Barbara Mikulski

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Barbara Mikulski

Barbara Mikulski was a Democratic member of the United States Senate, representing Maryland.

Early Life

Growing up in the Highlandtown neighborhood of East Baltimore, Mikulski became a social worker in Baltimore, helping at-risk children and educating seniors about the Medicare program. Social work evolved into community activism when Mikulski successfully organized communities against a plan to build a 16-lane highway through Baltimore's Fells Point neighborhood.[1]

"Community organizer"

Writing in the Huffington Post of September 8, 2008, in an article entitled "From Organizer To Elected Official" Democratic Socialists of America member Peter Dreier listed several serving US politicians who had begun their careers as "community organizers". They were US Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Representatives John Lewis of Georgia, Jan Schakowsky and Danny Davis of Illinois, Raul Grijalva of Arizona, Linda Sanchez of California, and Donna Edwards of Maryland, Washington House of Representatives Speaker Frank Chopp, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, state legislators Beth Low of Missouri, Michael Foley of Ohio, Gilbert Cedillo of California, Tom Hucker of Maryland, Tony Hill of Florida, and Crystal Peoples of New York, Alameda County (California) Supervisor Nate Miley, City Council members Jay Westbrook of Cleveland, Chuck Turner and Sam Yoon of Boston, and Melvin Carter of St. Paul, and San Francisco School Board member Jane Kim. [2]

Early career/activism

Mikulski considered becoming a nun, but concluded that she was too rebellious to accept the discipline of a religious order. Instead, she trained as a social worker, earning her bachelor's degree at Mount St. Agnes College in Baltimore, then continuing her studies at the University of Maryland. She graduated in 1965 with a master's degree in social work.

Mikulski first worked for the Associated Catholic Charities and then the Baltimore Department of Social Services. By 1966, she was an assistant chief of community organizing for the city social services department, working on a plan to decentralize welfare programs. While serving these organizations, primarily in cases of child abuse and neglect, Mikulski developed the deep concern for the rights of children and families that she later took to Washington.

Mikulski expressed many of her concerns in an essay titled "Who Speaks for Ethnic America?" for the New York Times in September of 1970. Ethnic immigrants who came to the United States at the turn of the century, she wrote, "constructed the skyscrapers, operated the railroads, worked on the docks, factories, steel mills and in the mines. Though our labor was in demand, we were not accepted. Our names, language, food and cultural customers were the subject of ridicule. We were discriminated against by banks, institutions of higher learning and other organizations controlled by the Yankee Patricians. There were no protective mechanisms for safety, wages and tenure." Mikulski maintained that it was smarter for these groups to organize than to fight, "to form an alliance based on mutual issues, interdependence and respect."[3]


Mikulski got her start in politics in 1968 with the organization of a coalition of black, Polish, Greek, Lithuanian, and Ukrainian Americans to block construction of a 16-lane highway that would have destroyed areas of East Baltimore, including parts of Fells Point that boasted the first black home ownership neighborhood in the city. Called SCAR (Southeast Council Against the Road), the neighborhood group fought against an entrenched Democratic political organization at City Hall that supported the highway project. Despite the strength of the opposition, SCAR, led by Mikulski, was successful in blocking the highway proposal.[4]

Political Life

Mikulski's first election was a successful run for Baltimore City Council in 1971, where she served for five years. In 1976, she ran for Congress and won, representing Maryland's 3rd district for 10 years. In 1986, she ran for Senate and won, becoming the first Democratic woman Senator elected in her own right. She was re-elected with large majorities in 1992, 1998 and 2004. A leader in the Senate, Mikulski is the Dean of the Women - serving as a mentor to other women Senators when they first take office. [5]

Reagan critic

While serving as a United States congresswoman, Mikulski was a harsh critic of the Reagan administration's defense and foreign policies, and voted to cancel the MX missile project and cut off aid to Nicaraguan contras.[6]

EMILY's List

Mikulski has been supported by EMILY's List during her campaigning.

EMILY's List co-founder Joanne Howes served as legislative director for Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and was a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood Federation of America..[7]

Socialist connections

For many years Barbara Mikulski was very close to Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee/Democratic Socialists of America.

