It appears the White House enlisted some outside help in vetting Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court. In Sotomayor’s Senate questionnaire, released today, she revealed that Zuckerman Spaeder partner Leslie Kiernan, who specializes in congressional investigations, ethics and white-collar criminal defense, was among the first to interview the judge.
Kiernan, who is reportedly representing Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) in a wide-ranging ethics probe, trekked up to New York on May 14 to interview Sotomayor in her chambers. Sotomayor said she was contacted by White House Counsel Gregory Craig in late April about the possibility of filling a Supreme Court vacancy, and she had “nearly daily phone calls” with Deputy White House Counsel Cassandra Butts after Justice David Souter announced his resignation on May 1. But Kiernan conducted the first in-person interview.
Kiernan, who is married to Holland & Knight’s Paul Kiernan, executive Partner for the firm’s mid-Atlantic region, has extensive experience representing current and former public officials in a range of matters involving congressional gift rules, the Lobbying Disclosure Act, the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and various federal and state conflict of interest and campaign finance laws, according to her firm bio. Kiernan could not be reached for comment.
An interesting aside: Kiernan represented David Plouffe, Obama’s chief campaign manager, in a federal investigation into illegal fund-raising in Robert Torricelli’s 1996 Senate bid. Plouffe, who was Torricelli’s campaign manager, was cleared of wrongdoing. Torricelli won the election but declined to run for a second term, after it was disclosed that a businessman with ties to North Korea made illegal contributions to his campaign.
Kiernan contributed $2,300 to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and $2,300 to Obama’s, according to Federal Election Commission data.