Al D'Amato

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Alfonse Marcello “Al” D'Amato​, Sr.

Chairman of the
Senate Banking Committee​
In office
January 3, 1995​ – January 3, 1999​
Preceded by Donald Riegle​
Succeeded by Phil Gramm

United States Senator
for New York
In office
January 3, 1981​ – January 3, 1999​
Preceded by Jacob Javits
Succeeded by Chuck Schumer

Born August 1, 1937​
New York City
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) (1) Penelope D'Amato (married 1960–1995, divorced)

Katuria Smith (married 2004–2018, separated)

Children Six children​:
Four from first marriage
Two from second marriage

Armand and Antoinette Ciofarri D'Amato

Residence Long Island
Alma mater Chaminade High School

Syracuse University
Syracuse Law School

Religion Roman Catholic

Alfonse Marcello D'Amato, Sr., known as Al D'Amato (born August 1, 1937 (age 86), is an American attorney who represented New York in the United States Senate as a Republican from 1981 to 1999. He subsequently established Park Strategies, a lobbying firm. He is the most recent Republican to represent New York in the U. S. Senate.​ He succeeded fellow Republican Jacob Javits, a liberal member of the party from New York City, whom he denied re-nomination to a fifth term in the 1980 party primary. After three terms, D'Amato was unseated in 1998 by the Democrat Chuck Schumer, a vile career politician serving as the current Senate Democratic Leader. D'Amato is the last Republican to have represented the Empire State in the Senate.


Of Italian Roman Catholic ancestry, D'Amato was born in the Brooklyn borough to Armand D'Amato, an insurance broker, and the former Antoinette Ciofarri. He was reared on Long Island, in the village of Island Park.[1] He is a graduate of Chaminade High School, Syracuse University, and the Syracuse School of Law, both in Syracuse, New York.

From his first marriage to Penelope D'Amato, he had four children. By his second wife, Katuria, he has a son, Alfonso Marcello D'Amato, Jr. (born 2008), and a daughter, Luciana Cioffari D'Amato (born 2009).[2] Katuria D'Amato filed for divorce in 2017.[3]

An avid poker player, D'Amato is a former chairman of the Poker Players Alliance which among other matters advocated that poker players be allowed to play on-line.[4]

Political life

Before his Senate years, D'Amato held the appointive position of public administrator of Nassau County, in which capacity he was responsible for managing the assets of county residents who died intestate. He was first appointed and then elected as receiver of taxes for the town of Hempstead. In 1977 he was elected presiding supervisor. [5]

In 1979, Javits disclosed that he had Lou Gehrig's disease. Despite his obscurity as a statewide candidate, D'Amato unseated Senator Javits in their primary, 56 to 44 percent. Javits continued his campaign in the general election as he nominee of the New York Liberal Party. In that same election, Ronald Reagan carried New York, but Javits polled only 11 percent of the vote. D'Amato defeated the Democratic nominee then U.S. Representative Elizabeth Holtzman, 45 to 44 percent. D'Amato won again in 1986 and 1992 but lost to Schumer in 1998.​

Because of his emphasis on constituent services, in the tradition of his colleague Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, he became known as "Senator Pothole." His supporters did not object to the appellation because they appreciated his focus on getting things done.​ D'Amato holds the record for the second and eighth longest filibusters in the Senate, some of which became comical in nature. (Strom Thurmond held the record for the longest filibuster in opposing the Civil Rights Act of 1957).[6]

In 1983, he voted for the Martin Luther King Holiday legislation, signed into law by President Reagan and taking effect in 1986 on the third Monday of January. In 1987, he backed the Civil Rights Restoration Act and also voted to override President Reagan's veto of the legislation.[7] He supported the confirmation of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas to the United States Supreme Court; Bork was rejected by senators, including some Moderate Republicans,[8] but Thomas was narrowly confirmed in 1991, 52 to 48, with the support of eleven Democrats.[9]

In 1989, President George Herbert Walker Bush named D'Amato to the Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism.​ He chaired the Senate Banking Committee and was a member of the Senate Finance Committee.[5] He became a leading critic of President Bill Clinton in the Whitewater scandal and chaired the hearings of the special committee conducting the investigation into the matter. He supported efforts to assist Holocaust survivors in obtain their relatives' mony in Swiss bank accounts.[10]

