Republican Congressional candidate Scott Sipprelle grew up in a family that lived off government paychecks (as did his Democratic opponent), But Sipprelle spent those formative years living abroad, where he recounts learning an appreciation for America’s liberties and economic opportunity — both of which he believes big government can only hinder.
Sipprelle’s father began his career as a high school history teacher (as did Holt’s), and later joined the Foreign Service and took his family on an overseas odyssey. For 12 years, Sipprelle moved from one country to the next — including Colombia, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Turkey, and Austria — returning to the United States at 15 to attend a boarding school.
“My father ran the consulate in each country,” Sipprelle says. “The consulate is there to help American citizens who, for example, lose their passport or are arrested in that country. He would also make arrangements when U.S. dignitaries come to visit and handle other responsibilities.”
Sipprelle’s mother spent the “first half of her career as a mom and the second half, after my father retired, as a political officer with the Foreign Service,” he says. “My father then became Mr. Mom as my mother served in Austria, Mexico, and India.”
Living abroad, Sipprelle says, “opened my eyes to diverse peoples, cultures, and political systems. I got an opportunity to visit behind the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Union, where I saw a complete lack of joy and economic opportunity. I learned to appreciate even more the special liberties we have in the United States and what an incredible place this country is.”
For example, he supports the rights of those who want to build a Muslim cultural center near Ground Zero in Manhattan even though he would prefer to see it relocated because of the “special sensitivity concerns.” “We must always uphold and defend our Constitutional rights to property and religious freedom,” he says.
Sipprelle earned a bachelor’s degree in economics at Hamilton College in 1985. He later married his college sweetheart, Tracy. They now have three children and live in Princeton.
“In college, I was fascinated by business,” he says. But he was also drawn to politics. He minored in government and served as an intern for Senator Pete Wilson (R-California). Upon graduation, Sipprelle joined Morgan Stanley for a two-year training program in New York City. “I loved the business of investing and decided to stay in New York,” he says.
He thrived at Morgan Stanley. At age 32, Sipprelle became a managing director and headed the firm’s Equity Capital Markets Division, where he raised growth capital for U.S. corporations.
In 1998 he left Morgan Stanley and founded his own firm, Copper Arch Capital, where he spent the next 10 years managing the finances of numerous foundations and university endowments.
Sipprelle founded a second investment firm, Westland Ventures, in 2007, which provides growth capital for emerging companies. One of these companies is the Bank of Princeton, and Sipprelle served as chairman of the bank’s advisory board. The start-up community bank has grown to include five branches and $300 million in assets.
Through the years, Sipprelle has been active in the community on many fronts. He has been president of the Princeton-Cranbury Babe Ruth League, a trustee of the Historical Society of Princeton, and on a local committee that examined property revaluation in the area.
His Sipprelle Foundation has provided funding for the founding of Isles Community Enterprises, an organization that supports financial literacy and micro-lending in Trenton.
He frequently held fundraisers for many philanthropic causes — especially those devoted to education and self-reliance programs — at his home, a historic house once owned by President Grover Cleveland. The house represents more than a home for Sipprelle — he named his second firm Westland, the moniker Cleveland gave the house. Cleveland, perhaps noted most for the quirk of being the only president elected to non-consecutive terms, has become something of a role model for Sipprelle.
“I sleep in the room that Grover Cleveland died in,” Sipprelle says. “I’ve become fascinated with his life story. He was the original Horatio Alger story. He was born in Caldwell, New Jersey. Cleveland’s father was a preacher and they didn’t have a lot of money.”
The future president decided to head west to strike his fortune but got only so far as Buffalo, N.Y., where he embarked on a political career that led to the White House.
“President Cleveland was one of our most under-recognized leaders,” Sipprelle says. “He is most lauded for clear government. He broke with Tammany Hall, the political machine that controlled his own political party and New York’s government payroll, by establishing what was a precursor to the civil service.”
