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Gitenstein Nixed for Justice Job

President Barack Obama’s anti-lobbyist personnel policy has claimed another victim.

Mark Gitenstein, the top choice to head the Justice Department office that oversees legal policy and judicial nominations, is no longer being considered for the position, an administration official confirmed.

Gitenstein, a partner at Mayer Brown, was initially thought to be a shoo-in to head the Office of Legal Policy, but his lobbying background, particularly his work for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, helped scuttle his nomination.

The reform group Public Citizen launched a campaign in early February against Gitenstein’s nomination, sending a letter to Obama that cited the nominee’s work on legal reform issues as making him unsuitable for the job.

“This is someone who has lobbied on a set of legal issues that would be his domain at the office of legal policy, an important policy office,” said David Arkush, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch.

“It’s not just that he lobbied on those issues, but he would have to recuse himself from a lot of matters at minimum, which raises questions about whether he would be the right person for the job.”

Others think Gitenstein, who was the top Democratic staffer for then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Joseph Biden (D-Del.) during the panel’s 1987 hearings on failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, does have the right background for the job.

“He’s very knowledgeable about the courts and legal issues and what’s at stake,” said Marcia Greenberger, head of the National Women’s Law Center. “He understands the importance of every nomination to the legal rights of all of us, how important the constitutional rights are to people’s everyday lives.”

Both Gitenstein and Obama spokesman Benjamin LaBolt declined to comment.

Gitenstein has worked as a lawyer-lobbyist at Mayer Brown since 1989, lobbying on behalf of ACE Limited, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, AT&T, Boeing and Deloitte & Touche, among others.

However, it is principally Gitenstein’s connection to the chamber, which has lobbied successfully on pro-business issues and has supported Republican-leaning Supreme Court nominees that has evoked the ire of reform groups.

Gitenstein, along with several Mayer Brown lawyers, has represented the chamber since 1999, according to public disclosure records, pulling in more than $6 million in lobbying fees since then.

Gitenstein has not registered to lobby for any clients since July 2008, when he went to work on the Obama presidential campaign.

Under a Jan. 21, 2009, executive order, government appointees must recuse themselves for two years from any issue “directly and substantially” related to a former employee or former client.

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