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If any lawyer knows the Department of Homeland Security inside and out, it’s Philip Perry. Three years ago, as a senior White House lawyer, Perry helped create the new department. Later, as a partner at Washington’s Latham & Watkins, he actively lobbied the DHS on behalf of two Fortune 500 companies. Then, about three months ago, the 41-year-old completed the circle, joining the agency as its general counsel. In many ways, Perry is following Washington’s most common career path. Lawyers in the capital have always swung between the federal government and law firms. But if you want to get off on the right foot with Perry, you better not refer to that flight pattern as the “revolving door.” “The term �revolving door’ implies people going in and out of government in order to obtain monetary gain,” Perry says. “The reason people go into government is to serve their country. It’s not appropriate to describe that as a revolving door.” Perry, who is married to Vice President Dick Cheney’s oldest daughter, Elizabeth, has held three jobs in the Bush administration. In his current post�the first to require Senate confirmation�Perry oversees roughly 1,500 lawyers. In addition to its usual portfolio, his office is now handling legal aspects of the government’s response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. And, in fact, Perry canceled a planned Labor Day weekend fishing excursion with his father-in-law to deal with the crisis. Perry’s work ethic seems to match that of his notoriously intense boss, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. During August, when much of official Washington tends to dawdle, Perry pushed his staff to complete work on 30 separate regulations. Whether it matters to him or not, mastering the workings of the DHS is almost certain to open doors for Perry when he returns to the private sector. But Perry can also catalog the sacrifices involved in government service. As a partner at Latham, he pulled in more than $700,000. At the DHS, he makes about $140,000�a salary cut of at least 80 percent. Perry first met Chertoff roughly 10 years ago, when both worked at Latham. DHS Chief of Staff John Wood says that the two lawyers have a similar temperament. “They’re both extremely bright and have very quick minds that can focus intensely on a problem until they come up with a solution.” Perry’s wife, Elizabeth Cheney Perry, is the State Department’s No. 2 diplomat in the Middle East. The couple have four children: 11-year-old Katherine, 7-year-old Elizabeth, 5-year-old Grace, and 1-year-old Philip. In both the 2000 and 2004 campaigns, the couple led Cheney’s preparation for the vice presidential debate, with Perry sometimes playing the part of the moderator. Republican political consultant Mary Matalin was part of Cheney’s debate prep team. She describes Perry as “very, very, very strategic.” “Asking questions is as hard and as important as coming up with answers,” Matalin says. “You could tell he was always thinking on multiple levels.” PUBLIC PLATFORM Perry’s progression through the private and public sectors has a similarly strategic feel. After George W. Bush took office in January 2001, Perry went almost overnight from being a junior partner at Latham to taking the No. 3 post at the Justice Department. Lawyers who worked with Perry at Main Justice say he was known for his dry sense of humor, which would come out when he briefed the group on important civil cases. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Perry worked with a small team of lawyers who were developing a framework for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, overseen by mediator Kenneth Feinberg. In his new book, What Is Life Worth?, Feinberg calls Perry an “unsung hero.” According to Feinberg, it was Perry who settled the issue of which family members would be able to receive compensation from the fund�a detail not addressed by Congress. Perry suggested that in the 80 percent of cases where the victim left no will, the proper beneficiaries should be determined under the inheritance laws of the victim’s state. “The solution was brilliant in its simplicity,” Feinberg says. “Any other approach would have had us acting as family counselors trying to determine who should receive compensation.” In early 2002, Perry left the Justice Department to become general counsel of the highly influential White House Office of Management and Budget. The appointment, which requires no Senate approval, placed Perry at the hub of executive branch rule-making. It allowed him to get deeply involved in a broad range of policy issues and to ensure that agencies developed regulations consistent with the views of the White House. “Industry knows they can knock on OMB’s door and effectively lobby the White House,” says Robert Shull, who monitors the agency at OMB Watch. One of Perry’s projects at the OMB was to work on the president’s