The new Republican leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives' tax committee has hired a lawyer with years of experience conducting oversight of the executive branch.
Jennifer Safavian is joining the House Ways & Means Committee as general counsel and as staff director of the oversight subcommittee. A spokeswoman for Ways & Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) confirmed the move but had no immediate comment.
Since 2003, Safavian has been chief counsel for oversight and investigations on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, working on a wide array of inquiries. As The National Law Journal reported in October, her oversight experience reaches back to the Clinton era and inquiries into Whitewater scandal and fundraising by the 1996 Clinton-Gore re-election campaign.
The jurisdiction of the Ways & Means oversight subcommittee includes the Internal Revenue Service, a frequent target of Republican ire. The subcommittee, though, has historically not had a high profile. Covington & Burling partner Robert Kelner, whose practice includes congressional investigations, said that Safavian’s hiring suggests that may change.
“She’s one of the most experienced congressional investigators on the Hill, and it appears that Ways & Means may, for the first time in recent memory, be a real venue for congressional investigation activity,” Kelner said.
A spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, had no comment on who would succeed Safavian there. Stephen Castor, a counsel who joined the staff in 2005 from Blank Rome, has been another top lawyer on investigations.
Reginald Brown, a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr whose practice includes congressional investigations, said Safavian’s move speaks well of Issa’s staff. “The Issa team has a very deep bench, and as a result, they were in a position to send somebody as talented as Jennifer over to Ways & Means,” Brown said.
Safavian is married to David Safavian, who was convicted in 2008 of obstructing justice and making false statements in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.