Help with heavy vetting

Al Kamen
Columnist December 11, 2012

Loop Fans know that getting nominated and confirmed for a top administration job can be an ordeal.

Fortunately, you can call on legal experts to help you navigate those dangerous shoals.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

For example, a fundraiser for President Obama’s reelection campaign — the sort likely to be offered a top job in Washington or at a fine embassy — got a brief letter about 10 days after the election from the high-powered law firm O’Melveny & Myers, offering to help in any way it could.

“As we enter the post-election season and the second Obama administration begins to take shape,” the letter from partner Robert Rizzi began, “we would like to take the opportunity to share with you our recent column for the website of Corporate Counsel entitled ‘Improving prospects for Service in the Second Obama Term.’ ”

“Formal vetting procedures . . . financial disclosure requirements and government ethics regulations can create potential pitfalls for individuals who might be looking forward” to top jobs, Rizzi wrote.

He enclosed the column, which he said “draws upon our experience as the leading practice in Washington representing Presidential appointees, helping scores of individuals serve their country in Republican and Democratic administrations for more than 20 years.”

The column summarizes the issues that have derailed nominees over recent years — nannies, chauffeurs and forgetting to pay taxes as well as conflicts of interest, and it cautions folks to “beware of Twitter and other ‘paper trails.’ ” (Probably too late for that.)

“If you have any questions about the confirmation process,” Rizzi says in the letter, “please do not hesitate to contact me.”

So we contacted Rizzi, who ­e-mailed that the solicitation letter “went to a number of Obama supporters” and that eight to 10 have contacted the firm, which he said “represented more than 40 individuals” in the first Obama term.

Some folks chase ambulances; others chase Bentleys.

McCain, right at home

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) isn’t yet a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But he already seems at home in the panel’s digs.

McCain — who indicated he’d like to sit on the prestigious committee, although he needs Senate leaders to, you know, agree first — was spotted doing a sit-down interview Tuesday with CNN’s Piers Morgan in the committee’s stately hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

McCain already has a perch on the Armed Services Committee, but as a member of the foreign relations panel he’d get a chance to grill whoever the president nominates to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

He hasn’t gotten the official nod yet, but the former presidential candidate got a chance to check out his potential new work environment during the taped interview with Morgan on Tuesday morning. McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said the location was a mere coincidence that had nothing to do with his boss’s desire to sit on the committee. “It was just a room to use,” he says.

Joining McCain for the Q&A were Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — the triumvirate of frequent traveling companions are dubbed “the three amigos.”

Welcome to Washington

Our peculiar habits can sometimes confound out-of-town guests.

Take, for example, U.S. District Judge Frederick Scullin Jr. , normally of the Northern District of New York but spending a little time here as a visiting judge.

He was presiding last week over a case involving a former CIA deep-cover operative who alleges that unknown agency personnel bad-mouthed him to a defense contractor, costing him a job.

Marcia Sowles, a Justice Department lawyer for the CIA, argued that the agency never said anything publicly about the man, known as Peter B in court pleadings.

Scullin asked Peter B’s lawyer, Mark S. Zaid , to lay out the material facts the plaintiff believes are at issue so the judge could decide if limited discovery is warranted. He gave Zaid a week.

No problem preparing the filing in a week, Zaid said, but he couldn’t submit it to the court. He would first have to give it to the CIA for review to see if it contained classified information.

But there is no need to include any classified information, Scullin said.

Agreed, said Zaid, but the agency still has to get it first. Sowles and CIA lawyer Anthony Moses concurred: Everything must be reviewed in Langley.

Scullin seemed a tad irritated by this seemingly redundant requirement. Impatient to move along a case that has been stalled for years, Scullin asked Moses how long the review might take.

The CIA lawyer couldn’t predict.

Scullin, an Army infantry commander in Vietnam and Bush I appointee, ordered him to get it done in a week.

“If there’s an issue,” he said, “have your boss call me.”

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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