Wednesday, April 08, 2009

New White House Appointments

President Barack Obama announced a new set of White House appointments.

Mary L. Smith - Assistant Attorney General, Tax Division, Department of Justice

Robert R. Beers - Under Secretary for National Protection and Programs, Department of Homeland Security

Peter M. Rogoff, Administrator, Federal Transit Administration, Department of Transportation

Jane Oates - Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Administration, Department of Labor.

Smith worked as an attorney for the controversal Tyco International. Tyco chief executive officer L. Dennis Kozlowski was sentenced to 25 years for embezzling money from his own company. Smith's own bio, at Schoeman, Updike, Kaufman & Scharf LLP, indicates she was in charge of Kozlowski damage control.

Prior to joining Schoeman, Updike & Kaufman, she served as Senior Litigation Counsel at Tyco International (US) Inc. where she managed the securities class action multi-district litigation relating to the Dennis Kozlowski era – the largest case pending at the Company and one of the largest cases pending in the country. Recently, the major portion of the litigation was settled for approximately $3 billion. The settlement, reached after five years of litigation and the production of over 80 million pages of documents by the Company represents the single largest payment from any corporate defendant in the history of securities class action litigation. As part of her responsibilities, Ms. Smith managed a multi-million dollar budget, over 40 outside counsel, and over 60 contract attorneys.

Smith oversaw Tyco pensions. Kozlowski inflated the value of Tyco's worth. Louisiana Teachers’ Retirement System lost $14.7 billion. Louisiana State Employees’ Retirement System suffered $9 billion in losses.

Smith contributed $1,000 to the Obama Victory Fund on September 15th, 2008. That contribution list her employer as Schoeman, Updike, Kaufman & Scharf LLP. However, Smith filed a $300.00 campaign contribution, 15 day later, for Texas Democrat Rick Noriega. That contribution listed her employer as Tyco and her address as Lancing, Illinois. Smith graduated from University of Chicago School of Law and is another White House member with Chicago ties.

Interestingly enough, Smith contributed $4,600 to Hillary Clinton in 2007. Proof you can change horses in midstream. Smith served in the Bill Clinton administration as Associate Counsel to the President and Associate Director of Policy Planning.

Robert R. "Rands" Beers as served as a national security advisor to the John Kerry campaign. Beers made news for being outspoken against the Bush administration's foreign policy and use of faulty intelligence. Beers wrote a scathing op-ed on the cherry picking of intelligence.

Nonetheless, as Paul Pillar, the intelligence officer responsible for the Middle East from 2000 to 2005, made clear, it was standard operating procedure both immediately after 9/11 and beyond for the Bush administration to discount these assertions. Eventually, according to Pillar, the administration's rejection of this intelligence led to the creation of an insular Pentagon unit whose sole purpose was to "expose" every possible link between al-Qaeda and Iraq, regardless of what previous contradicting analyses stated.

The Bush administration's effort to neuter the IC didn't stop there. From exaggerating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program to false claims that Iraq had pursued nuclear material from Niger to ignoring IC concerns about unfinished business and shifting intelligence resources from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Iraq, the White House did all it could to use the IC as a doormat in its march to war.

Coupled with the politicization of known intelligence, the pursuit of faulty intelligence and the cherry-picking of dubious intelligence, this led to the dangerous degradation of our intelligence community at a perilous time. Even now, with reform legislation and new leadership, problems persist.

Beers speaks from inside knowledge. He worked in the Bush National Security Council from 2002 to 2003 and the State Department from 1998 to 2002. Previously, Beers served in the Clinton National Security Council and was a Marine. Beers was the John Kerry campaign national security advisor and worked on the Obama transition team.

Peter M. Rogoff is a former staffer on the Senate Appropriations Committee. He has contributed money to the Obama and Kerry presidential campaigns.

Jane Oates served as New Jersey Gov. John Corzine's Executive Director of the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education. Her testimony to the New Jersey budget committee on college enrollment stands out.

We have also increased the degrees earned by 12% --growing from 58,277 in 2002-2003 to 65,105 last year. New Jersey schools are enrolling more students and helping them to earn their degrees in record numbers, and that is good for families and good for the state.

New Jersey has one of the best state college programs in the country. I grew up in New Jersey. The emphasis on education is strong. 12 percent is an impressive number. Corzine appoints good people. Oates is a good appointment but her skills would be better used in the Department of Education. She will handle job training for low wage workers. I can see how it would make sense to appoint someone with an education background.

Beers and Oates are great picks. I don't know enough to have an opinion on Rogoff. Smith is an insider that I have serious questions about.

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