Our Man in Dublin, by Way of Pittsburgh?

By Al Kamen
Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Steelers pulled off yet another immaculate reception to win the Super Bowl. That's great news for Pittsburgh fans. But the buzz in Washington is that the team's legendary owner, Dan Rooney, may score the ambassadorship to Ireland.

Lady Luck is smiling upon Rooney, 76, a titan of professional sports who has led the Steelers to six national championships. A lifelong Republican, Rooney was so inspired by Barack Obama that he endorsed him and stumped with him, helping Obama carry the crucial swing state of Pennsylvania. Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin also supported Obama's campaign.

Now, news is churning from Dublin to Pittsburgh that Rooney may be Obama's pick to become ambassador. The Irish Times reported that Rooney tops the president's shortlist and that an appointment is expected to be announced on or near St. Patrick's Day (March 17).

Obama has long had a soft spot for the Steelers. While he often calls members of Congress by their first names, Obama refers to Rooney as "Mr. Rooney."

"Other than the Bears, the Steelers are the team that's closest to my heart," the man who moved from Chicago to the White House told reporters last week.

Asked recently by a Pittsburgh television station whether he would like the job, Rooney said, "It would be interesting, I must admit."

"I have the credentials," Rooney told KDKA. "There's no doubt about that."

Rooney co-founded the Ireland Funds, a nonprofit organization that raises money to support education and the arts in Ireland. In 1976, he established the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, awarded to young Irish writers.

Rooney said he is not expecting a job as payback for endorsing Obama.

"I did not do this with the idea of getting anything," he told KDKA, adding: "If he calls me, obviously, I'm going to say that I'll do anything I can for you, and I would."

Ex-Lobbyist Closer to Job

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the Senate Armed Services Committee's top Republican, had stalled the nomination of former Raytheon lobbyist William Lynn to be deputy secretary of defense, but now he has decided to let the nomination go forward.

The move makes Lynn's confirmation more likely -- though there are still obstacles, particularly one named Sen. Charles E. Grassley, who criticized Lynn's work as the Pentagon's chief financial officer during the Clinton administration.

McCain had held up a committee vote on the appointment until he could look into the details of Lynn's lobbying work for Raytheon. The Obama folks, in nominating Lynn, gave him a waiver to their rule against bringing in lobbyists.

A McCain spokeswoman said yesterday that McCain lifted the hold after getting more specifics from Lynn on his lobbying. In a Jan. 30 letter, obtained by the Associated Press, Lynn told McCain he lobbied Congress in 2007 and 2008 on "only a handful" of programs and lobbied the Pentagon on only one matter -- the Multiple Kill Vehicle.

No. 2 at HUD

Ron Sims, elected executive of King County, Wash., which includes Seattle, is Obama's nominee for deputy secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Sims, 60, who has held the King County job for 13 years, would work under Secretary Shaun Donovan and manage the day-to-day operations at HUD, a sprawling agency with a $39 billion annual budget.

Duncan Hires

Secretary Arne Duncan tapped two political veterans for key sub-Cabinet positions at the Education Department. Carmel Martin, the chief education adviser to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), will be nominated as assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development. Martin also served as counsel to then-Sen. Thomas A. Daschle and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).

Duncan named fellow Chicagoan Peter Cunningham as assistant secretary for communications and outreach. Cunningham, whose communications firm specializes in politics and nonprofits, counts the Chicago school system and Axelrod and Associates, the firm of senior White House adviser David Axelrod, as clients.

Full Circle

David A. Lipton, a Treasury undersecretary for international matters in the Clinton administration who later worked for a hedge fund and then for Citigroup, is back. He started work yesterday at the National Economic Council, focusing on international issues.

Moving In

Washington lawyer Kathryn H. Ruemmler has begun work as the principal associate deputy attorney general -- the second in command to the Justice Department's nominated second in command, David W. Ogden.

A former federal prosecutor, Ruemmler also worked in the White House counsel's office at the end of the Clinton administration and served as deputy director of the Justice Department's Enron Task Force.

Meanwhile, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III's chief of staff, Lisa Monaco, has been tapped to move over to be associate deputy attorney general. FBI senior counsel Lee Rawls, who previously served as chief of staff, regains the portfolio on an interim basis.

Moving On

Newly retired senator Pete V. Domenici is joining the Bipartisan Policy Center, the policy shop founded in 2007 by four former Senate majority leaders -- Daschle, Howard Baker, Robert J. Dole and George J. Mitchell. Domenici, a Republican from New Mexico who served in the Senate for 36 years, will be a senior fellow working primarily on energy and transportation projects.

With Philip Rucker

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