Some of the most closely watched of the transition teams for President-elect Barack Obama include economics and international trade, national security and the energy and natural resources group.
While the advisers on economics and international trade are top heavy with economists and market experts, a few lawyers did make it into the group. The teams have been asked to make policy and budget recommendations to the new administration.
James E. Johnson, a litigation partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, will lead a team on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission review. He specializes in white-collar criminal defense, internal investigations and corporate compliance.
Johnson previously served as under secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement from 1998 to 2000 and as assistant secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement from 1996 to 1998. He was a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York from 1990 to 1996. He currently chairs the New Jersey Advisory Committee on Police Standards and led Governor Jon Corzine’s Homeland Security transition team.
On the federal Trade Commission Review team is Phil Weiser, a law professor at the University of Colorado School of Law specializing in antitrust policy, innovation policy and Internet policy. Weiser previously served as senior counsel to the assistant attorney general of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court justices Byron R. White and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as well as for 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge David Ebel.
On the International Trade Commission review team is Peter M. Shane, a law professor at Ohio State University Michael E. Moritz College of Law. Shane’s research focuses on separation of powers law, and on the Internet and the future of democracy. He clerked for Judge Alvin B. Rubin of the 5th Circuit . Shane served as an attorney-adviser in the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and in the Office of Management and Budget, before entering full-time teaching in 1981.
The Small Business Administration team will include Ginger Lew, currently chief executive officer of the Czech Slovak American Enterprise Fund. Lew has served as deputy administrator and chief operating officer of the Small Business Administration (SBA), as the general counsel at the Department of Commerce and as the deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia under the Carter Administration.
In 2006, Lew founded the Association of Asian American Investment Managers, the first national trade association for Asian-American investment professionals.
Gary Gensler, though not a lawyer, acted as senior adviser to Senator Paul Sarbanes, on the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and will serve on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission review for the Obama Administration. He spent 18 years at Goldman Sachs as a partner and co-head of finance.
On the World Bank review team, George Munoz is both an attorney and certified public accountant. He specializes in international business and financial advice concerning emerging markets. Munoz served as the president and chief executive officer of Overseas Private Investment Corp. from 1997 to 2001 and as the assistant secretary and chief financial officer of the U.S. Treasury from 1993 to 97.
Joining him will be Nelson Cunningham, who served as a lawyer at the White House and under former Senate Judiciary Chairman Joseph R. Biden, now vice president-elect. Cunningham is managing partner of McLarty Associates, the international strategic advisory firm he co-founded with former Clinton Chief of Staff Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty III. Cunningham was special adviser to President Clinton for Western Hemisphere Affairs. He has also been a federal prosecutor in New York under Rudolph Giuliani, specializing in international financial prosecutions.
The Obama transition team on national security issues includes Tom Donilon, a partner at O’Melvany & Myers on the firm’s global governing committee. He served as assistant secretary state for public affairs and chief of staff at the U.S. Department of State during the Clinton Administration. Donilon is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Aspen Strategy Group, the National Security Advisory Group to the Congressional Leadership, the Brookings Institution Board of Trustees, the Miller Center of Public Affairs Governing Council and the Trilateral Commission.
Another lawyer on the team is Clark Kent Ervin, director of the Aspen Institute’s Homeland Security Program. Early in his career he worked for Vinson & Elkins and Locke, Liddell & Sapp. He more recently served as the first inspector general of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), from 2003 to 2004.
Prior to his service at DHS, Ervin served as the inspector general of the U.S. Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, from August 2001 to January 2003. He also served as associate director of policy in the White House Office of National Service in the administration of President George H.W. Bush. He served in Texas as assistant secretary of state, and then as a deputy attorney general.
On the energy and natural resources team, Keith Harper, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and chairman of the Native American practice group at Kilpatrick Stockton, will serve on the Department of the Interior review group. He is the head of the Native American Rights Fund and acted as litigator in the years-long litigation to get an accounting of mineral and oil royalties owed to Native Americans and administered by the federal government.
With him is John Leshy, law professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. Leshy served as solicitor (general counsel) of the U.S. Department of the Interior; special counsel to Chairman George Miller of the House of Representatives Resources Committee; and professor of law at Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariza. He also worked as associate solicitor of Interior for Energy & Resources and with the Natural Resources Defense Council in California and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington.
The energy review team will include Cecilia V. Estolano, who practiced land use and environmental law at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. She is currently chief executive officer of the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles. She has served as a special assistant to the city attorney in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, a senior policy adviser to the assistant administrator for Air and Radiation at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a member of the California Coastal Commission.