Big Bank Brings In a Face From the Clinton Administration

Peter L. Scher is joining J.P. Morgan Chase.
Peter L. Scher is joining J.P. Morgan Chase. (Courtesy Of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw Llp - Courtesy Of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw Llp)
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By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Washington is likely to be a much more Democratic place next year. That's Democratic with a capital D.

Even if a Democrat doesn't win the White House, experts expect more D's in both the House and the Senate after November's elections.

Which is bad news for big banks (and lots of other large companies as well). Plenty of bills will be coming due for the federal government, and others are sure to be created. Someone will have to pay them, and Big Business is high on the hit list.

Hence a reason that Peter L. Scher has a grand new gig. Scher is a former Clinton administration official, which means he's a major D. He has just been named executive vice president in charge of global government affairs for J.P. Morgan Chase, one of the world's largest financial institutions.

He replaces Rick Lazio, a former Republican congressman from New York who was defeated for the Senate in 2000 by Hillary Rodham Clinton. In other words, he is a major R. (Lazio will remain with the bank -- quite happily, he says -- with the global real estate and infrastructure group.)

D's have been replacing R's (or, more often, supplementing them) on K Street for quite a while. That trend will continue -- and accelerate -- despite all the nasty things John McCain and Barack Obama have been saying about lobbyists.

In fact, interests that care about the capital have been hiring more and more lobbyists because of the lobbyist-bashing. They obviously have a heightened need to protect themselves -- given the anti-special-interest rhetoric -- and lobbyists are the people who do that. Lobbyists that are D's, naturally, are the ones most in demand.

Scher, 47, is already an important D on K. He is in charge of the 200-lawyer Washington office of Mayer Brown. Before that he held senior jobs in Congress, in the executive branch and on the campaign trail.

During the Clinton years, he was a special trade negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. He was also chief of staff at the Commerce Department, where he worked with a future commerce secretary, William M. Daley, who is now his boss at the bank.

On Capitol Hill, Scher was staff director of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and chief of staff to Max Baucus (D-Mont.), now chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. In 2004, he managed the vice presidential campaign of former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.).

Scher was brought to the bank as much for his international expertise as his Washington cred. But clearly, D.C. will be a hot spot next year. "A major financial player like J.P. Morgan, with the breadth and depth of its activities across the financial service sector, will need to be active in Washington," he said.

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