01 Oct 2001

Christopher Cox: Capitol Hill Intellectual

by Susan Young


In reviewing Christopher Cox's CV, one might assume that his career has been well thought out. Cox took only three years to earn a BA in English and political science at the University of Southern California; received a joint degree from HBS and Harvard Law School; clerked at the U.S. Court of Appeals; made partner at Latham & Watkins, where he specialized in corporate finance; founded (with his father) a company that published an English version of the Russian newspaper Pravda; was appointed senior associate counsel to President Ronald Reagan; and then, in 1988, was elected to represent California's Orange County in the U.S. Congress.

But when questioned about the job he's held for the last thirteen years, Cox replies, "Running for Congress was entirely an impulse decision. I did not even think about it until the day I decided to do it." At the time, he was immersed in politics, working in the White House. He was a single man with energy and experience who saw an open congressional seat, an overcrowded GOP primary (with fourteen candidates), and an opportunity to put his skills to work for the people of his adopted home state. "I'm sure that if I had given it the kind of careful consideration that normally goes with a significant career change, I wouldn't have done it," says the St. Paul, Minnesota, native.

Cox attributes winning the election to his ability to differentiate himself from his competition by highlighting his national and international experience. Such experience has served him well as he has introduced numerous pieces of legislation that have, among other things, repealed inheritance taxes (the so-called death tax), banned taxes on Internet commerce, and limited fraudulent securities lawsuits. Now in his seventh term, the Newport Beach resident chairs the House Policy Committee and is a member of several committees, including the House Leadership Steering Committee.

Beyond being a politician, Cox, who learned to speak Russian in college and was editor of the Harvard Law Review, is known on Capitol Hill as an intellectual. His name has been mentioned for a U.S. Court of Appeals —and even Supreme Court —judgeship, and some think he could be Presidential material. He admires his friend and fellow Republican Vice President Dick Cheney for being "a solid conservative, intelligent, competent, and low-key," many of the qualities for which Cox himself has been praised.

While Cox is proud of his professional accomplishments, the role he cherishes most is that of spouse and father. In 1992, he married Rebecca Gernhardt, now a vice president at Continental Airlines. The pair first met when both were working in the Reagan White House. "She outranked me, and I thought that was good preparation for marriage," he says, flashing his signature grin. "I always knew that I would like to be a father, but I had no idea how wonderful the experience would be," adds Cox, whose Washington office is filled with photos of Rebecca and their two sons and daughter. "Of all of the things I do, I put being a husband and father at the top of the list."

—Susan Young

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