Democratic Agenda

Democratic Agenda, Nov. 1979

More than 1,200 people attended the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee initiated Democratic Agenda Conference held November 16-18, 1979, at the International Inn and Metropolitan AM Church in Washington 1 DC. The conference focused on "corporate power'; as the key barrier to "economic and political democracy," concepts many Democratic Agenda participants defined as "socialism.'

The Democratic Agenda meetings attempted to develop anti-corporate alternatives" through influencing the direction of the Democratic Party during the period leading to the July 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York.

The opening speaker was U.S. Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) who set the stage for the DA conference with the proclamation, "I come to you with a message of hype - hope - well, it is hype." The Baltimore Congresswoman proceeded with a speech that was basically a collection of Slogans such as "Change comes from the bottom!" and "People power!" which were received with warm applause. .[8]

Socialist staffer

Joanne Howes is a Partner, Director of Client Services, Government Affairs of Washington DC consultancy firm Bass & Howes, and was close to the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee. . Prior to joining forces with Marie Bass, Howes served as legislative director for Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).[9]

"Knows about" DSOC"

Nancy Lieber, International Committee chair of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, wrote a June 30, 1981 letter to Danielle Page, a staffer for Canadian Member of Parliament Ian Waddell.

Dear Danielle Page,
I'm sending along a list of Congresspeople and senators who know about us, democratic socialism, and -- perhaps Canada.
Only the first one is an open socialist, but the others are sympathetic in varying degrees.

The list was;

Hope this is of help and you recruit them to the cause!
In Solidarity,
Nancy Lieber
Chair, Intl. Committee

Democratic Agenda conference


Congresswoman Barbara Mikulski was an invited as a speaker to the Democratic Socialists Organizing Committee organized Democratic Agenda conference, scheduled for 1982 in Newark, New Jersey. Other invited speakers included New York City Councillor Ruth Messinger, SEIU President John Sweeney, Coalition of Labor Union Women President Joyce Miller, and Americans for Democratic Action President Robert Drinan.

Homage to Harrington

Reading Socialist Vol. 6, number 3, Sep./Oct. 88, page 3
Reading Socialist Vol. 6, number 3, Sep./Oct. 88, page 4

In 1988, 600 activists gathered in the Roseland Hotel, New York to pay homage to Democratic Socialists of America leader Michael Harrington, then age 60, and undergoing treatment for cancer.

Co-chairs of the event were DSA members William Winpisinger, Gloria Steinem, Jack Sheinkman and Stanley Sheinbaum.

Congresswoman Barbara Mikulski was listed among the prominent attendees.

Working with Pappas

Long time Democratic Socialists of America leader Dean Pappas, an activist whose strong antiwar views were honed during the Vietnam War era, when he stood, often shoulder to shoulder, with the late Philip Berrigan, the “Dissenter Emeritus,” in opposing the evils of the American Empire. Pappas said: “I have actually known [Sen.] Barbara Mikulski for over 40 years. We worked together. I was really proud of what she did in standing up to U.S. imperialism in Central America."[10]

Tour to Nicaragua

In January 1981, three Congressional Democrats, Gerry Studds of Massachusetts, Bob Edgar of Pennsylvania, and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, toured Nicaragua, and met with Sandinista leaders.

A follow up report by Studds claimed that the Sandinista's main "accomplishment has been to create within Nicaragua a universal commitment to social equity, and a concern for the country's multitude of poor, ill clothed, ill fed and sick people. There is a fully shared sense that the revolution is necessary and just."[11]

After her February 1981 visit Nicaragua, and other countries in Central America, Mikulski "provided further evidence of atrocities committed by right-wing forces".

Mikulski reported that "In each and every conversation [with Salvadoran civilian refugees], it was verified that the military aid from the United States was aiding and abetting the killing and torture of innocent people."[12]

Mikulski claimed that children were used as target practice, "and macheted up to be eaten by dogs", and "rape is used as a systematic form of social control" She also said terrorists "disemwomb" pregnant women.[13]

Voted against Contra aid

Two Baltimore Democratic reps, Barbara Mikulski and Parren Mitchell, consistently voted against Contra aid in 1986. Their replacements, Kweisi Mfume and Ben Cardin, continued the pattern in 1987-88. [14]

Helping Soviet propaganda

Labeling U.S. charges as "lies," a senior Kremlin spokesman vigorously denied February 25 1981 that the Soviet Union was supplying weapons to Marxist guerrillas in El Salvador and said that there could be no Soviet-American summit if President Reagan insists on preconditions.

