Skip to content

Tony Coelho

American politician

Tony Coelho
Tony Coelho

In 1978, Tony Coelho was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from California’s Central Valley. He advanced quickly through the House Leadership ranks and served as Chairperson of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 1981 through 1986. Later Coelho became the first-ever elected Majority Whip from 1987 to 1989. As Majority Whip, Coelho secured the votes needed to pass the Democratic legislative agenda.

A life-long advocate of people with disabilities, Mr. Coelho authored the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) during his time in the House of Representatives. This legislation provides people with disabilities equal access to employment, public facilities, and transportation and makes it possible for them to become a full participating member of society. The ADA is considered the most important piece of civil rights legislation in the past 30 years. During his ten years in the House, Coelho also served on the Agriculture, Interior and Administration Committees.

In 1999, Mr. Coelho returned to politics when Vice President Al Gore asked him to join his campaign as the General Chairman. Mr. Coelho was instrumental in refocusing the campaign, including relocating its headquarters to Nashville, Tennessee. Mr. Coelho’s leadership helped Vice President Gore get the Democratic nomination while winning every state primary and caucus. In June of 2000, Mr. Coelho resigned his position due to health concerns.

Mr. Coelho’s former and current business affiliations include service on a number corporate boards. He served as chairman and a director of ICF Kaiser International, Inc., and a director of AutoLend Group; Kaleidoscope Network, Inc.; LoanNet, LLC; and Pinnacle Global Group, Inc. He currently serves on the boards of Cadiz, Inc.; Cyberonics Inc.; DeFrancesco & Sons, Inc.; Kistler Aerospace Corporation; Ripplewood Holdings, LLC; and Service Corporation International. He also serves on the International Advisory Board of Fleishman Hillard, Inc. Today, Coelho serves on the Business Advisory Board of Bender Consulting Services, Inc. (Bender Consulting ). Bender Consulting is a firm that provides technology consulting services to its customers, and competitive employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities who are trained in the technology, finance/accounting and general business fields.

Episode 83: The ADA Then and Now: Celebrate ADA 30th Anniversary with the Honorable Tony Coelho