proposal for a new Department of Homeland Security and to lay the groundwork for implementation of the Safety Act�a measure that protects government contractors from being sued in the event of a terrorist attack. “Phil was one of those can-do lawyers,” says General Electric Co. top lobbyist Nancy Dorn, the OMB’s former deputy director. “As opposed to giving you 150 reasons you can’t do something, he would tell you how you can do it. And how to do it right. And usually how to do it quickly.” PRIVATE LESSONS When Perry returned to Latham in September 2003, he brought with him an enhanced understanding of how government regulations are developed and written, and how they can be most effectively defended in court. On the flip side, he also knew how corporate clients could most effectively attack such regulations through lobbying and litigation. “When Phil came back, he wasn’t the junior partner anymore,” says Everett “Kip” Johnson Jr., a partner in Latham’s Washington office. “He came back with a much broader perspective of how government works, how government views things and approaches cases.” While at Latham, Perry lobbied the DHS on behalf of government contractors General Electric and Lockheed Martin Corp. As a result of that work, Perry says he has recused himself from all specific matters involving the two companies. According to Senate lobby registrations, Lockheed paid Latham roughly $140,000 for Perry’s work. The firm did not file a disclosure form for Perry’s representation of General Electric, indicating that lobbying work constituted less than 20 percent of his services to the company. But Perry says that nothing in the government ethics laws bars him from working on DHS regulations that might affect his former clients, because regulations involve issues of general policy, not particular cases or controversies. Perry’s lobbying work for GE and Lockheed involved applications for liability protection filed under the Safety Act. Perry has made no secret of the fact that he would like to adjust that application process to make it less burdensome on business. He says encouraging private industry to develop counterterrorism technologies by cutting red tape makes sense for the country. “We shouldn’t just be sitting back and taking applications from people,” Perry says. “We should be using it as a tool to encourage industry to come up with the technologies that will help protect the country.” FAMILY FOCUS Perry was born in 1964, in San Diego, Calif. His family moved to Palo Alto when his father, a naval officer, went to Stanford University to earn an advanced degree in economics. After graduating from high school in the San Francisco suburb of Orinda, Perry attended Colorado College. Colorado College was also the alma mater of Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne, and daughters Elizabeth and Mary, but Perry didn’t meet Elizabeth until 1991, at an alumni happy hour in Washington, D.C. By that time he had a law degree from Cornell University and was working as an associate in the D.C. office of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey. The couple were married in 1993. While his new wife attended law school at the University of Chicago, Perry spent three years in the Chicago office of Latham & Watkins. The couple moved back to Washington in 1996, and Perry transferred into Latham’s D.C. office. In 1997, Perry took a year off to work on the Senate probe into campaign finance abuses during the 1996 campaign. At the time, Perry’s father-in-law was the chief executive officer of Halliburton Inc. and a former secretary of defense. Still, it was not a subject Perry spoke about, says friend Gus Puryear IV, who met Perry while working on the investigation. “For the longest time I didn’t know the Cheneys were his in-laws,” says Puryear, now general counsel of Nashville’s Corrections Corp. of America. “I don’t think it ever came up until I actually met Liz.” No matter how Perry handles his relationship with Cheney, he will probably always face critics who believe he got where he is because of his father-in-law. After Perry was nominated to the DHS post in April 2005, the Toledo Blade ran an editorial blasting the pick as “a pure form of nepotism.” While Perry concedes that he has had opportunities because of the family he married into, he says he has succeeded through hard work. Friends like Puryear maintain that any suggestion to the contrary is unfair to Perry. “He’s all substance,” Puryear says. “If you look at the roles he’s taken on, they’re not glamour roles. He’s taking on get-in-the-trenches, do-the-work roles.” Shull of OMB Watch says nepotism is beside the point. He says the Bush administration demands such loyalty from political appointees that they all seem to form one collective brood: “You almost don’t even need family ties in this administration.”
Vanessa Blum can be contacted at [email protected].

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