Forging the middle path, reconciling antagonists, overseeing agreements and stumping for a robust U.S.-Israel relationship.
Joe Lieberman, formerly of the U.S. Senate, is settling into a post-Senate career that resembles the one he enjoyed for 24 years in the upper chamber. Except, he gets to stay in New York and hang out with his grandchildren.
Lieberman announced last week that he had joined Kasowitz, Benson Torres and Friedman, a New York law firm the New York Times calls “a litigation powerhouse that in recent years has entered the ranks of the country’s most profitable law firms” and that “has recently become known for taking on the large banks in financial-crisis and mortgage-backed securities related litigation.”
So, lawyers on the side of the little guy. But what’s Lieberman going to be doing? I tried to decipher the press release:
Senator Lieberman’s practice will focus on independent and internal investigations and advising clients on a wide range of public policy, strategic and regulatory issues. He is also expected to play a significant role in client development globally.
…but was stumped. So I spoke with Lieberman and his new boss Marc Kasowitz. Lieberman, essentially, will be overseeing settlements.
Before settling on Kasowitz, Lieberman spoke with a number of firms and he said he discovered that “the one area of practice that is growing is internal and independent investigations.” Those are situations “where someone is brought in in from the outside, where someone monitors if the parties say what they are going to do.”
Kasowitz said Lieberman’s reputation as an independent — for his first 18 years, he was a Democrat; for the last six, he was independent but caucused with the Dems — made him a natural for the job.
“Joe will be the kind of guy people will want to consult with for clarity, and if they have issues, given his intelligence, and his experience and that he is ethically beyond reproach,” said Kasowitz, who said he has known Lieberman since the 1970s, when as a Yale University student he campaigned for Lieberman’s run for the state Senate.
One thing Lieberman said he will never do is lobby, even after the two-year ban on lobbying is past. “I don’t want to lobby, I don’t ever want to lobby my former colleagues in Congress,” he said.
Instead, he will consult with clients about “strategies,” for instance in navigating the thickets of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the law governing how U.S. companies may interact with governments overseas.
His government experience, he told me, “adds value” for ordinary citizens grappling with a government agency.
Lieberman said the job is part-time and he still intends to involve himself in foreign policy. He said he gives one day a month over to a foreign policy project he helms, with former GOP senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, at the American Enterprise Institute. He calls that “essentially, how to make the case better for America’s international leadership.”
Kasowitz, who enthusiastically endorses such extracurricular activity, was less circumspect: Lieberman’s voice is needed to keep the Obama administration on its toes, he said.
“We’re looking at a situation where in the world where America is becoming increasingly isolationist under this administration, it’s unfortunate, Joe’s voice in expression of how shortsighted that is is important,” he said.
Lieberman said he was also seeking avenues to advance the U.S.-Israel relationship. The best part of the new job, though, was that it keeps him in the New York City environs, where three of his four children live.
“I loved all the time I spent in the Senate, but I’m very excited on my first day,” he said last Thursday. “And we’ll get to see the children and grandchildren!”
Joe Lieberman, right, attends a Chanukah celebration on Capitol Hill in 2009 with the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), left and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), center. (Courtesy American Friends of Lubavitch.)