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SACRAMENTO — If he survives the recall, Gov. Gray Davis could be left to craft a new legal team: Not only are some of his top people trying to get out, but now one of his key energy lawyers has left the building. William Kissinger, who served about two years with Davis and led the renegotiations of the state’s long-term energy contracts, has returned to private practice at Bingham McCutchen in San Francisco. Kissinger is the first high-profile departure in the weeks before the recall, but he might not be the last. His boss, legal affairs secretary Barry Goode, has applied to be a judge, as has judicial appointments secretary Burt Pines. Those judge applications, along with that of Jeremiah Hallisey, a San Francisco lawyer and one of Davis’ top Bay Area fund-raisers, caused some to speculate that key Davis advisers might be jumping ship because of the recall. But a Davis spokeswoman denied that, along with claims that Davis might be trying to pack the bench with a round of midnight judicial appointments. The spokeswoman said Pines had intended to leave the administration to be a judge before the recall began, but was convinced to stay on board for the time being. Goode refused to answer questions about whether the recall influenced his decision to try to leave now. Kissinger said he tried to leave about a year ago but was convinced to stay. He said the recall had nothing to do with his return to the private sector. Instead, he pointed to the inadequate salaries of government workers. “My reason for leaving government was that I just couldn’t afford it anymore,” Kissinger said. He earned $105,000 as senior deputy of legal affairs, which is significantly less than a fresh-out-of-school associate at a large firm like Bingham McCutchen. With three kids to put through college, Kissinger said he wants to earn enough so that he can actually save some money for a change. Kissinger, 41, will be a partner in Bingham McCutchen’s environmental group and energy practice. He previously worked at the firm from 1989 to 1997, when it was known as McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen, but left for a succession of government posts. He worked for the State Department and was the senior adviser for international economic policy for the White House’s National Economic Council. He is former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s nephew, but said it was his parents who in-spired his stint in public service. Kissinger attended Princeton University and got his law degree from Boalt Hall School of Law. Among his duties in the Davis administration was serving on the governor’s energy task force, where he is credited with saving the state about $5 billion after renegotiating energy contracts in the wake of the utility crisis. He was also chairman of the Electricity Oversight Board. He is no longer chair but still serves on the board. Kissinger left the administration about three months ago and took some time off to vacation and move his family back to the Bay Area. Aside from the money, Kissinger said he enjoyed working for government and would consider another public job some day because the “ability to make an impact is so much bigger in public practice than private practice.”

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