Sipprelle has taken his own lessons from Cleveland. “He had a firm vision for government and governmental reform — and that is a model for me,” Sipprelle says. He has been active in the local GOP through the Republican Association of Princeton and the Mercer County Capital Republican Club, and he serves as a Republican Committeeman for the 8th District in the Princeton Borough.
Sipprelle decided to join the political fray as a candidate after attending a town hall meeting in West Windsor that featured Congressman Holt. “I became very concerned by his detachment and lack of accountability,” Sipprelle recalls. “I went home and spoke with my wife — and decided to run against him myself.” And he’s serious. Sipprelle has committed $1 million of his own money in the campaign.
“The debate can’t be any starker than between Rush Holt and myself,” Sipprelle says. “He said government spending makes us a richer nation. But unless we change in direction, we will bury our kids in debt and taxes. There has been a relentless attack on businesses, especially small businesses. You can’t have a prosperous country without employers. We need to create jobs at a faster rate.”
The 12th District is oddly shaped. “It is a candidate to be the most gerrymandered in the nation,” he quips. “It stretches from sea to shining river.” Indeed, the district awkwardly meanders from the Atlantic Ocean at Rumson and Sea Bright, to East Brunswick and Cranbury, before reaching out to front along a wide section of the Delaware River. From Princeton, near the district’s center, it bends north to Franklin Township. It includes all or part of 44 towns in five counties.
“The district,” Sipprelle says, “is the battleground for America.” It’s a “microcosm of the United States,” he says, representing farmland, the inner city of Trenton, blue collar and retirement communities, and beach towns. He’s traveled all over the district, he says, and “the biggest issues I hear about are “jobs, jobs, jobs.”
The Economy. There’s plenty of blame to go around for the nation’s lingering recession and a 9.6 percent unemployment rate. His venom seems most directed at the federal government.
He echoes the Republican Party line by claiming the “precipitating cause for the bursting of the bubble” that caused the economy to tumble belongs to mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both created and protected by the federal government. Their willingness to lend to bad credit risks, he says, led to the housing bubble. When it burst, the market crashed and mass layoffs followed.
Then the federal government aggravated the problem through President Bush’s Troubled Asset Relief Program — the bailout known as TARP — followed by President Obama’s stimulus plan, Sipprelle charges.
“Rush Holt completely supported the (bank) bailout and stimulus,” Sipprelle says. “They bailed out reckless banks on Wall Street. These banks should have been punished instead.”
While Sipprelle is critical of over-regulation, he agrees government should require “more transparency and stricter capital standards, with higher standards for banking and risky loans.” Sipprelle also opposes the stimulus plan, which he claims worsened the economy, “causing the jobless rate to rise from 8 to 10 percent.”
Deficit Spending. Sipprelle argues that the threat of higher taxes and government debt, along with regulation, and rising healthcare and energy costs are deterring companies from hiring.
“Deficit spending is an equation for future tax increases,” he says. “The first step required for healing the job market is to remove the choke-hold of policy uncertainty being created by our revenue-starved government.”
Sipprelle’s explains that lower taxes and a smaller federal budget should reinvigorate the economy, which will serve to lower the deficit and trigger hiring.
Tax Cuts. He stands with his party and some conservative Democrats who want to extend the Bush tax cuts, which are due to expire at year end, for everyone — including the 2 percent of Americans who earn more than $200,000 as individuals and $250,000 as families. Most Democrats, Holt included, are committed to extending the tax cuts for everyone — except for that wealthiest 2 percent. This would be a “horrendous time” to raise taxes for anyone while the economy is still weak, counters Sipprelle. It is a “fallacious interpretation” to suggest that only the wealthy would see their taxes rise at Holt and other Democrats suggests.
“One-third of those who would be affected are S corporations” or small businesses, he says. Sipprelle has additional proposals to control taxes and government spending. Congress should approve a flat 20 percent tax rate for both individual and corporate taxpayers. He also supports a Constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget, but then goes even further: “I’d like to see a spending freeze on all discretionary spending — and then a 10 percent across-the-board cut.”
