Obama brings in more HLS-affiliated transition team members

BY CHRIS SZABLA

Clark Kent Ervin ’85
Thomas Perez ’87

As the transition to the presidency of Barack Obama ’91 kicks into high gear, we learn of ever more potential members of the new administration with Harvard Law School ties. After announcing the Obama-Biden Transition Project’s senior staff and advisory board members, a number of whom the Record profiled last week, the Office of the President-elect has released a detailed list of individuals leading the transition teams for various government agencies.

While HLS affiliates pop up frequently on the list, other institutions will enjoy a considerable windfall of influence and prestige if these transition team members stay on in the administration. Harvard’s Kennedy School, the London School of Economics (LSE), and Georgetown Law School were among the most frequently attended academic institutions. Transition team leader John Podesta’s liberal think tank, the Center for American Progress, will also be contributing a large contingent. Many transition team members have also been plucked from powerful law firms, particularly WilmerHale and O’Melveny & Myers.

Highest on the list are the members of the Agency Review Working Group. Among them is Thomas Perez ’87, who will be looking after the transitions of the Justice, Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, and Housing and Urban Development Departments.

Perez currently serves as Maryland’s Secretary of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation. He has worked in various positions at the Justice Department, including a stint as Deputy Attorney General for Civil Rights during the Clinton administration. He was also Director of the Office for Civil Rights at Health and Human Services, and served as Special Counsel to Senator Ted Kennedy. Perez earned a masters from the Kennedy School, and has served on the faculties of the University of Maryland Law School and the George Washington University School of Public Health.

Other HLS alums will serve their respective transition teams in a narrower capacity. On the National Security team, Clark Kent Ervin ’85 will review matters pertinent to the Department of Homeland Security transition, the agency’s first since its creation after the September 11th attacks. Ervin served as DHS’ first Inspector General in a recess appointment made by President George W. Bush. His dismissal from the post was seen as vindictive; Ervin had worked vehemently – perhaps too much so – to point out the department’s flaws. Prior to his time at DHS, Ervin worked as Inspector General at the State Department and held several posts in the Texas state government. Currently the head of the Homeland Security Program at the center-left Aspen Institute, Ervin is also a graduate of Harvard College and of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

The Justice and Civil Rights Team contains the greatest concentration of HLS alums. On the review team for the Department of Justice are David William Ogden ’81 and Thomas Perrelli ’91. Ogden, a University of Pennsylvania alumnus who is a magna cum laude graduate of HLS and a former editor of the Law Review, clerked for Justice Blackmun and worked in various capacities for the DoJ, including as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division and as Chief of Staff to Attorney General Janet Reno ’63. He is now a partner at the D.C. firm WilmerHale, where he is co-chair of the Government and Regulatory Litigation Group.

Perrelli is managing partner of the D.C. firm Jenner & Block and served as Managing Editor of the Law Review under Obama. He served under Ogden as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division, where he had responsibility for the Tobacco Litigation Team, and holds a bachelors degree in history from Brown.

On the Justice Team’s review team for the Election Assistance Commission is Spencer Overton ’93, an election law expert at the George Washington University Law School. Overton, who graduated in mass media and journalism from Hampton University, has represented the Democratic National Committee in a variety of cases, and blogs at blackprof.org, a digest of “race, culture, and society”.

On the Energy and National Resources Team, John Leshy ’69 will help conduct the review for the Department of Interior’s transition. Leshy, a graduate of Harvard College and a professor at the University of Calfornia’s Hastings School of Law, is himself a contender for the top slot at the department, which has been the source of renewed attention in the wake of a political season awash in energy schemes. Leshy’s experience includes stints at DoJ, the National Resources Defense Council, and the Carter administration, in which he served as Associate Solicitor for Energy and Resources. During the Clinton administration, he was the Interior Department’s General Counsel. In 2004, he made a brief return to HLS as a visiting professor.

A number of HLS affiliates will serve on the Education and Labor Team. Reviewing the Corporation for National Service will be Shirley Sagawa ’87, a fellow at the Center for American Progress and co-founder of the consulting firm Sagawa/Jospin. A former Deputy Chief of Staff to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, she helped pass legislation forming the Corporation for National Service and AmeriCorps, and was named the Corporation’s first chief operating officer. The author of two books on organization culture, she also holds degrees from Smith College and LSE. Newsweek named her “one of the women to watch in the 21st century”. At HLS, she served on the Law Review.

Also on the Education and Labor Team are Phyllis Segal, a Program on Negotiation faculty member who will help review the transition of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, and current visiting professor Cynthia Estlund, who will be reviewing the National Mediation Board. Segal served as Deputy Attorney General of Massachusetts and was previously on the Board of the Federal Labor Relations Authority and worked for the National Organization for Women and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Estlund is visiting from NYU, where she is a professor of labor and employment law.

Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown ’92 will assist with the review of Veterans Affairs, under the umbrella of the Health and Human Services Team. Brown, who graduated from Harvard College, spent two terms in the Maryland House of Delegates before being elected lieutenant governor. He has also been a decades-long member of the military, having deployed to Iraq in 2005.

Three HLS alums round off the full transition team leader list, serving on the Executive Office of the President Team. Mara Eve Rudman ’90, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and president of the international consulting firm Quorum Strategies, will lead the review of the Office of Economic Advisors. Previously, she served as Deputy National Security Advisor and Chief of Staff of the National Security Council during the Clinton administration, and as Chief Counsel to the House Foreign Affairs Committee under Lee Hamilton. Rudman earned her bachelors at Dartmouth and was an editor of the Harvard Human Rights Journal.

Reviewing the Council on Environmental Quality will be George T. Frampton, Jr. ’69, currently a partner at the New York office of Boies, Schiller. Frampton, who also attended Yale and LSE, clerked for Justice Blackmun, and served as Treasurer of the Law Review, was previously chairman of the Council under the Clinton administration. Previously, he had been Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, President of the Wilderness Society, and personal attorney to Vice President Al Gore.

Finally, Todd D. Stern ’77, formerly a Staff Secretary at the White House and the Clinton administration’s point man on climate change, will review the transition of the White House Office. Stern has also served in the Treasury Department and as an advisor to Senator Patrick Leahy. Now a partner at WilmerHale, Stern has also been a lecturer at the Kennedy School, a member of the Counci
l on Foreign Relations, and a fellow of the Center for American Progress. He holds a bachelors degree from Dartmouth.

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