The White House Counsel’s Office has lost another staffer. Neal Wolin, previously Deputy Counsel to the President for Economic Policy, has been tapped as the nominee for deputy secretary of the Treasury Department.
A press release issued by the White House late yesterday indicates Wolin has left his post in the Counsel’s office, stating that “he served briefly in the Obama White House.” White House spokesman Ben LaBolt could not immediately comment on whether there are plans to bring on a new deputy counsel for economic policy.
Wolin has served in other high-level Treasury jobs. He was general counsel at the department from 1999 to 2001, and deputy general counsel for the prior four years. Before joining the Obama White House, he was president and chief operating officer for property and casualty operations at The Hartford Financial services Group.
Wolin was part of an unusually large group of 24 lawyers chosen to staff Obama’s Office of White House Counsel. The crowded roster, announced in January, led to widespread speculation that the Counsel’s office may take a broader role in policymaking.
At the time, Alan Charles Raul, a Sidley Austin partner who was an associate White House Counsel during the Reagan administration, offered another perspective. He told Legal Times that Obama may be overloading the White House Counsel’s office in order to have a stable of possible agency appointees at the ready.
“It’s more efficient to get lawyers qualified and active early by bringing them into the White House,” Raul said. “Each of them will have been vetted for political bona fides if they need to [get] placed at another agency.”
Wolin isn’t the first to depart the White House Counsel’s office. Research director Shauna Daly left in February to become research director at the DNC. Around the same time, The Washington Post reported that deputy White House Counsel Cassandra Butts was a contender to chair the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. For now, Butts remains in the counsel’s office. Spokesman LaBolt says a decision still has not been made on whether to replace Daly.