Risk Update

Political Conflicts — Election Looms, Law Firm Conflict/PR Risk Mitigation in the News


Doug Emhoff paused his career for his wife Kamala Harris’s aspirations” —

  • “If his wife [Kamela Harris] and her running mate, Joe Biden, are elected, Harris would accumulate several firsts: first female vice president, first Black veep, first No. 2 born to Indian American and Jamaican American parents.”
  • “He’s the high-powered professional who has sidelined his career to support his wife’s sky-high aspirations — even as his work life is creating a prickly conundrum over possible conflicts of interest if Harris takes office.”
  • “In August, Emhoff announced a leave of absence from his law practice. He had continued working as an attorney while Harris was California’s attorney general, and during her campaigns for U.S. senator and the Democratic presidential nomination. This time it was different.”
  • “Emhoff presents a more complex set of questions. Over the years, alongside the boilerplate corporate and real estate work, he has sometimes represented heavily regulated companies or firms that might be frowned upon on the left.”
  • “He represented Merck in cases involving allegations that the drug Fosamax caused bone disease, an entanglement that could cause appearance problems given Democrats’ criticism of the drug industry. Even more touchy, his clients have included Abbott Laboratories in an OxyContin fraud case, and the arms dealer Dolarian Capital in a dispute related to a contract to transfer weapons from Romania to the Afghan military.”
  • “The problem for Emhoff is that his current firm, DLA Piper, has a Washington lobbying presence. Even if he could figure out a way to build a firewall between his legal work and the firm’s lobbying and government work, it’s likely that real or perceived conflicts of interest would be alleged by his wife’s political opponents.”
  • “DLA Piper may be uncomfortable with Emhoff returning to the firm, according to two people familiar with its culture who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. DLA Piper declined to answer questions about Emhoff’s future.”
  • “There isn’t a clear-cut conflict-of-interest rule governing vice-presidential spouses, said Larry Noble, a government ethics expert who served as general counsel for the Federal Election Commission in Republican and Democratic administrations. But that won’t be Emhoff’s biggest problem, he said. ‘The problem with appearances of conflicts of interest is that they undermine the public’s confidence in their government,’ he said.”