Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Michael Kantor (1996–1997): Secretary of Commerce

Michael "Mickey" Kantor was born in 1939 in Nashville, Tennessee, and graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1961 with a B.A. in business and economics. Following college, Kantor entered the military and served four years in the Navy, reaching the rank of lieutenant. He then attended Georgetown University Law Center, graduating in 1968 with a doctor of law degree that he put to use at the Office of Legal Services in Florida.

In 1972, Kantor worked as a staff coordinator for vice-presidential candidate R. Sargent Shriver, who was sharing the Democratic ticket with George McGovern. Following the McGovern-Shriver defeat, Kantor established the Los Angeles Conservation Corps in 1973; a year later, he was serving as manager for Senator Alan Cranston's successful reelection campaign.

From 1976 through 1984, Kantor was involved in a number of unsuccessful high-profile election campaigns, but in 1992 he helped Bill Clinton secure the Democratic nomination for President and then the presidency itself. Kantor was a member of President-elect Clinton's transition team before being named U.S. trade representative. Kantor remained in the position until 1996, when President Clinton tapped him to become his new secretary of commerce, a post he held until 1997.

Following his stint in the cabinet, Kantor worked for a lobbying firm and then, in 1998, served as legal counsel to Bill Clinton during the President's impeachment proceedings. In 1999, Kantor began representing the wheat industry in the World Trade Organization as counsel for the Washington Wheat Commission. Currently, Michael "Mickey" Kantor is a member of the board of directors at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions.