Michael Bennet dropped out of the presidential race on February 11, 2020. This page is no longer being updated.
Bennet has pitched himself as a pragmatic lawmaker with a progressive voting record. He was first appointed to the US Senate in 2009 and subsequently elected in 2010 and 2016.
Wesleyan University, B.A., 1987; Yale Law School, 1993
November 28, 1964
Halina, Anne and Caroline
Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, 2005-2009; Chief of staff to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, 2003; Managing director, Anschutz Investment Company, 1997-2003; Special assistant to the US attorney for Connecticut, 1997; Counsel to the US deputy attorney general, 1995-1997
BENNET IN THE NEWS
'A national government that did nothing to protect' a generation: Colorado senator calls for gun reform in powerful speech
Updated 9:41 PM ET, Wed Mar 24, 2021
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet on Wednesday called on the Senate to act in the wake of a mass shooting at a supermarket in his state, asserting in an impassioned speech from the chamber floor that his colleagues have a moral obligation to a generation of young Americans who have lived through dozens of such attacks. "Boulder will heal but this scar will always be there -- my daughter's generation will always bear the burden of a national government that did nothing to protect them. They and the children that I used to work for at the Denver Public Schools, they carry a burden that we didn't carry," the Colorado Democrat said, referencing his previous work as superintendent of the school district. "They have grown up with a reasonable fear that they will be shot in their classrooms or in their schools or at a movie theater or in any public place. I didn't grow up in an America with more gun-related deaths than virtually any country in this world, and we can't accept it for their America," he continued. The at-times emotional speech from a senator whose state previously witnessed the Columbine and Aurora massacres comes at a time of heightened debate over guns on Capitol Hill following seven mass shootings in seven days around the country, including in Boulder, Colorado, and a rampage in Atlanta. But despite Democratic control of the House, Senate and White House, potential gun reform faces an uphill battle, with Senate Democrats divided over House-passed measures including expanded background checks. The 21-year-old suspect in Monday's massacre at the Boulder supermarket -- which left 10 dead including a store manager and a police officer -- faces 10 counts of murder in the first degree, police said Tuesday. The motive in the attack isn't immediately known, and the investigation will take a long time, authorities said. Bennet stressed Wednesday that gun violence has been a longstanding issue for both his state and the country, speaking to the current political climate in calling for gun regulations. "I'm not asking anybody here to show the courage that (Boulder shooting victim) Officer Talley showed, or the other men and women of law enforcement who constantly have to deal with the inability of this place's capacity to deal with these issues," Bennet told his fellow senators. "I'm just asking us to show just an ounce of their courage by doing whatever we can to keep weapons of war out of our communities, to pass universal background checks, to limit the size of magazines, to address the epidemic crisis of mental health in this country. It seems like that would be the least that we could do." Lawmakers' failure to act, he said, "has helped create these conditions, and we can't wait any longer. The Senate needs to act. There's nobody else to act but the United States Senate." The Democratic-led House of Representatives passed two bills on March 11 that would expand background checks on all commercial gun sales. While the first of the two recently passed bills, H.R. 8, has bipartisan support in the House, it needs a supermajority in the Senate -- which it does not currently have. Bennet also referenced the Columbine High School shooting, which occurred in Colorado in 1999, as a benchmark for the many such massacres punctuating the young adulthoods of an entire generation of Americans, including his daughter. "The shootings at Columbine High School happened right before my oldest daughter was born, Caroline Bennet," Bennet said. "She's 21 years old, and her entire generation has grown up in the shadow of gun violence, something none of us had to do." Bennet, a moderate Democrat and former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, is up for reelection in 2022. While the seat is not seen as particularly vulnerable in light of Colorado having trended blue, Democrats are still monitoring the race, which could potentially see gun control emerge as a key issue. While speaking on the Senate floor, Bennet also read remembrances of the 10 victims' lives, including Officer Eric Talley, the first Boulder police officer to arrive at the shooting. "I've spent the past day learning about the victims of this terrible crime and I want America to know what extraordinary human beings we've lost in my state," Bennet said, tearing up while recounting one woman's account of how grateful she was that her father, who was killed in the shooting, could walk her down the aisle at her wedding last year. "Officer Talley and these other folks represent the best of Colorado, and we certainly owe Officer Talley a debt of gratitude we'll never be able to repay," Bennet said, adding that "my heart goes out to all of the families and the entire community of Boulder. We have endured too many tragedies as a state. So many other states are the same, here."
