President Obama has nominated David Strickland to be administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As the Blog of the Legal Times reports, Strickland has been a Democratic staffer on the Senate Commerce Committee since 2001, senior counsel for the consumer protection subcommittee. (The subcommittee where the awful Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act was written.) More from BLT:
Strickland was two years behind Obama at Harvard Law School. He was an associate at what was then Wiley, Rein & Fielding from 1993 to 1996. He served as associate director of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America from 1996 to 2001, and registered as a lobbyist for the group for at least some of that time.
The NHTSA is one of the agencies most targeted by the American Association for Justice -- the former Association of Trial Lawyers of America -- for regulatory submissions, news releases, and general inveighing against. AAJ's lobbyists will be pleased to have one of their former colleagues in charge, no doubt.
Meanwhile, at the Federal Trade Commission, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz has announced the appointment of Cecelia Prewett as Director of the Office of Public Affairs: "Prewett has 15 years of experience in communications. She joins the agency from the American Association for Justice, where she was Vice President for Strategic Communications."
And here's AAJ's news release when the group hired Prewett in 2008: "Washington, DC--The American Association for Justice (AAJ) has appointed Cecelia Prewett to the newly created position of Vice President, Strategic Communications. Prewett will manage the day-to-day operations of the War Room and will be AAJ's chief communications strategist."
The AAJ's political influence amid its organizational turmoil is really one of the most undercovered stories in Washington. In September, The Washington Times had a blockbuster story, "Trial lawyers lobby sinks $6.2M in debt," reporting, "The trial lawyers lobby has been awash in debt and bleeding members - just as it embarks on a national campaign to block any clampdown on medical malpractice lawsuits as part of President Obama's health care overhaul."
But there's been no follow up. Any business trade association in similar straits -- straits which include a botched real estate deal -- would draw more scrutiny from the Fourth Estate, we think.