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Baer wins Senate nod for top DOJ antitrust post

by William McConnell In Washington  |  Published January 2, 2013 at 8:59 AM
After more than three months of having his nomination on deck, the Senate Sunday finally approved the nomination of William Baer to be assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice's antitrust division. The vote for Baer was 64-26.

As of Monday morning there had been no action on the nomination of Joshua Wright to fill the Federal Trade Commission seat of retiring Republican Tom Rosch. Wright's nomination still must be approved by the Senate Commerce Committee before getting a vote of the full Senate. Committee votes had been scheduled on Wright's nomination on Dec. 18 and 19 but never occurred. However, congressional sources say lawmakers are still trying to work out a deal that will allow Wright to quickly win confirmation, possibly in a pairing with Mignon Clyburn's confirmation to a second term on the Federal Communications Commission.

Baer's nomination was approved by the Judiciary Committee in September but had been stymied by Iowa's Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. Grassley, who never revealed his reason for opposing Baer, reiterated his opposition on the Senate floor Sunday. Grassley said the White House is due deference on its selections for administration posts but, "I am not here to merely rubber stamp the President's desires." He said, "Factors that I consider relevant include respect for the Constitution, fidelity to the law, intellectual ability, personal integrity, and professional competence. In reviewing Mr. Baer's entire record, I was disappointed to find he does not meet this test."

Democrats and other Senate supporters didn't let the slight go unanswered. Connecticut independent Joseph Leiberman called Baer "an honorable, interesting, enjoyable person" with "extraordinary experience" who is "very widely acknowledged as one of the best antitrust lawyers in our country." Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., called Baer "an outstanding candidate" and "a leading voice on antitrust matters."

Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement calling Baer "a highly-skilled and well-respected antitrust lawyer who understands the importance of promoting competition in order for consumers to reap the benefits of lower prices and better quality products and services.

Since January 2000, Baer has been a partner and head of Arnold & Porter LLP's antitrust practice group. Baer's practice included providing counsel on a broad range of antitrust and consumer protection issues, including international cartel investigations and merger and acquisition reviews in the U.S. and before the European Commission. He also served at the firm from 1980 to 1995, first as an associate and then rising to partner in 1983.

This is Baer's third stint in government. From April 1995 to October 1999, he was director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Competition. From 1975 to 1980 he held a number of positions at the FTC, including assistant general counsel for legislation and congressional relations, assistant to Chairman Michael Pertschuk, and as a trial attorney and assistant to the director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Baer received his law degree from Stanford Law School in 1975.

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Tags: antitrust | Arnold & Porter LLP | Bureau of Consumer Protection | Charles Grassley | DOJ | European Commission | FCC | Federal Communications Commission | Joseph Leiberman | Joshua Wright | Judiciary Committee | Michael Pertschuk | Mignon Clyburn | Patrick Leahy | Senate Commerce Committee | Tom Rosch | White House | William Baer

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