Ickes helps the Clintons through a new crisis

By A. James Memmott

February 11, 2008 at 10:32am

In times of real need, Bill and Hillary Clinton turn to Harold M. Ickes.

So it’s no surprise that Ickes, the son of Harold L. Ickes, Franklin Roosevelt’s secretary of the interior, is leading the effort to sew up Democrat superdelegates for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-NY, in her bid for the Democratic nomination.

Because the Democratic primary contest between Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is so close, the 796 superdelegates could decide the outcome at the convention.

A superdelegate himself, Ickes has the background and the temperament to lead this kind of high-stakes effort.

Born to the Washington establishment when his father was 65 years old, Ickes, 68, was an anti-establishment figure in his youth.

In the mid-60s, he fought to secure the vote for African-Americans in the South. During this time, a mob beat him so badly he lost a kidney.

A Stanford University graduate, Ickes went on to receive his law degree from Columbia University.

Once described as “creatively profane and fiercely partisan,” Ickes helped get Bill Clinton elected to the White House in 1992.

He was then about to be appointed to Clinton’s staff when reports surfaced that he had earlier represented a union run by organized crime.

Ickes was not charged with any wrongdoing, and he became a White House deputy chief of staff. He was soon involved in damage control as a member of the Whitewater investigation response team.

“Harold was the best advocate to have in your corner during a fight,” Hillary Clinton wrote in her memoir, Living History.

Bill Clinton had known Ickes since the early 1970s, when they both worked for an anti-Viet Nam War effort.

But Clinton fired Ickes at the beginning of the second term, reacting to a power struggle amongst his aides.

However, Ickes came back to the White House during the impeachment process.

A veteran of New York politics, he also helped Hillary Clinton with her successful senatorial run.

Since 2000, Ickes has remained active in politics, creating so-called 527 groups.

These tax-exempt organizations can operate independent of the Federal Election Commission.

While they cannot affiliate with individual candidates, they can raise and spend money on behalf of issues associated with these candidates.

In 2003, Ickes created the Media Fund. Later, he helped form the Joint Victory Campaign and America Coming Together.

These 527 groups raised more than $200 million, some of the money coming from financier George Soros.

In 2006, Ickes put together the September Fund, which raised money for television advertising geared toward helping Democratic Congressional candidates.

Ickes runs the Washington office of the Long Island law firm, Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein.

He is a founder of the lobbying firm Ickes & Enright Group. And he’s the president of Catalist, a supplier of voter-contact lists to political campaigns.

According to the Washington Post, the Clinton campaign paid Catalist more than $125,000 last year. The Obama campaign rented a mailing list for $25,000.

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  • #1.   Adealia Artist 02.16.2008

    Ickes sounds like the kind of guy who loaded the ovens just to stay alive.

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