Ronald A. Klain was born on August 8, 1961 in Indianapolis. He earned a bachelor’s degree in American politics & government from Georgetown University in 1983, and a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School in 1987. During his JD studies, Klain served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review, and in 1985 he was a research assistant to Professor Laurence Tribe.
After completing his legal education, Klain took a job as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Byron White in 1987-88, and also served briefly as legislative director for U.S. Representative Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts). From 1989-92 Klain was chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was then chaired by Joe Biden.1
Klain worked for the Clinton–Gore presidential campaigns of 1992 and 1996, serving as a key debate-preparation advisor for Clinton. He would subsequently perform a similar function for presidential candidates Al Gore (2000), John Kerry (2004), and Barack Obama (2008 & 2012). Klain also prepped vice presidential candidate Joe Biden in 2008.
In the Clinton White House, Klain served as associate counsel to the president. In this role, he oversaw Mr. Clinton’s judicial nominations. When Clinton named Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court in 1993, Klain, as Time magazine put it, “shepherded” her nomination through the Senate.2 He did the same for Attorney General nominee Janet Reno that year, and then became her chief of staff and counselor in 1994.
In 1995 Klain was appointed by Senator Tom Daschle as staff director of the Senate Democratic Leadership Committee. From 1995-99 Klain served as chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore.
In October 1999, Klain joined the Washington, DC office of the O’Melveny & Myers law firm, where he lobbied on behalf of Cigna, Fannie Mae, ImClone, Time Warner, U.S. Airways, and other companies and industry organizations.
In 2000, Klain took a senior position in the Al Gore presidential campaign. When Florida’s November election results were infamously disputed, Klain served as general counsel of Gore’s Recount Committee.3
During the 2004 presidential campaign season, Klain worked as an advisor to General Wesley Clark in the early Democratic primaries. When Clark layer dropped out of the race, Klain became heavily involved in John Kerry’s White House bid.
According to Timothy P. Carney in the Washington Examiner, disclosure forms indicate that Klain in 2004 tried to “convinc[e] Congress and Fannie Mae’s regulators that Fannie Mae wasn’t doing anything dangerous, and wasn’t exposing taxpayers to risk.” “In other words,” writes Carney, “Ron Klain got paid to help fuel the housing bubble up until a couple of years before it popped.”
In 2005 Klain left his partnership at O’Melveny & Myers to become executive vice president and general counsel of a new technology venture-capital firm, Revolution, created by AOL co-founder Steve Case. Aiming “to build disruptive, innovative companies” dedicated to “attacking large, traditional industries with innovative new products and services,” this firm seeks to create an atmosphere where “the status quo is no longer acceptable and everyone becomes a revolutionary.”
Klain stepped down from his post at Revolution to serve as chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden from 2009-11. One of his major duties in the Obama/Biden White House was to help implement the $831 billion “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009” (popularly known as the stimulus bill) and to supervise its allocation of funds. Also in 2009, Klain was responsible for the hiring of Jay Carney as White House press secretary.
In 2010 Klain advised President Obama to visit and publicly praise the California-based solar-power company Solyndra, even though auditors were warning about the abysmal state of its finances. According toThe Washington Post, Klain “dismissed auditors’ concerns about Solyndra’s solvency, reasoning that all innovative companies come with risk.” Soon thereafter, Solyndra went bankrupt and shut down its operations, but not before it had received a $535 million government-backed loan.
In late 2010 Klain was considered a frontrunner to replace outgoing White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who was preparing to begin his tenure as mayor of Chicago. But Klain opted instead to become president of the investment company Case Holdings and general counsel of the aforementioned venture-capital firm, Revolution.
On October 17, 2014, President Obama appointed Klain as his administration’s “Ebola Response Coordinator” (a.k.a. “Ebola Czar”), tasked with orchestrating the nation’s response to the recent outbreak in West Africa of the deadly Ebola virus. Possessing no training in public health or in dealing with infectious diseases, Klain would report directly to two people—homeland security advisor Lisa Monaco and national security advisor Susan Rice.
Klain is married to Monica Medina, who served as a leading National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official during President Obama’s first term in office.
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1 A particularly noteworthy matter confronting the Committee during this period was the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court; the rancorous Senate confirmation hearings were replete with all manner of smears against Thomas by the Democrats.
2 Notably, Klain expressed concern that Ginsburg, in the nomination hearings, might repel Senate Republicans with such “performance pitfalls” as “her failure to make eye contact, her halting speech, [and] her ‘laconic’ nature.” Klain also warned President Clinton that Republicans might object to Ginsburg’s “support for ACLU policies to legalize prostitution, decriminalize the distribution of pornography to minors, decriminalize marijuana, and ban the death penalty.”