Bennet has said he doesn’t support the Green New Deal, the broad plan to address renewable-energy infrastructure and climate change proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Instead, he has released his own five-principle plan, which would significantly increase the protection of public lands. “I think it is great that we have a bunch of bold proposals out there,” Bennet said in May 2019. “We are going to have a competition of ideas.” Bennet has set a target of 100% net-zero emissions by no later than 2050, although he has not detailed how he would reach this goal. He also said he would create a $1 trillion “climate bank” to invest in infrastructure and, he hopes, spur private investment in green energy innovation. Bennet says the plan would create 10 million jobs over a decade related to what he calls the “zero-emission economy.”Bennet has said he would keep the US in the Paris climate agreement, a landmark 2015 deal on global warming targets that Trump has pledged to abandon. More on Bennet’s climate crisis policy
Bennet has not signed on with congressional Democratic efforts to pass a $15 minimum wage. According to his campaign, he favors an increase to $12 per hour. He’s also introduced legislation to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and overhaul and expand the child tax credit, which currently provides families with a credit of up to $2,000 for each dependent under 17. Under Bennet’s plan, families would get a $300 monthly credit for each child under 6 and $250 a month for each child under 17. He has actively opposed some of Trump’s trade actions. With Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, Bennet filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to reverse the President’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, and he has opposed Trump’s trade war with China, specifically because of the negative impact on American farmers. But he has also said Trump “was right to call China out.” More on Bennet’s economic policy
Bennet unveiled a plan in September 2019 pledging that by 2028, “every child born in this country, regardless of circumstance, will be at the center of a community that offers them a real chance to flourish personally and prosper financially,” according to his campaign. The plan calls for a federal-state partnership to establish free nationwide preschool, support for school districts that establish longer school days and school years, free community college for all Americans, increases to teacher pay and more funding for schools in rural areas and “high-poverty and otherwise underserved schools.” As Denver schools superintendent, Bennet was deeply involved in shaping merit-pay plans for teachers. As a presidential candidate he has called for taking steps to raise teacher pay. “We have to pay teachers as the professionals that they are. And that’s not just a little bit more. That is a lot more,” he said at a CNN town hall. More on Bennet’s education policy
Bennet has voted to ban high-capacity magazines and supports universal background checks. While he did not co-sponsor the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019, Bennet says he would support banning so-called assault weapons. He did not endorse the recent legislation because it “was overly drawn and allowed the manufacturers to avoid the ban,” he told CNN in May 2019.
Bennet is not in favor of plans that would eliminate private insurance. He co-sponsored a plan known as “Medicare-X” that would let individuals and small businesses buy government-backed insurance policies, known as a public option, on the Affordable Care Act exchanges. The plan would also allow the government to negotiate prescription drug prices. Bennet says Americans should still have choice when it comes to health insurance. “We need to get to universal health care,” he said during the first Democratic debate. “I believe the way to do that is by finishing the work we started with Obamacare and creating a public option.” In July 2019, he introduced a rural health care plan that would harness technology to provide medical services in rural communities, including allowing doctors to see patients via video chat and remotely monitor patients. The plan would provide up to $10,000 a year in loan forgiveness and repayment support for doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who choose to work in rural areas. And it would invest $60 billion to combat substance abuse, including building more treatment centers. More on Bennet’s health care policy
Bennet has compared Trump’s separation of families at the border to his Jewish mother’s experience being separated from her own parents as a child in Poland during the Holocaust. “When I see these kids at the border, I see my mom,” Bennet said during the first Democratic debate. He has called for overhauling the asylum process and restoring aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to reduce the flow of migrants north. He’s a co-sponsor to a Senate bill called the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act. Bennet has said he still stands by the last major bipartisan immigration package, negotiated in 2013, which included a pathway to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants. He also co-sponsored the DREAM Act of 2009, some of which was eventually put into effect through Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program protecting from deportation some undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US as minors.
