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Dorgan staying busy after retirement from U.S. Senate

Byron Dorgan served 18 years in the U.S. Senate.

Choosing whether to cheer for the hockey team at the University of Denver or the University of North Dakota is not the only thing that former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) has been juggling since he retired from the Senate.

“I have been torn for decades between the two teams because I attended both schools and both have been national champions,” says Dorgan (MBA ’66). “But I have been out of Congress for less than three months now and am doing a lot of things.”

Dorgan, who retired from the U.S. Senate in 2010 after 30 years in Congress, spends half his time as a senior policy adviser for the Washington, D.C., law firm Arent Fox and serves as co-chair of the firm’s government relations practice. Dorgan also serves as visiting professor at the University of North Dakota (the designated repository for the official records of his time in Congress), and Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute. He also is senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center working on energy issues and gives speeches around the country with a speaking bureau called Leading Authorities.

If that is not enough to keep him busy, Dorgan also has signed a contract to write a two-book series.

“These books will be different from what I have written in the past because they are fiction books but will focus on energy issues,” Dorgan says.

Dorgan already is a New York Times bestselling author for his book Take this Job and Ship It: How Corporate Greed and Brain-Dead Politics Are Selling Out America (Thomas Dunne Books 2006). He released a second book in 2009 called Reckless: How Debt, Deregulation and Dark Money Nearly Bankrupted America (And How We Can Fix It) (Thomas Dunne Books 2009). He wrote both while serving as a senator.

Dorgan says his path to the Beltway started with his education. His DU MBA was a great asset.

“The class work was challenging,” Dorgan says of his MBA. “I found it an excellent place to attend graduate school with great instructors.”

“I had heard about the reputation of the MBA program at DU,” Dorgan adds. “I also have to admit that I enjoyed being close to the ski slopes as well.”

After DU, Dorgan went back to North Dakota and was appointed North Dakota tax commissioner at age 26. He was North Dakota’s youngest constitutional officer at the time. He served as tax commissioner from 1969–80.

Dorgan then served 12 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and 18 years in the U.S. Senate.

He held many influential positions in Congress, first serving as the assistant Democratic floor leader and then as chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee. During his time, he also chaired a number of Senate committees and subcommittees that focused on a wide range of issues.

“I worked on a lot of issues,” Dorgan says. “I focused on energy and technology, telecommunications, water policy, American Indians, aviation, finance and economic issues.”

Although his 2010 retirement from elective politics was unexpected, he has not taken himself out of the game when it comes to making a difference.

Dorgan founded the Center for Native American Youth — a new policy program at the Aspen Institute — and donated $1 million of his leftover campaign money to the program.

“I have worked on Indian issues and was the chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs in the Senate, and I wanted to continue my work with Indians after I left,” Dorgan says. “I thought the best way was to invest in a program to improve and save the lives of young people on Indian reservations.”

The center focuses on youth suicide prevention, substance abuse problems and improving the overall health and safety of Native American youths.

“Dorgan decided to put the program at the Aspen Institute because it convenes and communicates about issues and catalyzes change,” says Erin Bailey, director of the center. “As the founder, he is deeply passionate about suicide prevention and raises these issues into national dialogue.”

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