Obama Said to Consider William Daley for Top Post, Possibly Chief of Staff

President Barack Obama is considering naming William Daley, a JPMorgan Chase & Co. executive and former U.S. Commerce secretary, to a high-level administration post, possibly White House chief of staff, people familiar with the matter said.

Such a move, which is still under discussion, would bring a Washington veteran -- and someone with strong business ties -- into the administration as Obama sets out an agenda for the second half of his term while dealing with a Republican majority in the House of Representatives.

“Daley is highly respected by the business community and has great connections,” Douglas J. Elliott, a fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution and a former JPMorgan Chase managing director, said in an e-mail. Naming Daley to a top post, he said, “could help mend fences” with executives who have complained that the Democratic administration is anti- business.

Daley, 62, has deep ties in Obama’s political base. The youngest of seven children of longtime Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, he is part of the most powerful political dynasty in Illinois. He was also a political mentor to Rahm Emanuel, who worked with Daley in President Bill Clinton’s administration and served as Obama’s first chief of staff. Emanuel, 51, now is running to succeed Daley’s brother, Richard M. Daley, as mayor of Chicago.

Transition Team

During the 2008 presidential race, William Daley was an economic adviser to Obama and was a co-chairman of his transition team after the election.

Daley, who typically responds to questions, didn’t return two messages seeking comment left on his cell phone Jan. 2 or a telephone call to his office and an e-mail sent to him yesterday. In an e-mail, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs declined to comment on “personnel speculation.”

The president returns to Washington today from Hawaii where he spent the last 12 days vacationing with his family. He’s expected to make a number of staff changes and reshape his administration for the next two years. One of the pressing personnel decisions he must make is choosing a successor to Lawrence Summers as head of the National Economic Council -- an announcement that could come as early as this week. Gene Sperling, a counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, has emerged as the leading candidate.

Compromise With Republicans

If named to that post, Sperling would be returning to the position he held for four years in the Clinton administration. While he doesn’t have strong ties to the business community or Summers’s standing as an economist, he has played key roles crafting the administration’s economic policies, most recently in forging Obama’s compromise with Republican leaders to extend the 2001 and 2003 income tax cuts.

Yale University President Richard Levin and Roger Altman, the founder of Evercore Partners Inc., are under consideration for the NEC job as well.

Obama has vowed to keep his administration focused on the economy amid signs the recovery is strengthening. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 13 percent in 2010 after a 23 percent jump in 2009, making it the biggest two-year advance since the Internet-bubble rally of 1998 and 1999.

Still, it will take years to make up for the 8.4 million jobs lost during the 18-month recession that ended in June 2009. December is forecast to be the 17th month in which unemployment has been 9.5 percent or higher. For all of 2010, joblessness likely averaged 9.7 percent, the worst year since 1982.

Pete Rouse

If chosen as chief of staff, Daley would replace Pete Rouse, whom Obama named on Oct. 1 to fill the role on an interim basis after Emanuel resigned to return to Chicago.

Rouse has indicated to administration officials that he is reluctant to remain in that job for the rest of Obama’s presidency, according to a person familiar with the matter. He also has signaled that he would stay as chief of staff if asked by the president, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the discussions are private.

Rouse, who was Obama’s chief of staff in the Senate, is conducting an internal review that covers personnel, policy and political strategy as the president gears up for his re-election bid next year. Senior adviser David Axelrod has said that he plans to leave in the coming months to start work on the 2012 campaign, and David Plouffe, who managed the 2008 campaign, will join the administration.

Daley was Clinton’s Commerce secretary from January 1997 to June 2000. He was chairman of Vice President Al Gore’s unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2000.

Career at JPMorgan

After serving as president of SBC Communications for more than two years, he joined New York-based JPMorgan, the second- biggest U.S. bank by assets, in 2004, serving as Midwest chairman and the bank’s head of corporate responsibility.

While at JPMorgan, Daley has worked on some of the Midwest’s biggest takeovers. He advised Chicago’s Exelon Corp. on its unsuccessful 2004 proposal to buy Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. for $17.8 billion, and CBOT Holdings Inc., also based in Chicago, on its 2007 sale to CME Group Inc. for $11 billion, according to Corporate Control Alert, an industry newsletter.

Besides his work as a banker, he serves on several corporate boards, including Boeing Co. and Abbott Laboratories. Daley was named by Clinton to the board of Washington-based Fannie Mae in October 1993 and was reappointed in 1995.

Chamber of Commerce

The administration is seeking to repair relations with the business community after coming under fire from industry groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The nation’s biggest business lobbying group opposed Obama’s health-care and financial-regulatory overhauls and committed $75 million to political ads in the midterm congressional elections, mainly directed against Democrats.

Still, Obama is generating more optimism among corporate executives after a series of actions and overtures, including a deal to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, efforts to boost exports such as a U.S.-South Korea free-trade agreement, and a loosening of controls on some technology sales.

Obama met Dec. 15 with 20 company executives in Washington and said afterward he made “good progress” toward establishing closer cooperation between government and business to accelerate the economic recovery. The president has said private companies are crucial to the U.S. climbing out of the worst recession since the Great Depression.

To contact the reporters on this story: Julianna Goldman in Washington at jgoldman6@bloomberg.net; John McCormick in Chicago at jmccormick16@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva in Washington at msilva34@bloomberg.net.

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