Top IRS Official's Attorney from Firm with Close Ties to White House

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IRS Scandal

On Wednesday, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) senior official Lois Lerner, the director of the division that singled out conservative groups for scrutiny, pleaded the 5th Amendment at congressional hearings. The lawyer by her side at the hearings, William Taylor III of Zuckerman Spaeder, comes from a firm with unusually close ties to the Obama White House Counsel’s Office and Department of Justice.

Zuckerman Spaeder has remarkably close ties to the Obama Administration. As The Washingtonian reported in 2012, “it appears that no other law firm has sent a higher percentage of partners into the Obama administration than Zuckerman Spaeder, a litigation boutique with fewer than 100 lawyers.” Among them:

  • Kathryn Ruemmler, the White House Counsel, is a former associate at the firm. Ruemmler was a White House official who knew in advance that the IRS Inspector General Report would show the targeting of conservative groups before it was released to the general public.
  • Leslie Kiernan, a partner at Zuckerman, is the Deputy White House Counsel and works for Ruemmler. Kiernan represented Obama 2012 Campaign Manager David Pflouffe in a 1990s government investigation concerning illegal foreign donations to Robert Torricelli during his 1996 run for the Senate. Pflouffle was Torricellis campaign manager that year. He was cleared of all charges by the FEC.
  • Norman Eisen, a partner at the firm, was Obama’s “Ethics Czar” in the White House. Eisen attended Harvard Law School with Obama and was appointed by the President to be Ambassador to the Czech Republic.

Beyond the White House, several senior Department of Justice officials come from the firm. Presumably, it would be the DOJ that would conduct any criminal investigation. These include:

  • Elizabeth Taylor, a partner at Zuckerman, is the principal deputy associate attorney general at DOJ. Taylor attends the Daily Senior Management Meeting with the Attorney General, according to DOJ records.
  • Ronald Welch, a partner at the firm, was the Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs at DOJ until 2012.

Beyond those two power centers, Zuckerman Spaeder attorneys also pepper other agencies. William Schultz, a partner at the firm, is General Counsel at the Department of Health and Human Services. Lisa Barclay, a partner at the firm, is the Chief of Staff at the Food and Drug Administration.

Although the legal community is Washington can be tight knit, this sort of interlinking relationships is unusual when one considers previous high profile cases involving political scandal. Scooter Libby, aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, hired Ted Wells of Paul Weiss as his attorney when he faced legal inquiries concerning the leak of CIA information. That legal firm did not have unusually close ties to the Bush Administration. Oliver North chose Brendan Sullivan of Williams and Connolly, which likewise had no unusually close ties to the Reagan Administration. 

One case that does fit the pattern: Edith O’Brien, the central figure in the Jon Corzine MF Global case, selected Reid Weingarten as his attorney. Weingarten is Attorney General Eric Holder’s self-described “best friend.” O’Brien has yet to be charged or granted immunity in the case. 


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