In June 2017 Polis announced that he is running for Governor of Colorado in the 2018 election.
Polis is the son of Stephen Schutz and Susan Polis Schutz, founders of greeting card and book publisher Blue Mountain Arts. He was born at Boulder Community Hospital in Boulder, CO in 1975. He lived in San Diego, CA during his high school years, and graduated from La Jolla Country Day School in three years with multiple honors. He also received a Bachelor of Arts in politics from Princeton University. In 2000 he legally changed his name to use his mother's surname, in part to raise awareness for a fund-raiser and because he simply "liked it better".
Polis co-founded American Information Systems (AIS), Inc while still in college. AIS was an internet access provider and was sold in 1998. In 1996, he co-founded a free electronic greeting card website, Bluemountain.com, which was sold to Excite@Home in 1999 for $430 million in stock and $350 million in cash.
In February 1998, Polis founded ProFlowers, an online florist, in La Jolla, California. In December of that year, economist Dr. Arthur Laffer began advising Polis and joined ProFlowers as a Director. ProFlowers, later renamed Provide Commerce, Inc., went public on NASDAQ as PRVD on December 17, 2003. In 2005, Provide Commerce was acquired by media conglomerate Liberty Media Corporation for $477 million.
In 2000, Polis founded the Jared Polis Foundation, whose mission is to "create opportunities for success by supporting educators, increasing access to technology, and strengthening our community." Its main programs are the annual "Teacher Recognition Awards"; the "Community Computer Connection" program, which refurbishes and donates more than 3,500 computers a year to schools and non-profit organizations; and the semi-annual "Jared Polis Foundation Education Report". Polis has also founded two charter schools, one with multiple campuses across three states and a post-secondary school, the New America College, for at-risk students. In 2004, he established the charter school "New America School," which is a high school that primarily serves older immigrant youth ages 16–21 and has three campuses in Colorado, in the Denver Metro area, two campuses in New Mexico and a campus opening in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2013. In 2005, Polis co-founded with Urban Peak the charter school Academy of Urban Learning in Denver to help youth at risk of becoming homeless or living in unstable living conditions.
Polis was named Outstanding Philanthropist for the 2006 National Philanthropy Day in Colorado. He is a recipient of many awards, including the Boulder Daily Camera’s 2007 Pacesetter Award in Education; the Kauffman Foundation Community Award; the Denver consul general of Mexico “Ohtli”; the Martin Luther King, Jr. Colorado Humanitarian Award; and the Anti-Defamation League’s inaugural Boulder Community Builder Award.
At the time of his election, Polis had founded a number of companies and is one of the 10 richest members of the United States Congress.
Together with Pat Stryker, Rutt Bridges, and Tim Gill, Polis is one of the four wealthy Coloradans sometimes called the "Gang of Four" who donate to liberal causes.
In 2000, Polis was elected at-large as a member of the Colorado State Board of Education and served for a single six-year term until January 2007 when the district was eliminated. His election was one of the closest in Colorado history, as he defeated incumbent Ben Alexander by 90 votes out of 1.6 million cast. Polis served as Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Colorado State Board of Education during his term.
In 2006, Polis served as Co-chair of "Coloradans for Clean Government," a committee that supported Amendment 41, a citizen-initiated ballot measure to ban gifts by registered lobbyists to government officials, establish a $50 annual restriction on gift-giving from non-lobbyists, establish a two-year cooling-off period before former state legislators and statewide elected officials can begin lobbying, and create an independent ethics commission. In November 2006, 62.3% of Colorado voters approved the "Ethics in Government" constitutional amendment.
In 2007, Polis Co-chaired the "Building for our Future" campaign that supported ballot question 3A in the Boulder Valley School District to issue $296.8 million in bonds for the improvement and modernization of aging school facilities —the largest capital construction bond issue in the district’s history and the largest school bond proposal in Colorado that year. In November 2006, 58% of Boulder Valley School District voters approved the measure.
In 2014, Polis planned to champion two ballot measures which would have limited fracking in Colorado by banning drilling near schools and homes and by empowering communities to pass their own rules. However, he dropped the divisive measures after reaching a deal with Governor John Hickenlooper which will create a task force. The absence of the initiatives is seen as a relief to vulnerable Democrats who would have had to take controversial stances on the issue.
In 2008, Polis won a heavily contested Democratic primary election, and went on to win the general election on November 4, 2008, winning 62% of the vote to succeed Mark Udall.
In 2010, Polis won 57% of the popular vote to win re-election.
In 2012, Polis ran uncontested in the Democratic primary and won a third election to Congress with 55% of popular vote.
In 2014, Polis won a fourth election to Congress with 57% of the popular vote.
