King & Spalding has become one of a handful of go-to firms for lawyers to fill Trump administration posts.
International trade partner Gil Kaplan appeared for his Senate confirmation hearing as under secretary of international trade at the Department of Commerce on Thursday morning. If confirmed, he’ll be the sixth lawyer to join the Trump administration from the Atlanta-based firm.
According to a financial disclosure report filed March 9, Kaplan’s partnership income from King & Spalding was $1.06 million, for the reporting period or $911,000 annually—a far cry from the $6.3 million annual salary reported by Chris Wray, the former head of King & Spalding’s special matters and government investigations practice, whom the Senate confirmed on Tuesday as FBI director.
Kaplan and Wray are the latest in a string of King & Spalding partners, all in its Washington office, to find themselves in the Trump administration orbit.
Also in the trade arena, President Donald Trump in March appointed Stephen Vaughn as the general counsel to the U.S. trade representative. He’d been serving as acting trade representative before Robert Lighthizer’s confirmation in May as trade representative.
Vaughn spent only a year as a partner in King & Spalding’s international trade practice in Washington after joining the firm in 2016 from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, when he departed to serve on Trump’s landing team for the Office of the U.S Trade Representative.
Another King & Spalding partner, Bobby Burchfield, who handles antitrust, securities and contract disputes, is not part of the administration but was hired as ethics advisor for the Trump Organization’s companies.
Three other King & Spalding lawyers have joined the Trump administration as senior staff.
Rob Hur, a partner in the special matters practice, has become principal associate deputy attorney general for the DOJ’s Office of the Deputy Attorney General. Ethan Davis, from the firm’s San Francisco office, became deputy assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Consumer Protection Branch.
Lee Smith, counsel in the firm’s international trade practice, became deputy assistant secretary for policy and negotiations at the International Trade Association.
A former King & Spalding partner, Dan Coats, became the director of national intelligence in March, succeeding James Clapper. The former lobbyist and U.S. senator from Indiana co-chaired King & Spalding’s government relations practice in Washington from 2005 to 2010 before being re-elected to the Senate. He first served as a senator from Indiana from 1989 to 1999 before becoming ambassador to Germany from 2001 to 2005, during former President George W. Bush’s administration.
King & Spalding isn’t known as a highly political firm, but it has a large lobbying practice in Washington and a tradition of sending lawyers to the Justice Department and hiring DOJ alums. The firm’s political action committee, the King & Spalding Nonpartisan Committee for Good Government, contributed $141,200 to congressional candidates in 2016—44 percent to Democrats and 56 percent to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics
Six years ago, it parted ways with Paul Clement, a former U.S. solicitor general after he agreed to represent the House of Representatives in defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex couples.
Clement joined D.C. political law boutique Bancroft, which The American Lawyer, an ALM affiliate of the Daily Report, has called “conservatives’ law firm of choice” and which was acquired by Kirkland & Ellis last fall.
Other Law Firm Hires
At another firm with Atlanta roots, Dentons US, election law partner Stefan Passantino became deputy counsel to the president. His clients before joining the Office of White House Counsel included Newt Gingrich’s media company Gingrich Productions and Ben Carson, now the secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Passantino’s colleague, Randy Evans, is reportedly under consideration as ambassador to Luxembourg.
Among large firms, Jones Day has been most closely associated with the Trump administration. Following its hire of partner Don McGahn as White House counsel in January, McGahn tapped at least six other lawyers from the firm to join the office. McGahn, a former commissioner at the Federal Election Commission, had represented the Trump campaign since 2015.
Also in January, Jones Day partner Bill McGinley became deputy assistant to the president and Cabinet secretary, and Greg Katsas, who argued the constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act in 2012, became deputy White House counsel.
Veteran Jones Day appellate partner Noel Francisco, now serving as principal deputy solicitor general at the Justice Department, is Trump’s nomination for solicitor general.
In July Trump nominated Kevin McIntyre, co-chair of Jones Day’s energy practice as the next Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chair—bringing the total of Jones Day lawyers in the Trump administration to at least 15.