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Sources: Biden Picks A Chief Of Staff

Vice President-elect Joe Biden chose as his chief of staff a man who once served in that same role for Vice President Al Gore, Democratic officials said Thursday.

Ron Klain also was an adviser for Biden during his Democratic primary bid and helped the Delaware senator prepare for the vice presidential debate during the fall campaign.

The officials disclosed Biden's selection on the condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly for President-elect Barack Obama's transition team. That group is planning to announce senior staff appointment later this week.

Klain is the latest former Clinton administration official that Obama has turned to as he moves from campaigning to governing and sets up his own administration.

Last week, Obama named Rahm Emanuel, a former Clinton political and policy adviser in the White House, as his chief of staff, and former Clinton veteran John Podesta is among those leading his transition team.

Klain was involved in both of Clinton's presidential campaigns, and was Gore's top aide in the vice presidential office for several years. He later had a senior role in Gore's 2000 campaign, including the Florida recount and Supreme Court stand off that ultimately tipped the election to George W. Bush. Actor Kevin Spacey played Klain in the 2008 HBO film "Recount."

In 2004, Klain was among several veterans of the Clinton-Gore political campaigns who advised retired Gen. Wesley Clark in the Democratic primaries. He backed Biden, whom he had known from working with Senate committees, four years later.

And on Wednesday, Obama named a team heavy on experience in the Clinton administration to help guide transition efforts in the State, Defense and Treasury departments. He named two leaders for each of the three agencies, and all six served in some capacity under President Clinton.

In a statement, Obama revealed the agency review team leaders who will be responsible for reviewing budgets, personnel and policy in the three departments so the new administration can begin working as soon as he is sworn in on Jan. 20.

He named two leaders for each of the three agencies, and all six served in some capacity under President Clinton.

The list comes out a day after Obama announced an ethics policy that all transition officials must sign, agreeing to avoid work for him related to any of their lobbying activities for one year. Obama had railed against the influence of lobbyists over Washington in his campaign, but the policy allows lobbyists to work for him with restrictions that haven't existed in previous administrations.

An Associated Press check of public records found some former lobbyists among Obama's team leaders, along with some top fundraisers to his presidential campaign.

The Treasury team leads are Josh Gotbaum, an investment fund adviser who has experience in multiple federal agencies, and Michael Warren, chief operating officer of advisory firm Stonebridge International who was executive director of the President's National Economic Council.

At State, the leads are Tom Donilon, a lawyer who was an assistant secretary of state, and Wendy Sherman, a principal of The Albright Group advisory firm and a former top State Department official.

The Defense team is being led by John P. White, chair of the Kennedy School Middle East Initiative at Harvard and a former deputy defense secretary, and Michele Flournoy, president of the Center for a New American Security who worked in the Pentagon under Clinton.

Obama also named a 14-member working group that will oversee the entire review process. The three co-chairs include Melody Barnes, a domestic policy adviser on Obama's campaign, and two former top aides to Vice President Al Gore who have taken leave from their current jobs. Lisa Brown is executive director of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, and Don Gips is an executive at Level 3 Communications.

The former lobbyists on Obama's list include:


  • Donilon, for mortgage giant Fannie Mae during the period 1999-2005. Until last April, he was registered to lobby on behalf of the Civil Justice Reform Group.
  • Barnes, for The Raben Group in 2003-2004, working on civil rights, bankruptcy, family and civil liberties issues.
  • Tom Wheeler, a member of the working group who lobbied for the cellular telephone industry from 1999 to 2004. Wheeler also bundled between $200,000 and $500,000 for the Obama campaign.

Other top fundraisers include Gips, who bundled more than $500,000 in contributions to the campaign; and working group member Reed Hundt, who bundled between $50,000 and $100,000 for the campaign.

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