Polis is currently the Red to Blue program chair for the DCCC, helping recruit and raise money for Democratic candidates in competitive congressional districts. According to sources close to Polis, he has eyed a higher leadership role in the DCCC, running for Vice-Chair of the House Democratic Caucus after then-chairman Xavier Becerra was term-limited. The position ended up going to New York Congressman Joe Crowley.
For the 114th Congress, Polis serves on the following committeesCommittee on Education and the Workforce
Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training
Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions
Committee on Natural Resources
Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources
Subcommittee on Federal Lands
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
Committee on Rules
Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process
Congressional Cannabis Caucus
Congressional Progressive Caucus
LGBT Equality Caucus (Co-Chair)
Blockchain Caucus (Co-Chair)
Mexico Caucus (Co-Chair)
Nepal Caucus (Co-Chair)
Veterinary Medicine Caucus
The following is an incomplete list of legislation that Polis has introduced:Lake Hill Administrative Site Affordable Housing Act (H.R. 2337; 113th Congress) - a bill that would require the Secretary of Agriculture to sell 40 acres of Forest Service land near Frisco, Colorado. Summit County, Colorado would use the land to build affordable housing.
In 2011 Polis, along with Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), introduced the 2011 Race to the Top Act (H.R. 1532). The legislation authorized old provisions and some new ones including: new standards to encourage and reward states based on their implementation of comprehensive educational reforms that innovate through 4-year competitive grants that allow more funding to expand Charter schools and compensate teachers in part based on their students’ performance.
Polis has sponsored other education bills and legislation regarding students including;The SLICE (School Lunch Improvements for Children’s Education) Act, in response to Congress redefining pizza as a vegetable. The SLICE Act would require healthier meals for students, which would, for example, allow the USDA to accurately count 1/8 of a cup of tomato paste as 1/8 of a cup, instead of half of a cup, which is what qualifies pizza as a vegetable; allow the USDA to implement science-based sodium reduction targets; and, allow the USDA to set a whole grain requirement. The SLICE Act is opposed by The Food Institute saying that it, “all but removes foods made with tomato paste from school cafeterias, in spite of the significant nutritional value offered by tomato paste." But Polis says, “Pizza has a place in school meals, but equating it with broccoli, carrots and celery seriously undermines this nation’s efforts to support children’s health.” Polis adds that Agribusiness should never dictate the quality of school meals.”
The Defending Special Education Students and Families Act, which fully funds the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention for special education. In the original bill, IDEA promised to pay 40% of the excess cost of educating students with disabilities, but that funding provision hasn’t been fulfilled and only covers 16% of special-education funding and has never funded more than 30%. Polis’ bill suggests cutting excess and wasteful Pentagon spending, by cutting $18.8 billion in weapons systems over five years.
Polis has also introduced the Computer Science Education Act, which helps provide job training for computing jobs, and the ACE Act, which would provide funding to improve outcomes for students in persistently low-performing schools, and to authorize school "turnaround grants."
In 2015, during a back-and-forth exchange before the House Education and Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, Polis argued for schools to be able to use lower standards of evidence when deciding to expel students accused of sexual assault by stating, "If there are 10 people who have been accused, and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, it seems better to get rid of all 10 people." Shortly after the comments, Polis said that he misspoke during the subcommittee hearing and that he committed a major gaffe during the discussion. Civil liberties and conservative sources have pointed to Polis' comments as evidence of the drive to erode due process rights with regards to answering accusations of sexual assault at U.S. colleges and universities.
Polis opposed the Iraq War saying that, “The invasion of Iraq was a colossal mistake and I opposed the war from the very beginning. Bush's blunders, and the Democrats who gave him cover along the way, have left us without easy solutions for improving the situation.” During a congressional trip to Iraq Polis praised the “Sons of Iraq” policy, which funds former military and police officials under Saddam Hussein to lay down their arms against coalition forces, patrol neighborhoods, and fight against other Sunni insurgents. In an op-ed, he wrote, “If we had started this policy sooner after the invasion, we no doubt could have prevented loss of life. As can be expected, some of them turn out to be corrupt and attack us anyway, but most seem to be helping to keep the order. The challenge is to bring them into the fold of the new Iraqi government and a proper chain of command structure.”
In the op-ed Polis also said, “The hippie in me bemoans the fact that we defeated the Iraqi military only to help them build an even stronger one that might one day be used against children and innocents, as often is the case. When will all the killing end? Where have all the flowers gone? And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and they shall study war no more.”
Polis supports removing all troops from Afghanistan. In 2010 Polis supported a failed resolution to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan within 30 days, saying that “I don't believe that this ongoing occupation is in our national interest,” and that, “I supported the initial action to oust the Taliban in Afghanistan, and that succeeded, The challenge we face now is a stateless menace.”
Polis also took a Congressional Delegation trip to Afghanistan, meeting with the former Afghan Interior Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar, US military officials and Diplomats. During his meeting with Mohammed Hanif Atmar, Polis focused on the Education gap between Afghanistan and Western nations, the low literacy rate for Afghan police and military officials, and combating political corruption. Polis has criticized expanding US troops in Afghanistan, and supports putting resources in intelligence and special operations. Writing in a report after visiting Afghanistan that “We need all the high-level diplomatic support we can to master the diplomatic complexities of fighting against an enemy holed up in two countries, as well as navigating the complex regional politics.” Also adding that, “Our best estimates show there to be no more than 5,000 al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They operate out of areas in southern and eastern Afghanistan and on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. Do we really need to occupy an entire country of around 30 million people to root out 5,000 enemies? I harbor a deep degree of ambivalence about the military surge. The diplomatic surge is good, increasing our covert ops and intelligence abilities focused on al-Qaeda is good, but adding tens of thousands of American troops for years doesn't necessarily get us closer to defeating al-Qaeda.”
Polis voted in favor of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act expanding economic sanctions against Iran under the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act, and co-sponsored H.R. 1327; the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2009, authorizing state and local governments to direct divestiture from, and prevent investment in, companies with investments of $20,000,000 or more in Iran's energy sector.
Polis, along with Representatives Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin, has called on the United States embassy in Iraq and former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to prioritize investigating the allegations of rape, torture and executions of LGBT Iraqis, saying “Such disturbing violations of human rights should not be ignored and the United States should not stand idly by while billions of taxpayer dollars are used to support their government.”
Along with the support of 35 members of the House, Polis has also called on the State Department to address violence against the LGBT community in Honduras.
While in the House, Polis has been a staunch advocate for civil liberties, saying while campaigning in 2008 that “balance must be restored between the executive and the judicial branch (through restoring Habeas corpus, and clarifying that the President does not have the Constitutional authority to alter legislation through signing statements,) and between the executive and the legislative branch (clarifying that the Fourth Amendment requires probable cause and a warrant for the government to monitor Americans).
Polis has been a vocal opponent of the PATRIOT ACT. In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Polis stated, “Mr. Speaker, the Patriot Act is a bill that has been plagued with abuse since it was first passed, and today’s rule is yet another example of short-circuiting the system that our Founding Fathers set up. If there were ever the need for the close supervision and congressional oversight of a law, it is a law that discusses how and under what conditions a government can spy on its own citizens.” On February 2011 Polis voted against H.R. 514, extending expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, authorizing court-approved roving wiretaps that permit surveillance on multiple phones, allowing court-approved seizure of records and property in anti-terrorism operations, and permitting surveillance against a so-called lone wolf, a non-US citizen engaged in terrorism who may not be part of a recognized terrorist group.
Polis supports an open and free internet, and has been critical of SOPA, PIPA and CISPA, saying in an interview with Forbes that; “I oppose piracy and want to see intellectual property protected because that is what fosters and rewards innovation. But SOPA won’t accomplish a meaningful reduction in piracy and causes massive collateral damage to the Internet ecosystem.” While debating SOPA on the house floor Polis said that “SOPA and PIPA directly threaten the very internet that has brought humanity great prosperity and greater peace,” and that, “Allowing the military and NSA to spy on Americans on American soil goes against every principle this country was founded on.” Polis, along with 167 other members of the house, voted against CISPA.
Polis, along with representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Darrell Issa (R-CA), sponsored Aaron's Law, in the wake of the suicide of computer programmer and internet activist Aaron Swartz, (the co-founder of Reddit), who was facing computer and wire fraud charges and more than 30 years in prison and fines of over $1,000,000 for violating the terms of service for illegally downloading academic journal articles from the digital library JSTOR. The proposed bill would exclude terms of service violations from the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and from the wire fraud statute. Polis said that the charges brought on by US Attorney Carmen Ortiz were "ridiculous and trumped-up," and that "It's absurd that he was made a scapegoat. I would hope that this doesn't happen to anyone else."
Polis voted against the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, and is against Section 1021, which has drawn controversy about implications to detention policy. After the law was signed, Polis, along with other members of the house, introduced legislation to repeal the indefinite detention provision. Though legislation has failed to pass the house, Section 1021 is now pending in the courts.