LATEST POLITICAL NEWS
Facebook knew it was being used to incite violence in Ethiopia. It did little to stop the spread, documents show
Updated 11:25 AM ET, Mon Oct 25, 2021
Facebook employees repeatedly sounded the alarm on the company's failure to curb the spread of posts inciting violence in "at risk" countries like Ethiopia, where a civil war has raged for the past year, internal documents seen by CNN show. The social media giant ranks Ethiopia in its highest priority tier for countries at risk of conflict, but the documents reveal that Facebook's moderation efforts were no match for the flood of inflammatory content on its platform. The documents are among dozens of disclosures made to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and provided to Congress in redacted form by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen's legal counsel. A consortium of 17 US news organizations, including CNN, has reviewed the redacted versions received by Congress. They show employees warning managers about how Facebook was being used by "problematic actors," including states and foreign organizations, to spread hate speech and content inciting violence in Ethiopia and other developing countries, where its user base is large and growing. Facebook estimates it has 1.84 billion daily active users -- 72% of which are outside North America and Europe, according to its annual SEC filing for 2020. The documents also indicate that the company has, in many cases, failed to adequately scale up staff or add local language resources to protect people in these places. Facebook used by militias 'to seed calls for violence' The reports CNN has obtained provide further insights into the scale of the problem in Ethiopia, elements of which were reported by The Wall Street Journal last month. CNN's publication of these warnings from within Facebook comes seven months after a Facebook team initially shared an internal report entitled "Coordinated Social Harm." The report, distributed in March, said that armed groups in Ethiopia were using the platform to incite violence against ethnic minorities in the "context of civil war." At that time, a conflict in the country's northern Tigray region between its former ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), and the Ethiopian government had been rumbling on for five months. Intermittent internet blackouts and media restrictions had obscured much of the fighting. Ethiopia is an ethnically and religiously diverse nation of about 110 million people who speak scores of languages. Its two largest ethnic groups, the Oromo and Amhara, make up more than 60% of the population. The Tigrayans, the third largest, are around 7%. One of the groups flagged in the March report was the "Fano," an ethnic Amhara militia group with a reputation for brutality that has been drawn into the war in Tigray, sometimes fighting alongside Ethiopian government forces. Facebook said it had observed a cluster of accounts affiliated with the militia group, including some based in Sudan, using its platform to "seed calls for violence," promote armed conflict, recruit and fundraise. Since the war started last November, the Fano militia have been linked by displaced Tigrayans to human rights abuses, including the killings of civilians, looting and rape, according to the United Nations rights office, Amnesty International and other human rights groups. Though the Facebook team said it had recommended the Fano-affiliated network be taken down, it suggested that other bad actors promoting violence on its platform were simultaneously slipping through the cracks. In a headline in bold, the team warned: "Current mitigation strategies are not enough." The Facebook documents also detail the platform's removal of a cluster of accounts linked to the Oromo diaspora, mostly based in Egypt, which was targeting Ethiopian audiences with highly inflammatory content, including "explicit calls to violence against government officials and other ethnic groups." One inciteful post highlighted in a report shared a photo of what appears to be a Molotov cocktail being lit and the statement: "Burn the whole country down." The whistleblower, Haugen, said one of her core motivations for gathering the internal documents was bringing to light "how badly Facebook is handling places like Ethiopia," where she suggested engagement-based ranking was fanning ethnic violence. "I genuinely fear that a huge number of people are going to die in the next five to ten years, or twenty years, because of choices and underfunding" by Facebook, Haugen said. In comments made to the consortium, Haugen emphasized the vast difference between the integrity and security systems rolled out by Facebook in the United States versus the rest of the world, adding that the company was not adequately policing its platform in most non-English languages. "The raw version [of Facebook] roaming wild in most of the world doesn't have any of the things that make it kind of palatable in the United States, and I genuinely think there's a lot of lives on the line -- that Myanmar and Ethiopia are like the opening chapter," she said. A Facebook spokesperson told CNN that the company has been "actively focused on Ethiopia." "Over the past two years we have actively invested to add more staff with local expertise, operational resources and additional review capacity to expand the number of local languages we support to include Amharic, Oromo, Somali and Tigrinya. We have worked to improve our proactive detection so