General Electric Co. hired as a top litigator an attorney who worked with Barack Obama at Harvard Law School’s law review and served under former President George W. Bush as associate White House counsel.
Bradford Berenson, 47, came from Sidley Austin LLP, where he was a Washington-based partner focused on litigation and regulatory issues, GE said yesterday in a statement. He started at GE yesterday as a senior counsel for litigation and legal policy and wasn’t available to comment on his new job, said Jacqueline Baker, a spokesman.
Berenson is a veteran of Republican Party politics who also frequently praised Obama, a Democrat, for his fairness and calm disposition before his 2008 election. He joins other former Bush administration officials employed by the world’s largest maker of jet engines and diesel locomotives, including Nancy Dorn, vice president of corporate government relations.
“Connections can be valuable, and that’s why senior officials like this are often highly sought after,” said Kent Zimmermann, a Chicago-based legal consultant for Zeughauser Group. “It’s a revolving door and it speeds up heading into an election. This is a particularly fast-paced time for firms and companies that hire senior officials out of government.”
Berenson graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991 after a stint as an editor during Obama’s tenure running the school’s law review. The future president “wasn’t the kind who demonized conservatives and personalized politics,” he said in a 2008 interview with Bloomberg News. He made similar statements to news outlets including National Public Radio and the Washington Post.
Later Berenson served as a consultant to David Barrett, the independent counsel appointed in 1995 to investigate allegations that Henry Cisneros, President Bill Clinton’s housing secretary, lied to cover up payments to a woman with whom he had an affair, according to a biography on the website of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal policy and advocacy organization where he’s a member. Cisneros pleaded guilty in 1999 to a misdemeanor charge related to the incident. The probe continued until 2006 and cost $21 million.
Berenson came to the White House in January 2001 and spent the next two years working under Alberto Gonzales, then Bush’s top legal adviser, the Federalist Society biography shows.
During that time, Gonzales’s office advised President Bush that the Geneva Convention’s protections for prisoners of war didn’t apply to fighters captured in Afghanistan, according to a November 2008 report by the Senate Armed Services Committee. Gonzales’s office also obtained a legal opinion from the Justice Department that provided justification for the torture of suspected terrorists during that period, the report found.
At Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE, Berenson joins Dorn, who served in the Bush administration as an assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney in 2001-2002 and as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget in 2002-2003, and David Nason, who was assistant Treasury secretary for financial institutions in 2007-2009 and now is head of global regulatory management and compliance at GE Capital.