"I can tell you the Soviet Union has not and is not delivering weapons to El Salvador," Leonid Zamyatin, chief of the Communist Party Central Committee's

international information department asserted at a press conference. He labeled as "lies" the State Department's special report that blamed Moscow and Cuba for supporting the guerrillas with arms.

Reagan "is absolutely incorrect" if he believes the report, Zamyatin said. "Lies repeated many times don't become truth." Zamyatin, however, did not address the U.S. claim that the Kremlin and its East European allies had organized the shipment of arms from Vietnam and Ethiopia to Cuba. Cuba and the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, according to the State Department, were involved in the final transfer of weapons to the Salvadoran guerrillas to make it a "textbook case of indirect aggression by communist powers."

Zamyatin, a Central Committee member with close ties to Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, also asserted it is "incorrect to set preconditions" for a meeting between the leaders of the two countries. "We are ready and we are not posing any preconditions" on resumption of bilateral contacts at all levels, he said.

In his major report to the opening session of the 26th party congress Monday, Brezhnev called for resumption of a "dialogue" to restore relations which have been frozen since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979.

Reagan said yesterday in Washington that he is "most interested" in Brezhnev's invitation to meet, but said the issue of arming Salvadoran insurgents must be straightened out first. With a dig at communist archrival China, Zamyatin said this position of Reagan's "resembles hegemonism, it sounds like China. This is not our policy line."

Zamyatin accused Washington of forcing a "fascist junta" on El Salvador, and said a recent U.S. congressional delegation led by Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) has reported that the population was being "decimated" by the Central American country's government.

"There are no Soviet advisers in El Salvador, but there are U.S. adviers," he said.

"The U.S. ships arms to El Salvador; they don't hide it." These arms "destroy and kill a population that wants to live under its own choice of government."[15]

Meeting Dorfman

As a briefing paper for the Congress, "Widows" is not of the common mold. Nor is its author, Ariel Dorfman, the standard special-interest pleader. "Widows" is a political novel set in a Greek village in 1940 that describes in polished and unlabored prose the effects on families when husbands, sons and brothers are abducted by a military government and listed as disappeared.

Dorfman is an exiled Chilean writer who fled his homeland in 1973 when his beliefs in human rights and democracy were seen as subversive by the Pinochet dictatorship.

In May 1983, Dorfman, wearing sturdy walking shoes and accompanied by his son, delivered copies of his novel to each senator and representative. A foundation bought 535 of the books from Pantheon, the New York publisher, and Dorfman, going office to office through the Dirksen, Russell, Hart, Cannon and Rayburn buildings, has been a personal delivery service.

Dorfman gave his novel to Congress to help broaden the discussion about the United States' country's involvement with the dictators and the secret polices of Latin America. His claim that the voices of the missing and their relatives are left out of the military aid dialogue is not unfounded.

Dorfman gave the first copies of his book to Reps. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.). The two congresswomen, both of whom are bywords for attentiveness to human rights, had come to a lunch in Washington that Dorfman hosted on May 5 for several mothers of the missing. By coincidence, that was the day when thousands of demonstrators marched in the streets of Buenos Aires to protest the military government's report that tried to justify the massive abductions from 1975 and 1979.

After Schroeder praised the mothers for their courage and Mikulski recounted her recent journey to hear the poor's side in Central America, women from Argentina, Chile and El Salvador were asked to tell of their suffering. [16]

FMLN supporter

Sitting lawmakers who publicly endorsed, assisted or lent their names to FMLN causes include Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and Rep. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), according to literature published by FMLN support groups such as the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador.

