Incoming White House Counsel A Major Democratic Activist
December 1, 2009 - 4:19 PMPresident Barack Obama's election attorney, who scoffed last year at investigations into the community-action group ACORN, will become the new White House counsel by the end of the year.
Bob Bauer’s announced entry to the White House counsel’s post came shortly after his wife resigned (on Nov. 10) as White House communications director. Bauer’s wife, Anita Dunn, had been openly critical of the Fox News Channel, dismissing the network as the “communication arm of the Republican Party.”
Her resignation came less than a month after video surfaced of a speech she gave at a May 2009 high school commencement, where she referred to the former communist dictator of China Mao Tse Tung as one of her favorite political philosophers.
Bauer is replacing White House counsel Greg Craig. The latter had also served in the White House counsel’s office during the Clinton administration, and is leaving the Obama administration reportedly because the White House was not pleased with his management of the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison for terror suspects.
In the ABA Journal, the publication of the American Bar Association, Bauer was described in the following way: “[A] partisan regular with a street-fighter’s zeal, Bauer has earned a reputation among some Republicans as the ‘focus of all evil.’”
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs assured reporters that despite Bauer’s focus on election and campaign issues, he has the experience to handle the broad duties required for a White House counsel.
“Well, look, I've worked with Bob for probably eight years,” Gibbs said on Nov. 23. “I think many of us have worked with Bob for quite some time. I think you could find, and you have found, Democrats and Republicans alike that believe Bob possesses certainly the knowledge, the experience, and a relationship with the president to do the important job of being the White House Counsel. I think we're all tremendously fortunate that he's decided to take a break from private practice and be the White House counsel.”
Bauer’s relationship with Obama has been a major part of his career in recent years. As general counsel to the Obama presidential campaign, Bauer played a key role in the decision to forgo federal matching funds in the 2008 election, thus allowing the campaign to tap its estimated 1.5 million donors and pursue nearly unlimited expenditures. (Obama had previously pledged to accept the $85 million in public financing.)
Bauer’s law firm, Perkins Coie, has earned about $1.5 million in representing Obama since 2005, according to Politico.
Bauer has a total of 30 years in election law, according to Perkins Coie, where he is the chair of the Political Law Group. After working as general counsel for the 2008 Obama campaign, the president tasked him to be the general counsel for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and to Organizing for America, the DNC’s organizing network.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, after reports surfaced that the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN) had allegedly engaged in voter registration fraud, Bauer dismissed the claim as an intimidation and disenfranchisement plot from the opposing John McCain campaign.
Bauer said criticism of ACORN resulted from “the very aggressive involvement of the top of the ticket in promoting this fear message,” reported The New York Times. He further said that McCain was trying to create “an ominous atmosphere” to keep people from voting.
Concerning Bauer’s hiring as White House counsel, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said in a Nov. 13 statement: “Bob Bauer has a public record of defending Barack Obama’s relationship with ACORN. Bauer has acted as the agent between Obama and ACORN, and now he will be perfectly positioned to be tasked with erasing the tracks between Obama and ACORN.”
“Bauer’s hiring appears to be a tactical maneuver to strategically defend the White House exactly one week after Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell raided ACORN's national headquarters in New Orleans and seized paper records and computer hard drives that may lead to the White House,” said King, whose statement added that “ACORN has admitted to over 400,000 fraudulent voter registrations in the 2008 election cycle.”
In addition to his work for Obama over the years, Bauer has worked as general counsel to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He was the general counsel to Democrat Bill Bradley’s failed 2000 presidential campaign. Outside of elections, Bauer represented Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) during the 1999 Senate impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.