of staff.

Ritchie, a renowned oral historian and historian of Congress, traveled to Wilmington on three occasions to conduct his interviews with Kaufman on Aug. 17 and 24, 2011, and on Sept. 27, 2012. 

“Sen. Ted Kaufman had the unique experience of serving 22 years a chief of staff to a senator and two years as a senator. His oral history reflects those different perspectives and provides a rich resource for the study of the modern Senate. Senators, scholars and other curious citizens are going to find this a useful and fascinating account of how things really work on Capitol Hill,” said Ritchie.  

In the interviews, Kaufman described his early life growing up in Philadelphia and outside of Washington, D.C.; his education in engineering and business; his time in Congress as both chief of staff and senator; and life after the Senate. 

Throughout the interviews, Kaufman reflected on the Senate as an institution, the way it operates, and relationships between senators.  

Kaufman provided an in-depth account of working on Biden’s long-shot 1972 campaign for the Senate and later coming on to set up Biden’s Delaware state office in 1973. 

At the time, most senators did not have main offices or many staff members located in their home states. A larger staff and new communication technology allowed staff to stay in Delaware to help constituents and to oversee federal grants and projects. 

Although he agreed to join Biden’s staff for only a short time, taking a one-year leave of absence from his job at DuPont in Wilmington, Kaufman ended up staying on staff for 22 years. 

In 1976 Kaufman became Biden’s chief of staff, and in the interviews Kaufman delved into the ins-and-outs of managing a Senate office and the importance of a good staff. He also reflected on the challenges of Biden’s 1987-88 presidential campaign, during which Biden chaired the Judiciary Committee hearings for the nomination of Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Biden left the presidential race and in 1988 was absent from the Senate for seven months after he was stricken by two aneurisms and underwent brain surgery. During Biden’s recovery, his family and staff decided he should not return any phone calls, even those from President Ronald Reagan. Kaufman recalled that Sen. Ted Kennedy became so frustrated at not being able to reach Biden that he took a train to Wilmington and showed up at the Bidens’ home. “He borrowed a pair of swimming trunks and they went swimming,” Kaufman said. “We were just fortunate that nobody else tried that.”

Kaufman left Biden’s Senate staff in 1995 and transitioned to teaching at Duke University’s School of Law. He also was appointed by both Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush to serve on the Broadcasting Board of Governors, overseeing all U.S. international broadcasting including Voice of America. 

He returned to Biden’s side in 2008 after presidential candidate Barack Obama chose Biden as his running mate. Biden appointed Kaufman to co-chair his vice-presidential transition team. Biden was running for both the vice presidency and re-election to the Senate against Republican candidate Christine O’Donnell. Kaufman said he was happy to vote for Biden three times that year: once for vice president, once for Senate, and once as a Delaware elector. 

In 2009, Kaufman agreed to serve in the Senate for the two-year term and announced that he would not seek re-election. In the interviews with Ritchie, Kaufman reviewed the work he accomplished as a member of numerous committees, including the Judiciary, Armed Services, Homeland Security and Government Affairs, and Foreign Relations. 

He made several congressional delegation trips to the Middle East and addressed issues of human rights. His own interest in the financial collapse and willingness to speak out about fraud made him a sought-after expert on the topic, and his engineering background led to his authoring a number of bills related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) issues. 

A memorable and historical experience during Kaufman’s service came when the Senate passed the healthcare reform bill on Christmas Eve 2009, after being in session for the second longest time continuously in the history of the Senate. He recalled: “Vice President Biden was in the chair. I had goose bumps on my goose bumps.” After the vote, Kaufman accompanied the vice president to the White House where Obama congratulated him on the passage of the bill. “To go through this momentous event with a friend and then ride down to the White House … it was incredible.” 

The Kaufman oral history interviews were conducted by Ritchie, who received his doctorate in history from the University of Maryland. His extensive list of publications includes The U.S. Congress: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford 2010) and Press Gallery: Congress and the Washington Correspondents (Harvard 1991), which won the 1992 Richard W. Leopold Prize from the Organization of American Historians and the 1992 Henry Adams Prize from the Society for History in the Federal Government. 

Ritchie also wrote Doing Oral History (25 editions published between 1994 and 2014), a practical guide for conducting and managing oral histories, and received the Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region (OHMAR) Forrest C. Pogue Award for distinguished contributions to the field of oral history. 

The Senate Historical Office began its oral history program in 1976 and has interviewed Senate officers, parliamentarians, chiefs of staff, reporters, clerks, Senate pages, and senators. Transcripts and interviews are deposited in the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the appropriate presidential libraries and senatorial manuscript collections. The Senate’s oral histories are available in the “Art and History” section of the U.S. Senate’s website

In addition to the Kaufman oral history transcript, the University of Delaware Library holds the Kaufman papers, which reflect the work of his 22-month term in the U.S. Senate. The collection consists of approximately 29 linear feet and 60 gigabytes of correspondence, legislative bills, photographs, press clippings, schedules, speeches and other materials. 

The papers were opened for research in March 2014 and are available for use in Special Collections. A print copy of the new oral history is available in the Delaware Collection in Special Collections. A digital copy of the transcript is linked from the library website for Kaufman’s papers

The library’s other modern congressional holdings include: John J. Williams (U.S. Senate, 1947-71); J. Allen Frear Jr. (U.S. Senate, 1949-61); Thomas R. Carper (U.S. House of Representatives, 1983-93); and Michael N. Castle (U.S. House of Representatives, 1993-2011).

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