The FMLN assassinated American military trainers, U.S. Marines who guarded the embassy in San Salvador, American businessmen and CIA assets, and a retired American Jesuit priest, the Rev. Francisco Peccorini. [17]

Opposed aid to El Salvador

On February 6, 1990, Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry introduced a Bill to cut off all aid to El Salvador just a few days after EI Salvador's President Cristiani had come to Washington to discuss the need for such support.

This bill was backed by four other Democratic Senators: Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Paul Simon of Illinois, Alan Cranston of California and Brock Adams of Washington state.

The Senators and Congressmen who vote against providing aid to the government of El Salvador were effectively handicapping the democratically-elected government in that area and paralleling the Communist line of the time.[18]

The Communist Party USA newspaper, the People's Daily World of January 30, 1990 stated:

Last weekend's meeting of the Communist Party, USA resolved to Mobilize to build the March 24 demonstration in Washington, D.C. demanding an end to military aid to El Salvador and intervention in Central America.

Supported by Council for a Livable World

The Council for a Livable World, founded in 1962 by long-time socialist activist and alleged Soviet agent, Leo Szilard, is a non-profit advocacy organization that seeks to "reduce the danger of nuclear weapons and increase national security", primarily through supporting progressive, congressional candidates who support their policies. The Council supported Barbara Mikulski in her successful Senate run as candidate for Maryland.[19]

Opposed the Iraq War

The following is a list of the 23 U.S. Senators voting "Nay" on the Iraq War resolution in October 2002. The vote was 77-23 in favor of the resolution.

Daniel Akaka (D - Hawaii), Jeff Bingaman (D - N.M.), Barbara Boxer (D - Calif.), Robert Byrd (D - W. Va.), Lincoln Chafee (R - R.I.), Kent Conrad (D - N.D.), Jon Corzine (D - N.J.), Mark Dayton (D - Minn.), Dick Durbin (D - Ill.), Russ Feingold (D - Wis.), Bob Graham (D - Fla.) [Retired, 2004], Daniel Inouye (D - Hawaii), Jim Jeffords (I - Vt.), Ted Kennedy (D - Mass.), Patrick Leahy (D - Vt.), Carl Levin (D - Mich.), Barbara Mikulski (D - Md.), Patty Murray (D - Wash.), Jack Reed (D - R.I.), Paul Sarbanes (D - Md.), Debbie Stabenow (D - Mich.), Paul Wellstone (D - Minn.) [Dec. 2002] and Ron Wyden (D - Ore.).

Honduras letter

On Thursday, May 23, 2013, U.S. Senator Cardin (D-MD) circulated a Senate sign-on "Dear Colleague" letter to Secretary of State John Kerry addressing deepening concerns about Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Honduras.

The letter states that violence and impunity for state security forces in Honduras has reached intolerable levels and cites concerns related to extrajudicial killings, linkages to death squads, and increasing militarization of civilian law enforcement. The letter also raises the concern that State Department certifications intended to ensure that U.S. foreign aid supports the rule of law in Honduras may contradict the reality on the ground.

The letter asks State Department to:

  • provide Congress with a detailed assessment of the efficacy of current Honduran government efforts to address this issue as mandated by FY12 Appropriations language;
  • conduct a detailed review of specific State Department actions to help ensure that no U.S. funds are being used to support police implicated in human rights violations; and
  • make every reasonable effort to help ensure that Honduras' upcoming November 2013 elections are free, fair and peaceful.[20]

In addition to Cardin, the letter was cosigned by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mark Udall (D-CO), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Michael F. Bennet (D-CO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).[21]

CASA connection

Ribbon cutters

U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin (Md.) were among the special guests who helped cut the ribbon on CASA de Maryland's newly expanded and renovated multicultural center in Langly Park, Md. Through an investment partnership with Bank of America, Enterprise helped finance the green property with $7.9 million in New Markets Tax Credit allocation. [22]

CASA grant

U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski November 25, 2013 congratulated CASA de Maryland for being awarded a $3 million through the Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation Fund (i3). The grant will be used to fund the Learning Together Project, a multi-tier, multigenerational program designed to give immigrant families the tools they need in order to navigate themselves and their children through the American educational system.