Like Governor Thomas Dewey, D'Amato was viewed as the "boss" of the New York Republican Party. He was instrumental in securing the 1994 gubernatorial nomination for George Pataki, who unseated Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo.[11]

D'Amato was mostly conservative in his early career. He backed capital punishment and heavy sentences for narcotics offenses. In time he became more of a Moderate Republican and was one of only three senators of his party to vote to allow homosexuals to serve openly in the U. S. military. In 1996, D'Amato voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, pushed by the Democrats. In his failed 1998 reelection bid, in which George Pataki nevertheless won a second term as governor, D'Amato was endorsed by the homosexual Human Rights Campaign.[12] In 1996, D'Amato, voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which drew the opposition of liberals.[13]

His ten-point loss to Schumer apparently came from the loss of support from moderate voters in New York City. He once referred to Schumer as a "putzhead," a Yiddish vulgarity.[14]

Prior to leaving office, Senator D'Amato published his memoir entitled Power, Pasta and Politics. He also became a columnist for the since defunct George magazine and a contributor to Fox News.[15]

In 2008, D'Amato endorsed actor and U.S. Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee for the Republican presidential nomination, which instead went to John McCain, who was handily defeated by Barack Obama. In 2012, D'Amato supported Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and the current junior U. S. Senator from Utah, in the second losing race that Republicans waged against Obama. In 2016, he endorsed Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Moderate Republican who claimed the ability to stop runaway deficits. In that race, former Governor Pataki was also a candidate. Kasich was quickly upended by D'Amato's fellow New York Republican, Donald Trump.

In 2020, the former senator spoke against the policy of Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo to transfer coronavirus patients to nursing homes.[16]

D'Amato tested positive for COVID-19 in November 2020,[17] and said that he was "weak" but felt "good".[18]


  1. D'Amato, Alfonse M.. The New York Times. Retrieved on May 27, 2020.
  2. Anne Bratskeir (October 16, 2009). D'Amato and wife welcome baby daughter. Newsday. Retrieved on May 27, 2020.
  3. Julia Marsh (October 10, 2017). Ex-Sen. Al D’Amato’s wife files for divorce. The New York Post. Retrieved on May 27, 2020.
  4. Alfonse M. D'Amato, "Report from the Chairman," Poker Players Alliance, October 2007.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Senator Alfonse D'Amato's entry in The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Bioguide.congress. Retrieved on May 27, 2020.
  6. User Clip: Al D'Amato Filibuster, 1992. C-SPAN (September 25, 2013). Retrieved on May 27, 2020.
  7. To Pass S 557, Civil Rights Restoration Act. (January 28, 1988). Retrieved on May 27, 2020.
  8. Senate's Roll-Call on the Bork Vote. The New York Times (October 24, 1987). Retrieved on May 27, 2020.
  9. The Thomas Confirmation: How the Senators Voted on Thomas. The New York Times (October 16, 1991). Retrieved on May 27, 2020.
  10. How the Holocaust-Swiss banks deal was brokered. (August 13, 2018). Retrieved on May 27, 2020.
  11. Richard Perez-Pena (November 5, 1998). The 1998 Elections: New York State – The Parties – New Order for New York's G.O.P. and Democrats. The New York Times. Retrieved on May 27, 2020.
  12. Adam Nagourney (October 21, 1998). D'Amato Wins Endorsement Of Gay Group. The New York Times. Retrieved on May 27, 2020.
  13. H.R. 3396 (104th): Defense of Marriage Act -- Senate Vote #280 -- Sep 10, 1996. Retrieved on May 27, 2020.
  14. D'Amato and Schumer Slug It Out. CBS News (October 26, 1998). Retrieved on May 27, 2020.
  15. D'Amato to pen advice column. CNN (March 9, 1999). Retrieved on May 27, 2020.
  16. Carl Campanile (April 30, 2020). D'Amato blast NY for putting coronavirus patients in nurshing homes. The New York Post. Retrieved on May 27, 2020.
  17. Sanderson, Bill (November 21, 2020). Ex-NY Sen. Al D’Amato hospitalized with COVID-19. NY Daily News. Retrieved November 23, 2020.
  18. Two references: