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D. Cameron Findlay recently became executive vice president and general counsel of Chicago-based Aon Corporation, but he has been familiar with the corridors of power for over a decade. A former White House insider, Findlay insists that “luck is everything in government.” His rapid ascent into former president George Bush’s inner circle, and ultimately to Aon, proves that good contacts don’t hurt, either. The 43-year-old joined Aon from the U.S. Department of Labor, where he was deputy secretary under Elaine Chao. At Aon, Findlay replaced Raymond Skilling, who stepped down from the chief counsel post but currently remains an executive vice president. Findlay, a Harvard Law School grad and Chicago native, began impressing people early on. When he was a lowly summer associate at Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, he met Sam Skinner, then a partner with the firm. After Findlay finished a U.S. Supreme Court clerkship, Skinner � by then the secretary of Transportation � offered him a job. Bush made Skinner his chief of staff in 1991, and Findlay was brought along. “It was like being paid to play baseball,” he says of his thrill at becoming deputy assistant to the president and counselor to the chief of staff. Findlay still sounds amazed by the access he had as a 31-year-old lawyer. “For a little over a year, I was one of the five or six people in the White House who really knew what was going on [in the president's inner circle].” When Bush lost his bid for reelection in 1992, Findlay’s life abruptly changed. He stopped being invited to cocktail parties, he jokes, and he returned to Sidley, working primarily out of its Chicago office. But government called again, in the form of Secretary Chao. She had met Findlay at the U.S. Department of Transportation and wanted him as her deputy secretary. Findlay says he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be the number two person and COO of an agency with 17,000 employees and a $70 billion budget. He uprooted his family and moved back inside the beltway. This February, Findlay got a call from Aon chairman Patrick Ryan, inviting him to dinner. They had both served on the board of Northwestern University, and Aon was a Sidley client. When Ryan offered Findlay the GC post, Findlay jumped at the chance to return to Chicago and help lead the colossal insurance brokerage and consulting company. For a loyal midwesterner like Findlay, a job at Aon headquarters is almost as good as one at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

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