A graduate of Harvard University (1973) and the University of Virginia School of Law (1976), Robert Bauer worked on energy issues for the Jimmy Carter administration in the late 1970s. He has served as counsel to the Democratic Senatorial and Congressional Campaign Committees for many years.
In 1999 Bauer was counsel to Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, working with the South Dakota Democrat to defend President Bill Clinton against impeachment charges. Bauer also was general counsel to the Bill Bradley for President Committee in 1999-2000.
In his role as attorney for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2000, Bauer filed a racketeering lawsuit against then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and three affiliated political groups, charging that DeLay had engaged in extortion and money laundering. In 2004 Bauer served as general counsel to the Democratic National Committee during the presidential campaign of Senator John Kerry.
Today Bauer heads the political law group at Perkins Coie, the powerful, Democrat-aligned Seattle law firm that represents, among others, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, Richard Gephardt, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Bauer became Barack Obama‘s private attorney after the latter was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. In 2007 Bauer was appointed as general counsel for Obama’s presidential campaign, a project dubbed “Obama For America” (OFA). In January 2009, when OFA merged with the Democratic National Committee and became known as Organizing for America, Bauer retained his position as the entity’s general counsel.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama, who had never made his original birth certificate available for public scrutiny, hired Perkins Coie to defend him in court cases challenging his status as a “natural born” U.S. citizen — a status upon which Obama’s eligibility to hold the office of President was contingent. According to Federal Election Commission records, OFA paid Perkins Coie $1,352,378.95 for its legal services in those cases.
Also in 2008, Bauer was intimately involved in Obama’s controversial decision to break the pledge he had made to accept public funding for his presidential campaign. Bauer and Obama based that decision on their calculation that the candidate was a fundraising powerhouse who would be able to collect far more money via his own efforts than he could ever get from the public financing system.
While Obama campaigned against Democrat rival Hillary Clinton, and then against Republican opponent John McCain, Bauer quietly wrote letters to television-station managers and to Assistant Attorney General John Keeney, contending that Federal Election Commission (FEC) rules forbade the airing of any anti-Obama television ads that made any mention of the Senator’s well-documented association with former Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers. Bauer filed FEC complaints against groups that were seeking to run such ads, and he intervened on Obama’s behalf to prevent the American Leadership Project — a pro-Hillary Clinton organization — from running TV spots exposing the strong support Obama had received from the notoriously corrupt Service Employees International Union.
In early 2009 President Obama hired Bauer as legal counsel to represent him in a criminal probe investigating allegations that former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich may have sought — with Obama’s (or Rahm Emanuel‘s) knowledge — to sell to the highest bidder the U.S. Senate seat Obama had vacated when he assumed the presidency.
Bauer also has worked on issues related to Obama’s ties to Tony Rezko, a corrupt, Chicago-based real-estate developer who was one of the first major financial contributors to Obama’s political campaigns in the 1990s. By 2005, Rezko was facing at least 12 lawsuits and was under federal investigation on charges that he had solicited kickbacks from companies seeking state pension business under his friend, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.
In November 2009 President Obama named Bauer to be his White House Counsel, replacing Gregory Craig, who resigned abruptly on November 13 (after having repeatedly denied, for weeks, that he had any plans of stepping down).
In addition to his work with Perkins Coie, Bauer is also general counsel to the Democratic National Committee.
Bauer contributes regularly to the Huffington Post and is the author of MoreSoftMoneyHardLaw.com, a blog site where he writes about campaign finance and other political issues. He also serves on the Journal of Law and Politics‘ National Advisory Board; the Election Law Journal‘s Editorial Board; and the American Bar Association’s Advisory Commission on Election Law.
Bauer has authored several books — United States Federal Election Law (1982, 1984); Soft Money Hard Law: A Guide to the New Campaign Finance Law (2002); and More Soft Money Hard Law: The Second Edition of the Guide to the New Campaign Finance Law (2004). In 2006 the National Law Journal named him as one of the “100 Most Influential Attorneys” in the United States.
Bauer is married to Anita Dunn, President Obama’s former White House communications director.