New White House Counsel Was Defender of ACORN, Waged Legal Battle on Negative Ads
December 2, 2009The incoming White House counsel will carry a reputation for hardball tactics into his new job.
As President Barack Obama’s election attorney, Robert Bauer staunchly defended ACORN against political attacks, sought investigations of political opponents and pressed TV and radio stations to stop running ads critical of the Democratic nominee.
Bauer, also former counsel for the Democratic National Committee as well as other liberal interest groups, will become the new White House counsel by the end of the year. His 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.
With regards to ACORN, the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, which is under criminal investigation in several states for alleged voter registration fraud, Bauer asked in 2008 that then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey launch an investigation into Sen. John McCain presidential campaign, alleging voter suppression because of McCain’s criticism of ACORN.
In an Oct. 17 letter to Mukasey and Special Prosecutor Nora Dannehy, already investigating the firings of U.S. attorneys by the Bush administration, Bauer demanded a probe into the McCain campaign, the Republican Party and the Bush administration for criticism of ACORN. He also requested a meeting with the attorney general about the matter.
“I request Special Prosecutor Dannehy’s inquiry include a review of any involvement by Justice Department and White House officials in supporting the McCain-Palin campaign and the Republican National Committee’s systematic development and dissemination of unsupported, spurious allegations of vote fraud,” the letter said.
“It is highly likely that the very sort of politically motivated conduct identified in the department’s investigation to date, necessitating the appointment of a special prosecutor, is repeating itself, and for the same reason: unwarranted and politically motivated intervention in the upcoming election,” the letter added.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) believes hiring Bauer a week after the ACORN national headquarters were raided by Louisiana state law enforcement is no coincidence.
“It’s clear nobody in this room could come up with anyone better positioned to scrub the links between President Obama and ACORN and all their affiliates,” King told CNSNews.com, shortly after a House forum investigating ACORN.
“The letter he wrote to Attorney General Mukasey that called for prosecutions of President Bush, McCain and their campaigns for simply raising the issue of voter fraud,” he said.
“When you see how ACORN has unfolded in the last year – didn’t Bob Bauer know that? Surely he knew that. Surely he was working to cover up the link to ACORN. That’s why he wrote the letter,” King added.
Hans von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow for the Heritage Foundation, knows Bauer as an aggressive player, but would not speculate to the House panel as to why the White House appointed him.
“I do know he’s a very good lawyer and he would do whatever it took, within legal bounds to do the best job he can for his client,” Spakovsky told the House panel Tuesday. “If that meant making sure that there are no problems with any prior connections between the president and ACORN, of which there were, I think he would work on that.”
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,” he said.
“I think we're all tremendously fortunate that he's decided to take a break from private practice and be the White House counsel,” Gibbs added.
Also, Bauer sought to block negative ads that reflected badly on candidate Obama. He sent threatening letters to TV and radio stations warning them not to air campaign ads by the NRA criticizing candidate Obama. He alleged the ads were false and wrote, “For the sake of both FCC licensing requirements and the public interest, your station should refuse to continue to air this advertisement.”
In August, Bauer wrote a letter to the Justice Department alleging that a TV ad was by an independent group pointing to links between Obama and former Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers was illegal.
King told CNSNews.com that Bauer’s rough tactics fit into a White House atmosphere run by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, also known as a hard ball player in dealing with political opponents.
“If you wanted a White House counsel to get in their face, Bob Bauer would be your guy. It fits the Rahm persona. It fits the Chicago, hardcore gangster government persona,” King said.
“He had the chance to pick someone with a different attitude, a different persona and a different public image. But he picked someone with a public image that is a junkyard dog,” he added.
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.’”
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 chair of the Political Law Group. After working as general counsel for the 2008 Obama campaign, the president tasked him to be 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 ACORN had allegedly engaged in voter registration fraud, Bauer dismissed the claim as an intimidation and disenfranchisement plot from the opposing 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, King 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.