BEAN, Melissa L.

Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
BEAN, Melissa L.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
1962–

Biography

After more than 20 years in the technology industry, Melissa Bean turned her sights on Congress and fought an unlikely battle to oust a longtime House veteran to get there. In her three terms, Bean advocated for a balanced budget and strong safety precautions for children on the internet. “One of the reasons I came to Congress was to bring real world business perspective to government,” she once said. “In the business world, accountability and results matter.”1

Melissa Bean was born Melissa Luburich in Chicago, Illinois, on January 22, 1962, and adopted by George and Victoria Luburich, who had three other children. Growing up around her father’s engineering firm, Bean knew from an early age that business was her professional calling.2 She graduated from Maine East High School just northwest of Chicago in 1980, and she earned an associate’s degree at Oakton Community College two years later.3 To pay her way through school, Bean worked part-time at a technological company that quickly promoted her. Roughly a decade later, she started her own consulting company.4 She married Alan Bean in 1985, and together they had two daughters. Bean continued to take classes throughout her career and completed her bachelor’s degree in political science at Roosevelt University in 2002, during her first House campaign.

A self-described “underdog,” Bean entered her first race for the House with essentially no political experience. In 2000 she had campaigned for a Democratic House candidate, Lance Pressl, in his unsuccessful run against Republican incumbent Philip Miller Crane, who had represented the western Chicago suburbs since 1969.5 Bean surprised friends by announcing her candidacy for the Democratic nomination to challenge Crane. She introduced herself to voters by frequenting train stations, grocery stores, and bingo games.6 She called residents at night and handed out packages of jellybeans to remind voters of her name. Bean argued Crane had become out of touch with the district over his long tenure.7 In the 2002 general election, Bean managed to capture nearly 43 percent of the vote—providing Crane with one of the fiercest challenges in decades. Although Bean lost, she came away with the sense that the district was “ready for change.”8

Campaigning on the same message in 2004, Bean won the election to the House and unseated Crane with almost 52 percent of the vote.9 She also garnered an edge with late support from national Democratic groups.10 “We’re going to have to work hard,” Bean said after her victory, “whether that’s worrying about affordable college loans, prescription drugs, Social Security or Medicare or small-business owners who are bearing an unfair share of the tax burden.”11

In the 109th Congress (2005–2007), Bean served on the Financial Services and Small Business Committees. She joined the Blue Dog Coalition, advocating for a balanced budget and spending policies to target federal needs. Her legislative agenda focused on her professional interests in technology, including bills that emphasized personal data protection. Bean also introduced a bill that intended to protect children from online predators. “Having teenage daughters of my own, I discovered while they enjoyed the opportunity to express themselves with popular networking sites, they had no appreciation for the dangers that lurked there,” Bean said during National Internet Safety Month in 2007. “The Internet has increased productivity and opened a new world of opportunities for our children; but at the same time, it has opened a world of dangers. These threats, whether it be unwanted online solicitations, Internet scams or cyberbullying, are dangerous and real. In order for our children to be protected from the dangers of the Internet, we must work together to raise awareness of Internet safety.”12

Bean won re-election to the 110th Congress (2007–2009), defeating David McSweeney by more than six percentage points during an election cycle that saw Democrats reclaim the House majority after a dozen years in the minority.13 With control of the House, Democratic leaders chose Bean to chair the Small Business Subcommittee on Finance and Tax. From her post as chair, Bean authored the Small Business Lending Improvements Act early in the 110th Congress, steering it through committee and onto the House Floor for debate. The bill’s principal provisions sought to speed up the Small Business Administration’s loan approval process and to make it more accessible. The act would have reduced lender fees incurred by approved borrowers and it would have made permanent the Community Express Program that granted expedited consideration for loan applications up to $250,000 filed by women, minority, and veteran small business owners.14 The bill passed the House on April 25, 2007, by a 380-to-45 vote, but the Senate failed to take it up.

Throughout her House career, a total of five of Bean’s sponsored bills or resolutions passed the House, including the Preservation Approval Process Improvement Act of 2007, which became law and reduced regulations for investments in affordable housing.15 She also continued her legislative interest in technology issues, particularly children’s online safety. In 2007 her Safeguard American Families by Enhancing and Reorganizing New and Efficient Technologies Act of 2007 also passed the House. The bill mandated the Federal Trade Commission improve its public education initiatives about online threats.16 Bean easily won re-election to the 111th Congress (2009–2011) and continued her work on the Financial Services and Small Business committees.17

The 2010 midterm election cycle saw Democrats run against a fierce headwind. Bean was challenged by Republican businessman Joe Walsh, who was backed by the small government Tea Party movement, which had emerged in opposition to the Affordable Care Act and other policies from the Barack Obama administration.18 Walsh defeated Bean by just 290 votes—the closest House election of 2010.19 After the election, Bean returned to private corporate business in Chicago.

Footnotes

1Congressional Record, House, 110th Cong., 1st sess. (5 January 2007): 291.

2Politics in America, 2008 (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2009): 338.

3“Melissa L. Bean,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–Present, https://bioguide.congress.gov.

4Jamie Sotonoff, “Distinctions are Crystal Clear Between Crane, Bean,” 20 October 2002, Chicago Daily Herald: 4.

5Colleen Mastony, “Crane Shrugs Off Latest Challenge; Newcomer Bean Is Put to the Test,” 29 October 2002, Chicago Tribune: Metro, 1.

6Sotonoff, “Distinctions are Crystal Clear Between Crane, Bean”; Mastony, “Crane Shrugs Off Latest Challenge; Newcomer Bean Is Put to the Test.”

7Sotonoff, “Distinctions are Crystal Clear Between Crane, Bean”; “The Bottom Line District Candidates Have Different Ideas on How to Balance the Nation’s Budget,” 27 October 2002, Chicago Daily Herald: 1.

8Jamie Sotonoff, “Crane Able to Shake Off Tough Challenge,” 6 November 2002, Chicago Daily Herald: 18; Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present.”

9“Election Statistics, 1920 to Present.”

10Rudolph Bush, “Bean’s Win 4 Years in the Making,” 4 November 2004, Chicago Tribune: C1.

11Rudolph Bush and Richard Wronski, “Crane’s Long Run is Over; Democrat Bean Topples 18–term Congressman,” 3 November 2004, Chicago Tribune: C1.

12Congressional Record, House, 110th Congress, 1st sess. (12 June 2007): H6256.

13“Election Statistics, 1920 to Present.”

14Small Business Lending Improvements Act, H.R. 1332, 110th Congress (2007).

15Preservation Approval Process Improvement Act of 2007, PL 110-35, 121 Stat. 225 (2007).

16Safeguarding America’s Families by Enhancing and Reorganizing New and Efficient Technologies Act of 2007, H.R. 3461, 110th Cong. (2007).

17“Election Statistics, 1920 to Present.”

18Dan Hinkel and Katherine Skiba, “Bean concedes: Walsh is winner in 8th District,” 17 November 2010, Chicago Tribune: C10.

19“Election Statistics, 1920 to Present.”

View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

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Bibliography / Further Reading

"Melissa Bean" in Women in Congress, 1917-2006. Prepared under the direction of the Committee on House Administration by the Office of History & Preservation, U. S. House of Representatives. Washington: Government Printing Office, 2006.

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Committee Assignments

  • House Committee - Financial Services
  • House Committee - Small Business
    • Finance and Tax - Chair
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