Polis has been an early critic of the War on Drugs, stating that "Just as the policy of prohibition failed nationally with alcohol - it's now up to states and counties - I think we should do the same with marijuana." During a June 2012 testimony of DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart before the United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations, Polis questioned whether marijuana should be classified as a schedule one drug. Polis questioned Leonhart, who refused to answer whether or not cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin posed a greater risk to someone's health than marijuana. Polis also advocated the legalization of medical marijuana to combat prescription drug abuse.
Polis is the leading sponsor of H.R. 499, or, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013. If passed, the act would: Decriminalize possession of cannabis at the federal level; Relinquish the Drug Enforcement Administration's regulation of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act, transferring its federal regulation from the DEA to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (renaming the ATF the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana, Firearms and Explosives); and would authorize the Food and Drug Administration to apply the equivalent regulatory powers it has over alcohol, to cannabis. The act currently has 16 cosponsors - Fifteen Democrats and One Republican - in the House.
Polis is currently one of seven openly gay members of the 113th Congress, and caucuses in the LGBT Equality Caucus. Polis has pushed for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, and has praised the Obama Administration’s decision for the Justice Department to no longer defend DOMA, saying that "Section 3 of the law is unconstitutional." In a statement Polis said "I applaud the Administration for finally recognizing what my colleagues and I have long criticized, to deny people the ability to officially acknowledge their relationship and feel welcomed as partners only for being LGBT is absurd and today’s decision confirms this." Polis has also credited President Obama for openly endorsing gay marriage calling it "welcome news to American families."
Polis is an original cosponsor of H.R. 116, or the Respect for Marriage Act. H.R. 116 repeals DOMA allowing marriage recognition for gay and lesbian couples in the US, the District of Columbia, and US territories.
Polis is the leading sponsor of the Student Non-Discrimination Act with Senator Al Franken (D-MN), who introduced the act in the Senate. SNDA would establish a comprehensive federal non-discrimination prohibition in all public and elementary and secondary schools based on sexual orientation and gender identity, expanding Title IX of the Education Amendments Act to LGBT students. In a statement, Polis said "education is the right of every student" regardless of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. "The alarming increase in teen suicides has shown us just how far we are from making our children's schools safe spaces." The SNDA has 167 co-sponsors in the House, with only two Republicans signing on. SNDA is also supported by the ACLU and Change.org.
Polis voted for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which prohibited openly gay and lesbian members of the Military from serving. Along with 67 members of the House, in a letter to President Obama, Polis urged for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. In the letter it cited a California district judge's ruling of the unconstitutionality of DADT, and the 14,000 service members that have been discharged from the military since the passage of DADT.
In a press release on the repeal of DADT Polis said: "The repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is a victory for the cause of equality and our national defense. For too long, this wrongheaded policy prevented brave Americans from serving in our military and defending our country just because of who they love. It undermined our national security by forcing gays and lesbians out of the military service at a time when America needs the most talented and the bravest protecting us, regardless of their orientation."
Polis is also a supporter and cosponsor of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, giving adequate funding and ability to federal authorities to investigate hate crimes, and has advocated for protections against LGBT victims of domestic violence to be included in the Violence Against Women Act.
On the morning of September 18, 2014, Polis filed a discharge motion to bring the LGBT Employment Non-Discrimination Act to the floor of the House of Representatives for a proper vote. House Representatives Garamenedi, Holt, and Connolly joined Polis in support in filing the petition. The revised legislation includes narrow religious exemptions.
Polis vowed to protect Bitcoin in Congress and to fight against any attempts by the government to enact policies that restrict the growth of bitcoin and its burgeoning startup community. In May 2014, Jared Polis became the first U.S. representative to accept campaign donations via Bitcoin.
In 2014, Polis sponsored two ballot measures targeting hydraulic fracturing, Initiatives 88 and 89. Polis sought to move fracking from 500 feet from people's homes to 2,000 feet to improve the quality of life for homeowners in affected areas.From Time.com On 4 August 2014, Polis announced that he would withdraw his support for the two ballot measures.
In 2015, Representative Polis voiced support for Title IX Standards that require a campus disciplinary process around rape allegations. Representative Polis apologized in 2015 after stating “If there are 10 people who have been accused, and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, it seems better to get rid of all 10 people,” Polis said. “We’re not talking about depriving them of life or liberty, we’re talking about them being transferred to another university, for crying out loud.”
Polis has shown interest in the regulatory environment relating to kombucha.
Polis is one of the few openly gay people elected to the House as a freshman and the first gay parent in Congress. Polis and his partner, Marlon Reis, have two children: son Caspian Julius, born on September 30, 2011, and daughter Cora Barucha, born July 4, 2014.
Polis enjoys video games such as League of Legends, and his favorite champions include Maokai and Anivia. He is a member of the Jewish faith and resides in Boulder, Colorado.