President Obama has waived ethics rules for White House counsel Robert Bauer, his personal and campaign lawyer – and the same attorney who has defended Obama in lawsuits challenging his eligibility to be president.
Late last year, Obama installed Robert Bauer – top lawyer for Obama, Obama’s presidential campaign, the Democratic National Committee and Obama’s Organizing for America – as White House counsel. Bauer had been a partner at the law firm Perkins Coie.
Obama meets with senior advisers (Robert Bauer three from left) in the Oval Office on March 18.
However, Executive Order 13490, “Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel,” prohibits political appointees from participating in any matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to former employers or former clients. The rule typically expires two years after the date of appointment.
According to the ethics waiver posted May 7 at 5 p.m. on the White House website, Bauer is now exempted from the requirements of the ethics pledge “solely with respect to his former client the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and with respect to his former employer Perkins Coie LLP (Perkins Coie) in its capacity as counsel to the DNC and to President Barack Obama in his personal capacity.”
The waiver suggests the ethics rules would have prevented Bauer from working on Obama’s financial disclosure forms or issues related to the Democratic National Committee.
The document states, “Before his service as Counsel to the President, Mr. Bauer and Perkins Coie represented the President in his personal capacity, and Mr. Bauer’s former firm continues to represent the President on such matters. If the ethics pledge were literally applied, when representing the interests of the President and the United States as Counsel to the President, Mr. Bauer would not be able to advise the President appropriately on particular matters that are directly and substantially related to Perkins Coie’s representation of the President in his personal capacity.”
The waiver allows Bauer to deal in an official capacity with Perkins Coie and remain involved in Obama’s personal legal matters. The document also states, “Mr. Bauer does not have any continuing financial interest in his former client the DNC. His only continuing financial interest in Perkins Coie is the repayment of his capital account pursuant to his partnership agreement.”
Politico reported Bauer earned $959,000 from Perkins Coie in 2009, and the firm currently owes him another $216,000.
The Federal Election Commission shows “Obama for America,” Obama’s 2008 political campaign, has made regular payments totaling $2,877,083.56, or $2.9 million, to Perkins Coie since Jan. 1, 2007 – the month Obama formed a presidential exploratory committee and only weeks before he formally announced his candidacy for president.
Nearly $2 million, or $1,941,381.04, of that sum was paid to Perkins Coie since questions about Obama’s eligibility were raised in June 2008 while Bauer was a partner (until Bauer’s departure in December 2009).
“Obama for America” made another payment of $261,206.69 to Perkins Coie during the period of Jan. 10 to March 31, 2010, after Bauer left to become White House counsel. Perkins Coie continues to represent the Obama campaign, the Obama family and the DNC.
As WND reported, in April 2009, Bauer sent a letter to plaintiff Gregory Hollister, a retired Air Force colonel, of Hollister v. Soetoro, threatening sanctions if he didn’t withdraw his appeal of the eligibility case that earlier was tossed by a district judge because the issue already had been “twittered.”
“For the reasons stated in Judge Robertson’s ruling, the suit is
frivolous and should not be pursued,” Bauer’s letter warned. “Should you
decline to withdraw this frivolous appeal, please be informed that we
intend to pursue sanctions, including costs, expenses and attorneys’
fees, pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 38 and D.C.
Circuit Rule 38.”
Bauer also represented Obama and the DNC in Philip Berg’s eligibility lawsuit and various other legal challenges.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Bauer functioned as an “attack lawyer,” threatening with FEC complaints groups wanting to run anti-Obama television ads.
Also during the 2008 presidential campaign, Bauer as counsel for the Obama campaign wrote letters to television station managers and to Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General John Keeney arguing that airing an anti-Obama ad pointing to the known association between Obama and Weather Underground radical Bill Ayers would violate federal election rules.
Additionally, during the 2008 campaign, Bauer intervened on behalf of Obama to block the California-based American Leadership Project from running a television ad campaign over support from unions, including the Service Employees International Union.
Again, Bauer filed a complaint with the FEC alleging that the union-funded television campaign the American Leadership Project planned to run in Indiana against Obama was illegal under federal election laws.
In addition to representing Obama on eligibility cases, Bauer also served as legal counsel to represent the president in the criminal probe into the activities of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and he was asked to lead the search for Obama’s new choice for the Supreme Court justice this year.
White House ethics lawyer Norm Eisen, who works under Bauer, signed and posted the ethics waiver online, stating that the White House was doing so “in the interest of transparency.”
Since the posting of the ethics waiver, blogger reaction has been mixed. Some comments include the following:
- Eligibility issues seem to be heating up, especially since Arizona passed the law that candidates have to show a birth certificate. This is likely why they need to retain Bauer on the issue – trouble for ’12?
- Look, all they’re doing is dropping the pretense of being ethical. Only the MSM uses the word “ethics” and “White House” in the same sentence, and even they know it’s just hype.
- Sure would be nice to know how much of the $959K (and counting) was paid to Bauer for his representation of Obama/Soetoro in the various eligibility suits, and what part of Perkins Coie’s payments were for Bauer versus other attorneys in the firm.
- Would he be able to testify against Obama, should any case come up, as personal attorney or counsel?
- In this case, the waiver does make sense, but only because it indicates a deficiency in the way the ethics rules were made initially. … If I were to advise Obama on the matter, I’d tell him to revise the rules to make them more clearly delineate appropriate from inappropriate behavior and to stick to them strongly.
- Just another part of the most ethical and open administration to ever occupy the White House.
- Ethics “waivers” are the essence of the Obama administration.