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    November 26, 2008  
Lawyers for Obama


We know which politicians won the elections (well, except in Minnesota and Georgia), but who are the big winners within the bar? For insight, we turned to former DNC Chair (’99-’01) Joe Andrew of Sonnenschein, who came out of November smelling like a rose, after being one of the first big-name superdelegates to switch loyalties from Hillary to Obama.


Joe tells us lawyers are well-represented on the Obama transition team—at the time of our interview, over 75% of transition appointees were lawyers, a much higher percentage than that on Bush’s squad. Lobbyists are another matter: Obama has laid down novel rules refusing inaugural donations from lobbyists and prohibiting any Federal lobbying from transition members. Joe’s take is that “substance is in,” and an Obama administration will see the re-emergence of the classic Washington lawyer in the Clark Clifford mold. The people most effective with the administration, he says, will be those with hard expertise in regulatory fields like securities, TARP, and energy.


Speaking of TARP, Joe’s partner Mike McNamara (not actual twins—they just pose like that) plays point on the Financial Crisis Special Situations group, which is holding Mon/Wed/Thursday calls where 100 lawyers across disciplines share the latest info to spread to clients. Information is Mike’s trade: he helms another group with an intriguing name— “Information Capital & Political Intelligence”—that has made a business of keeping Wall Street (hedge funds, private equity, I-banks) abreast of Washington developments for corporate strategy purposes. DC knowledge also proves handy for regulated industries like health care, as in Sonnenschein’s past work structuring the $16 billion Wellpoint-Anthem insurance merger.


Lobbying pro Mark Meissner couldn’t resist the Bisnow camera—well, either that or he had swung by to pick up Joe for an appearance on Neil Cavuto. (We report, you decide.) Actually, Joe’s multimedia efforts don’t stop at TV and e-news—last year Simon & Schuster published his book, The Blue Way, theorizing that companies that embrace and support progressive causes outperform “red” companies. But nothing attracted quite the attention of Joe’s switch to Obama—he made the announcement in an Indiana gym, surprised to see 27 news cameras there, not to mention making the front-page of Le Monde. Months later, Indiana made the swing from red to blue.

National Popular Vote Coming?

Another key player in Obama’s Indiana victory was former Senator Birch Bayh, now of Venable, who served the state for 18 years on Capital Hill and is the only person we know who can say he wrote part of the Constitution. He’s credited with drafting the 25th Amendment (on Presidential succession) and the 26th (making the voting age 18). He spent October barnstorming the Hoosier state with one of his key roles, he says, showing his support for Joe Biden, picked for VP over a shortlist that included Birch’s son (and current Indiana Senator) Evan Byah. Birch, Evan, and Joe all appeared together at a major rally in Evansville, where Birch squeezed in a half-hour visit with Michelle Obama. (“Low key and very comfortable,” Birch reports on our First-Lady-to-be.)


But his campaigning didn’t end with the election—building on his 26th Amendment expertise, Birch is a major proponent of a national popular vote for the Presidency, a movement that’s gained far more momentum than we realized. He’s part of the National Popular Vote organization, which has spearheaded passage of a bill in NJ, IL, MD, and HI that cleverly plays on the workings of the Constitution. Birch tells us that under Article 2, Section 1, state legislatures have sole authority to determine allocation of their electoral votes. Under the NPV’s bill, states agree to give their votes to the candidate that gets the most popular votes in all 50 states.


While some states have already agreed to this, the bill also states that it doesn’t go into effect until identical bills are passed in states that account for enough votes to elect a President, or 270.  They’re 20% of the way there already, and Birch tells us that a “full-court press” is on in California, where the bill already passed once but was vetoed by the Governator. Above, Birch shows us a picture of LBJ at a ceremony where the 26th Amendment became the law of the land—which reminds us, if things don’t work out at the state level, Birch can always write another Amendment.

John Ford, Bisnow’s Legal Editor, wishes all a happy Thanksgiving. Get in touch with story ideas at john@bisnow.com.

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