Obama to nominate former Romney adviser Chen to federal board

September 30, 2013

It seemed like a timely stroke of bipartisanship: the White House announced Monday, on the eve of a government shutdown, that President Obama would nominate a top adviser to Republican Mitt Romney's campaign to an administration position.

Obama intends to nominate Lanhee J. Chen -- the policy director on Romney's 2012 presidential campaign who, yes, repeatedly attacked Obama's Social Security plans -- to the Social Security Advisory Board, which advises the president as well as the Congress on Social Security policy.

But that's not quite the full story. The board is independent and its membership is bipartisan. Although the president nominates members, the nominees alternate between the political parties. This vacancy was for a Republican member, a White House aide explained, and Chen was actually the pick of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

On Romney's campaign last year, Chen was well regarded and would have figured prominently in a Romney administration had the Republican won the election. Chen was the brains behind most of Romney's policies, from the economy (helping draft the candidate's 59-point jobs plan) to foreign affairs (helping craft Romney's responses to the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya).

Chen currently serves as a research fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution and as a lecturer in public policy and law at Stanford University. Chen holds four degrees from Harvard University -- an A.B. from Harvard College, an A.M. and Ph.D. in political science and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Chen worked on Romney's unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign as domestic policy director. He also served in the Bush administration at the Department of Health and Human Services and as a health policy adviser to Bush's 2004 reelection campaign.

Philip Rucker is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where he has reported since 2005.
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