that we can remove more harmful content at scale. We have also partnered extensively with international and local experts to better understand and mitigate the biggest risks on the platform," the spokesperson said. Current mitigation strategies are not enough None of the revelations from the Facebook documents are news to activists and human rights groups, who have warned for years that the social media giant has made insufficient efforts to protect human rights in Ethiopia, Africa's second most populous country. Some politicians and civil society groups said that if no action was taken, the platform risked repeating the same mistakes it made in Myanmar -- now a case study in the deadly impact that hate speech shared on Facebook can have. In 2018, the UN slammed Facebook's role in the Myanmar crisis, which the global body said, "bore the hallmarks of genocide." By promoting violence and hatred against the minority Rohingya population, the UN said Facebook had "turned into a beast." The social media company later acknowledged that it didn't do enough to prevent its platform being used to fuel bloodshed, and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote an open letter apologizing to activists and promising to increase its moderation efforts. Much like in Myanmar, Facebook's rise in popularity in Ethiopia came at a moment of rapid political and societal change, which helped to boost the platform's growth. In 2018, Abiy Ahmed was appointed Prime Minister and launched a series of reforms, including freeing thousands of political prisoners and lifting restrictions on the press. But as Ethiopians began to use Facebook to engage in public debate, observers saw that the platform was being abused by a variety of actors, including politicians, to incite discrimination and violence. Former UN special rapporteur for freedom of expression David Kaye told CNN that this problem came up repeatedly in conversations with civil society groups during his trip to Ethiopia in December 2019: "It was on everybody's radar that there could be real spill over from the platform to offline harm." "Given the experience in Myanmar, it was really incumbent on Facebook to do a human rights impact assessment and evaluate what they needed to do so that Facebook in Ethiopia didn't become a place for incitement to violence," Kaye said, adding that he didn't know what that assessment looked like or if it was done. In June 2020, a Facebook employee posted a report to an internal group with about 1,500 members called "At Risk Countries FYI" recapping an ongoing audit into how well its Artificial Intelligence and other signals, like third party fact checkers, worked in the most at-risk countries where the platform operates. "We found significant gaps in our coverage (especially in Myanmar & Ethiopia), showcasing that our current signals may be inadequate," the employee wrote, sharing a spreadsheet with a list of at-risk countries and the languages supported by the platform in each. The spreadsheet showed that Facebook had failed to build automated systems, called classifiers, to detect misinformation or hate speech in Oromo or Amharic -- two of the most widely spoken languages spoken in Ethiopia. Even as the conflict in Tigray escalated, Haugen said she had only found evidence that Facebook had allocated "even slight language support" in two of the country's many native languages. Facebook says it does not believe it should be the "arbiters of truth," so the firm relies on third-party fact-checking organizations to identify, review and rate potential misinformation on its platforms. Facebook has partnered with two such organizations in Ethiopia: AFP Fact Check and PesaCheck, an East Africa-based non-profit initiative run by Code for Africa. PesaCheck has five full-time Ethiopian fact-checkers working in four languages -- Oromo, Amharic, Tigrinya and English -- but says it recently had to relocate one staff member from Ethiopia due to intimidation. AFP Fact Check employs one fact-checker in Ethiopia, Amanuel Neguede, who reviews content in Amharic and English. Each day, Neguede told CNN that he reviews thousands of posts on an internal Facebook tool, which surfaces content flagged as false or misleading through a combination of AI and human moderators. Originally, Neguede said that AFP only had access to English-language content in Ethiopia through the tool, which would surface only limited content each day. The tool began serving AFP Amharic-language content in May, and now the number of claims he says he sees on a daily basis has drastically risen. The tool does not always accurately identify mis- and dis-information, but Neguede says it helps with his work. "I've seen a lot of a lot of hate speech, that definitely does fuel ethnic violence in Ethiopia," Neguede said. "Whenever there's a major offensive, for example that's happening in the north, we can see a lot of images of conflict that's happened in different countries used in a misleading context. I would say that most of the time we'll see posts surface -- especially posts that are widely shared -- after real news events." But researchers like Berhan Taye say Facebook in Ethiopia is in desperate need of more content moderators, pointing to how the platform was used to stoke a wave of deadly violence after the murder of Oromo musician Hachalu Hundessa last year. Taye, then a policy manager at digital rights group Access Now, recalls watching livestreams of lynchings and posts calling for the targeted extermination of certain e