Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is keeping more than a few Am Law attorneys busy in his quest to find a running mate.
Beth Myers, a former litigation associate at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and longtime Romney aide, has been tasked with conducting the former Massachusetts governor’s vice presidential search.
Myers, a principal with the Shawmut Group in Chestnut Hill, Mass., did not respond to a request for comment about the vetting process. In one of her few public statements on the matter earlier this year, Myers tweeted that she was honored to handle the search for Romney.
Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for the Romney campaign, told Legal affiliate The Am Law Daily in an email Wednesday that it does not comment on vetting procedures. Romney’s wife told ABC News on Wednesday that her husband has yet to decide on a number two, and The New York Times reported this week that teams of lawyers and campaign advisers were poring over materials from potential candidates.
Romney, who received a joint J.D./MBA from Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School, has personally reviewed some vice presidential applications, according to The Times . Leading candidates for the nomination include Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Ohio Senator Rob Portman, with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan reportedly also in contention.
Myers will seek to avoid repeating the vice presidential vetting fiasco of four years ago, when former O’Melveny & Myers Chairman Arthur Culvahouse Jr. was criticized for failing — or not being given enough time, depending on whom you ask — to conduct a thorough review of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
But Myers is hardly the only member of the Romney team with Am Law ties. Kathryn Biber, a former Patton Boggs associate, serves as general counsel for the Romney campaign, along with deputy general counsel and fellow Patton Boggs associate Megan Sowards, who is currently on a leave of absence from the firm. Benjamin Ginsberg, former national counsel to the Bush-Cheney presidential campaigns and a top political law partner at Patton Boggs, serves as national counsel to Romney’s campaign. (Ginsberg also held that title in 2008 when Romney conceded to eventual Republican presidential nominee John McCain.)
Ginsberg did not immediately return a phone call requesting comment on the Romney campaign’s vetting process, and Biber and Sowards didn’t respond to emails seeking details on the lawyers involved.
While Patton Boggs — known for its political and lobbying expertise — has ties to both major parties, its Republican connections run deep. This week, for instance, Politico broke the news that the firm had hired prominent GOP congressional staffer Daris Meeks as an associate in its tax and financial services and products practice groups in Washington, D.C.
Other Am Law alums employed by Romney include former Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher associate and current campaign policy director Lanhee Chen and deputy director of operations and senior adviser Louis Tavares, a former Ropes & Gray associate. Trent Christensen, another ex-Ropes associate, serves as regional finance director for the Romney campaign, while former Covington & Burling associate Alex Wong is Romney’s director of foreign, defense and judicial policy, as noted previously by Legal affiliate The Blog of Legal Times .
Hogan Lovells of counsel Norm Coleman, who joined the firm as a senior government adviser in 2011 after nearly a decade in the Senate, is a special policy adviser to the Romney campaign. Coleman, who made waves earlier this year with his public statements on the controversial health care bill backed by the Obama administration, did not return a phone call requesting comment.
Robert Bork, a former federal judge and longtime conservative legal star, is a co-chair of Romney’s justice advisory committee, along with Harvard Law School professor Mary Ann Glendon and Wiley Rein Chairman Richard Wiley, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. The 63 members of the committee are advising Romney on constitutional, judicial, regulatory and homeland security matters.
Last September, Gibson Dunn senior labor and employment partner William Kilberg, a former member of the firm’s executive committee, was named co-chair of the Romney campaign’s labor advisory group. (Kilberg’s fellow co-chair, former National Labor Relations Board Chairman Peter Schaumber, left the Romney campaign earlier this year after the resignation of NLRB member Terence Flynn, who was accused in a series of reports by the agency’s inspector general of leaking information to Schaumber and others when they were in private practice, according to Legal affiliate Corporate Counsel .)
The following month, Romney introduced his law enforcement advisory group, which is composed of former U.S. Attorneys General William Barr and Michael Mukasey. Barr retired as general counsel of Verizon Communications in 2008 with a $10.38 million pay package, and Mukasey, a former chief federal judge in Manhattan, joined Debevoise & Plimpton as a litigation partner in early 2009.
Other leaders of the advisory group include White & Case senior partner and white-collar practice head George Terwilliger III and Kirkland & Ellis partner Mark Filip, both former deputy attorneys general. Alice Fisher, a former assistant attorney general in charge of the U.S. Department of Justice’s criminal division, is also a member of the group, which advises the Republican presidential candidate on rule-of-law matters. Fisher is the managing partner of Latham & Watkins’ office in Washington, D.C., having returned to the firm in 2008.
Romney’s longtime personal lawyer, Ropes Chairman R. Bradford Malt, and Ropes have been key legal advisers over the years to Romney and Bain Capital, the Boston-based private equity firm that Romney co-founded in 1984.
Of course, both Romney and President Obama are relying heavily upon the donations of lawyers at Ropes and other Am Law 100 mainstays to help fund their respective presidential campaigns, according to a report last week by The Washington Post . The newspaper reported this week that senior Romney aides set up shop Wednesday in the New York offices of Weil, Gotshal & Manges for a barrage of fundraising calls to well-heeled donors. Weil’s New York headquarters served as the base for another phone-a-thon in February to raise cash for Romney’s campaign coffers, which trumped the Obama administration’s fundraising efforts last month by $35 million.
Lobbyists have been especially partial to Romney’s camp, with DLA Piper, Akin Gump and Patton Boggs leading the pack among law firms that donated the most to his campaign in 2011, according to a report earlier this year by The Blog of Legal Times . A recent CBS News/ New York Times survey on the looming election put Romney in a dead heat with Obama for the presidency.
Brian Baxter is a reporter for The American Lawyer, a Legal affiliate based in New York. This article first appeared on The Am Law Daily at www.americanlawyer.com. •