Photo by Ron Case (Keystone/Getty Images)
Photo by Ron Case (Keystone/Getty Images)

Is it an Election Year? Then it’s ‘Pre-Vet’ Season

Whoever wins the election, there will be a new administration in the White House next January and that means it’s vetting season.

Or more appropriately, pre-vetting season, since no candidate has formally announced who their cabinet appointments will be.

“You’re a little bit like a private detective, trying to ensure your client is going into this with your eyes wide open and fully aware of the risks that may be lurking for them,” said Caleb Burns, an election specialist of Wiley Rein, who has done some vetting in the past.

“Sometimes it’s an exercise in asking your client to look themselves in the mirror, you know warts and all,” he said.

Already, lawyers in Washington, D.C. are engrossed in helping potential appointments conduct opposition research on themselves, as covered in a recent Politico report. This includes people who are still only hoping for posts in the next administration.

According to that report, lawyers can charge $1,000 per hour and run up bills of more than $100,000 hunting for tax violations, perceived conflicts of interest from corporate entanglements, bankruptcies and anything that can derail a political appointment in the current hyperpartisan environment.

“I always like to encourage them to think of it early,” so there’s time to clean up any mess that’s discovered, said Arnold & Porter’s James Joseph, a tax specialist and old hand the pre-vetting process who was quoted in the article.

Burns, of Wiley Rein, said he too has been burning the candle at both ends, although more on election-related work.

While vetting can certainly make things busier, it’s not exactly the cash cow it’s cracked up to be, principally because the work only comes around at most once every four years, he said.

A lot of the work relates to taxes and making sure the prospective nominee who’s being vetted hasn’t made illegal or embarrassing political contributions, Burns said.

He added, “It can be difficult one.”

We’ll keep our eye on this space as the election progresses. Let us know if you have heard of any engagements by writing to BigLawBusiness@bna.com.

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