Sipprelle believes there is enough waste and redundant spending in federal programs that department heads could find ways to slash their budgets by one-tenth or more.
He points to the Department of Energy as an example. The department was created in 1978, when the nation imported 30 percent of its oil, to find energy alternatives. “Today, the department has a $24 billion budget and 16,000 employees — and we import 70 percent of our oil. Does the department seem to be working out?”
Defense Spending. The Pentagon wouldn’t escape Sipprelle’s axe, “There is definitely room for reducing military spending through program consolidation, terminating new weapons systems, and shrinking our overstretched global commitments,” he says. “We need to develop a consistent policy of pressuring our allies to pay their dues to the shared responsibility of assuring global security.”
Sipprelle wants the United States “to find a way to extricate our troops from Afghanistan” as soon as practical and with honor. And he concedes that, with the benefit of hindsight, the Iraq war was probably a mistake.
Healthcare Reform. He wants to repeal the new health-care plan, which the Democrats “rammed” through Congress, he says. The nation’s healthcare system “is clearly broken,” he says, but the new plan “is the wrong approach to solving the nation’s rising healthcare costs.”
Instead, Sipprelle calls for a plan that would grant tax credits directly to individuals to purchase their own healthcare coverage and allow them expanded use of health savings accounts. And tort reform would bring down the “explosive” use of unnecessary diagnostic costs, which doctors order, “not out of concern for the patient, but out of concern that they might be sued if they don’t. “
Abortion. Turning to social issues, Sipprelle readily admits “they are not my motivation” for entering the political fray. “I’d prefer to address the wrenching financial issues facing people,” he says. Sipprelle breaks with his party on abortion, saying “it should be rare but legal.” He opposes federal spending for abortion.
Gay Rights. On “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Sipprelle says he would “rely on the judgment of the chain of command, which suggests he endorses the position taken last February by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when they called on Congress to repeal the law and allow gay service members to serve openly.
Sipprelle calls the controversy of gay marriage “a semantics issue.” “I am not opposed to civil unions,” which would grant gays the same rights as provided by marriage, he explains. “Every state should decide for itself.”
Climate Change. Sipprelle says the data on climate change “is still ambiguous.” His statement is at odds with a near consensus of climate scientists around the world who say climate change is a real and growing threat to the planet. Regardless, Sipprelle opposes the Democrats’ cap and trade proposal because it would be “economically destructive.”
Energy Policy. On at least one issue, Sipprelle and Holt agree: the United States must rid itself of its “unsustainable reliance on oil.” Sipprelle supports public-private partnerships that promote alternative sources of energy, including solar, nuclear, liquefied coal and wind energy.
Education. Sipprelle says there has been a “massive failure of education in the government education monopoly.” He supports charter schools, national test performance standards, tuition support, grants paid directly to families, and more schools devoted to the technical training that would meet today’s job needs.
He would like to see employers and colleges coordinate on creating a “national skills exam” that would help high school and college students determine their strengths and best career options.
And Sipprelle would like to “break the cycle of helplessness and give hope of social mobility” to those in crime-ridden inner city neighborhoods. A stronger economy would help. For those in prison, he’d like to see them taught self-reliance and occupational skills so they can find work once released.
As for his opponent, Sipprelle says Congressman Holt has “one of the most extreme left-wing voting records in Congress.” “Why does he vote with his party 99 percent of the time? Where is his independence?” Sipprelle asks. He says he is ready to buck his party on certain issues. In addition to being pro-choice, he favors term limits, for instance, that would limit members of Congress to just four terms.
“People in Congress have become careerists,” he says. “They got in and then pulled up the ladder.” In addition, Sipprelle suggests that “they shouldn’t get a pension when they retire. Serving in Congress should be a public service, like serving on the local library board.”