“I am proud that the Department of Education is partnering with CASA de Maryland to develop best practices for strengthening families and communities that will be used nationwide. CASA de Maryland is on the forefront of developing innovative ways to provide immigrant families with critical services,” said Senator Cardin. “The federal dollars going into Langley Park will go far in strengthening our entire county by promoting education as the great equalizer.”

“Education is the opportunity ladder of this nation,” said Senator Mikulski, a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. “CASA de Maryland is an important part of that ladder for the Latino community in Maryland, providing job training and classes in English, computers and financial literacy. Immigrants have and always will be a part of our nation’s fabric. These federal dollars will help CASA de Maryland provide families with the tools they need to obtain a quality education.”[23]

Barbara Mikulski nominates Fr. John Dear for Peace Prize

In April 2014 Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland has nominated Fr. John Dear for the Nobel Peace Prize. She has known and admired John for nearly twenty years.

All of us at Pace e Bene congratulate John and thank Senator Mikulski for her support!
“For over three decades, John has been a relentless advocate for nonviolence in a world sorely in need of transformation, healing, and a nonviolent shift,” says Ken Butigan, the director of Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, where John serves as outreach director. “It’s a great experience working with John everyday, where he is spreading the power of creative nonviolence and taking action for a better world. We are moved by the fact that Senator Mikulski has recognized our friend and colleague’s ongoing work for change.”
John is currently working to organize Campaign Nonviolence, a week of nonviolent action across the United states and beyond against war, poverty, environmental destruction and the epidemic of violence September 20-27. [24]


“Since its inception in 1994, CAIR has been at the forefront of enhancing understanding and building coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding. - Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) (September 2014).[25]

NIAC connection



The following are past and present staff:[26]

External links


  1. Official Bio. Accessed 8/8/11}
  2. Huffington Post, From Organizer To Elected Official, Peter Dreier, September 8, 2008
  3. Gale Encyclopedia of Biography: Barbara Mikulski
  4. Gale Encyclopedia of Biography: Barbara Mikulski
  5. Official Bio. Accessed 8/8/11}
  6. Gale Encyclopedia of Biography: Barbara Mikulski
  7. SPOKE bio
  8. Information Digest, December 14, 1979, page 372
  9. SPOKE bio
  10. Bearing Witness To Sen. Mikulski's Complicity in the War, Baltimore, MD - August 3, 2007
  11. [A Call to Conscience: The Anti/Contra War Campaign By Roger C. Peace, page 18]
  12. PBS debates, Should the US congress have provided military aid for the Salvadorean Government in the 1980s?
  13. Eagle - May 1, 1981, Democrats sue over El Salvador
  14. A Call to Conscience: The Anti-Contra War Campaign By Roger Craft Peace, Univ of Massachusetts Press page 130]
  15. [The Washington Post February 26, 1981, Thursday, Final Edition, Soviets Deny Supplying Weapons to Marxist Guerrillas, in El Salvador BYLINE: By Kevin Klose, Washington Post Foreign Service SECTION: First Section; World News; A30]
  16. [The Washington Post May 15, 1983, Sunday, Final Edition In Latin America, Terror Through Abduction BYLINE: COLMAM MCCARTHY SECTION: Style; Colman McCarthy; G2]
  17. [FOR THE RECORD * - When Congressmen Support Terrorism -* The Enemies Within * Insight On The News ^ | 22 Jan, 2003 | J. Michael Waller]
  18. Communists in the Democratic Party, page 9
  19. CLW website: Meet Our Candidates
  20. SOAWatch, Ask your Senator to sign onto the Cardin Letter about Honduras
  21. Cardin Press release, Cardin Leads Senate Call For Accountability In Honduras For Human Rights Violations Tuesday, June 18, 2013
  22. Youtube, CASA de Maryland Opens with Enterprise Support, Uploaded on Jul 26, 2010]
  23. BC Cardin, Mikulski Announce $3 Million Federal Grant to Support Effective Life Skills through CASA de Maryland Monday, November 25, 2013
  24. [ Pace e Bene, Sen. Barbara Mikulski nominates Fr. John Dear for Peace Prize Posted by Ryan Hall 04.15.15]
  25. [ What They Say About CAIR (October 2014)
  26. Accessed 12/09/2011