James Frederick "Jim" Bridenstine (born June 15, 1975) is an American politician who has been the United States Representative for Oklahoma's 1st congressional district, based in Tulsa, since 2013. He is a member of the Republican Party.
Early life, education, and military service
Bridenstine was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is a Jenks High School graduate, a graduate of Rice University with three majors, and has an MBA from Cornell University. He is a former executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium and is a Naval Aviator in the U.S. Navy Reserve where he flies the E-2C Hawkeye in Central and South America in support of the War on Drugs. Bridenstine is an Eagle Scout and received several military awards, including the Air Medal. As of 2016 Bridenstine is a State of Oklahoma record holder in 200 meter swimming (freestyle, relay).
U.S. House of Representatives
In the Republican primary election on June 26, 2012, Bridenstine defeated five-term incumbent U.S. Congressman John Sullivan 54% to 46%. Although he identified with the tea party and was perceived as running to Sullivan's right, Bridenstine's actual policy statements differed little from those of Sullivan. In the November 2012 general election, he defeated Democratic nominee John Olson 63%–32%, and won all five counties in the district. Bridenstine had effectively clinched a seat in Congress by ousting Sullivan in the Republican primary. The 1st is a heavily Republican district with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+16, and has been in Republican hands since 1987.
Bridenstine retained his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2016 election. It has been suggested that he may be a candidate for either NASA administrator, or Secretary of the Air Force, under the incoming Trump presidency.
As of November 2016, Bridenstine has the following committee assignments:
- Committee on Armed Services
- Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces
- Subcommittee on Strategic Forces
- Committee on Science, Space and Technology
- Subcommittee on Environment, chair
- Subcommittee on Space
Representative Bridenstine has focused heavily on space policy during his tenure in Congress, stating “[o]ur very way of life depends on space, the way we communicate, the way we navigate, the way we produce food and energy, the way we conduct banking.” In April 2016 at the 32nd Annual Space Symposium, Bridenstine introduced H.R. 4945, the American Space Renaissance Act, comprehensive reform legislation with provisions affecting national security, civil, and commercial space policy.
In addition, Bridenstine has proposed legislation to fill gaps in the regulatory process overseeing certain non-traditional space activities, and helped secure funding for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation. Recognizing his efforts, in 2015 SpaceNews named Bridenstine as one of five game changers in the world in space.
Bridenstine has also introduced legislation focused on weather forecasting and research, notably H.R. 2413, the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act of 2014, and, along with Representative Frank Lucas (R-OK), H.R. 1561, the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2015. In the 114th Congress, he has served as the Chairman of the Environment Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. In that role, he has pushed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “…to integrate commercial data into its weather forecasting models.” In September 2016, NOAA awarded two contracts to private weather satellite firms to provide data for its use.
In 2013, Bridenstine sponsored an amendment to the annual defense appropriations bill, which would have required Department of Defense reports on the strategic importance of natural gas interests in the Caspian Sea area, and the value of building a gas pipeline out of the region.
This came after a visit to Baku upon invitation of the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic for 10 members of Congress and 32 Staff members that became the subject of an ethics investigation. Of ten members of Congress, he was the only one who disclosed the value of the trip (more than $14,100).
According to a story published in 2016, Bridenstine turned over gifts received during the trip to the House Clerk.
In the 2014 election cycle, Bridenstine's top 3 campaign contributors were Northrop Grumman, Latshaw Drilling, American Optometric Association, Citizens United and the Every Republican is Crucial Political Action Committee. He received $29,000 from donors associated with the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians and the Assembly of the Friends of Azerbaijan (AFAZ), per an analysis of the Center for Responsive Politics.
In 2016 it was revealed he was one of 9 members of Congress who took a trip secretly funded by the government of Azerbaijan and had to turn over gifts the country gave him to the House Clerk after an ethics investigation.
Bridenstine was one of three co-chairs of the Veterans Coalition supporting Ted Cruz for the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential campaign. He was joined in "Vets for Ted" by former U.S. Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire and Texas State Senator Brian Birdwell. Bill Connor was national director of the coalition.