For Jeff ’68 and Anne K. Bingaman ’68 (BA ’65), life since meeting at Stanford Law School has been one heck of a ride. From small-town beginnings to the nation’s capital, this uniquely southwestern power couple has been successfully navigating the D.C. establishment for nearly three decades. Juggling family and work from the center of our national government, they provide a model not only for those who seek to influence public policy but also for those who seek to thrive in a high-powered, two-career marriage.
Jeff and Anne both were born in small towns in the southwest—she in Arizona and he in New Mexico—in liberal, Democratic households. Anne’s interest in lawyering dates back to Adlai Stevenson’s failed presidential bid in 1952, when she was just 9 years old. “I cried for days and I decided right then that I would be a lawyer because that’s what Adlai Stevenson was. I had no idea what being a lawyer even meant,” she says.
Jeff, on the other hand, grew up with lawyers in his family. “An uncle was very active in New Mexico politics and gave me the idea that politics and law might make a good career,” he recalls.
Jeff and Anne entered Stanford Law School in the same class, though their paths didn’t cross until their second year when a seating chart set the course for their life together.
“We were assigned seats next to each other in John Henry Merryman’s class on law and development and spent the semester getting to know each other,” says Anne.
Anne recalls that the law school was a “phenomenal place,” especially for women. “We had an unusually large number of women in our class—14—compared with five or six the years before and after,” she says. “You heard terrible stories about the treatment women received at other law schools. But I never experienced any sex discrimination, and it never occurred to me that I would.”
They were married shortly after their law school graduation and moved to New Mexico. Neither Anne nor Jeff recalls any discussion about whether both would work outside the home. “It was just assumed we would,” says Jeff. They both had strong role models: His parents were teachers and hers ran the family wholesale food business.
Anne initially encountered some difficulty finding a job in Albuquerque in 1970. “The law firms in New Mexico at that time didn’t have women lawyers.” But one firm took a chance, making her the state’s first female associate, and her legal career was officially launched.
Meanwhile, Jeff was working in and out of government. One of his earliest positions was with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, which gave him the unique opportunity of serving as counsel for the state’s constitutional convention. This was followed by private practice in both Albuquerque and Santa Fe and eventually the formation of his own firm with New Mexico’s former governor, Jack Campbell.
As Jeff’s Santa Fe practice grew, Anne worked briefly for the attorney general’s office before being asked to join the law faculty of the University of New Mexico in 1972. She was the law school’s first female professor, and although she enjoyed teaching and was granted tenure, she knew it wasn’t her life’s calling. “I quit without knowing what I’d do next, but it all worked out fine.”
Anne’s dad encouraged her to start her own firm. She did and three days later was hired as antitrust counsel in a large ongoing case against Gulf Oil Corp. Although she had taken former Stanford Law professor William Baxter’s ’56 (BA ’51) antitrust course, “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever practice it,” she says. But she obtained a default judgment on the antitrust facts against Gulf Oil, valued at $1 billion when entered in 1978, and other cases followed.
While Anne practiced antitrust law, Jeff looked for opportunities in government. It came in 1978 with his election as state attorney general—something he had thought about doing since his earlier stint as an assistant attorney general.
“It was a great job,” he says. “The variety of issues ranged from water rights to liquor licenses.”
Jeff says that if he hadn’t been prevented by term limits, he probably would have run again. Instead, he ran for the United States Senate in 1982, winning an upset victory against the Republican incumbent, a popular former astronaut.
Moving to Washington, D.C., with their young son, John, was a difficult transition for the Bingamans, especially Anne. “Was it easy? No. Was it the right thing to do? Absolutely,” she says. “It was sort of part of the deal. And I was so proud of him.”
Anne soon jumped into Washington life, joining the D.C. office of an Atlanta firm as an antitrust litigator. Eventually, she too moved into public service, when in 1993 she was appointed to head the antitrust division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) under President Clinton, her professor Bill Baxter’s former job, which he held from 1981 to 1983. During her three-and-a-half-year tenure at DOJ, Anne gained a reputation for “coming down hard on corporate giants” and became committed to bringing competition to the telecommunications industry. Although described by some as “aggressive,” she prefers to think of herself as “proactive.” “I thought it important to identify specific principles and then choose cases to illustrate those values,” she says.
Meanwhile, Jeff was gaining a reputation as an outspoken senator, with frequent editorials on subjects ranging from the excesses of the armed services budget to the necessity of preventing weapons proliferation and the dangers of exporting aerospace technology.
Now the senior senator from New Mexico, Jeff has served on a number of committees, but he is perhaps best known as chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. As President Obama enters office, Jeff’s committee is poised to act on a number of critical issues including energy efficiency, renewable energy, and the reduction of carbon emissions.
Since leaving public service, Anne has launched yet another career—this time as a telecommunications businesswoman. Following her years at DOJ, Anne joined a leading telecommunications company, and then struck out on her own as founder, chairman, and CEO of Valor Telecom, a company with more than 550,000 land lines that was headquartered in Dallas and went public on the NYSE in 2006. In 2002, she started another company, Soundpath Conferencing Services, which uses specialized software to provide audio-conferencing for major law firms. Having sold that company in August 2008, Anne says she is “just fooling around,” looking for her next business opportunity.
Although they rarely discuss politics at home, and they practiced law together only briefly, Jeff says there are “a lot of benefits that result from being married to someone who shares your professional interests.” As for what suggestions they would give to couples trying to successfully navigate dual career paths, that’s easy: “Develop a high tolerance for chaos and incongruity,” they say.