Ambassador to Canada: Who is David Jacobson?

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Some of President Barack Obama’s choices for U.S. ambassador have touched off foreign concerns over nominees being better known as FOOs (friends of Obama) or big-time fundraisers, but that’s not a problem for David Jacobson. Yes, he was one of Obama’s bundlers who hauled in a lot of cash for the 2008 campaign, but officials in Canada consider it a prerequisite that the U.S. ambassador to Ottawa have the president’s ear, and Jacobson has that as a member of Obama’s inner circle.

 
Jacobson, 57, grew up in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park. After receiving his B.A. from Johns Hopkins University in 1973, he attended Georgetown University’s law school, where he was the administrative editor of the Georgetown Law Journal and received his J.D. in 1976.
 
Jacobson worked briefly at a prominent New York law firm before accepting a job at Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal LLP, an international law firm with operations in Europe and the United States, including a lobbying office in Washington, DC, that worked on behalf of failed insurance giant AIG. Jacobson reportedly took the job in part to be closer to his mother, who was ill at the time.
 
While working as an associate at Sonnenschein, Jacobson met his wife, Julie, who was interning at the firm before her senior year of law school at New York University.
 
Jacobson ended up making partner at Sonnenschein and spending 30 years at the firm, specializing in complex commercial, class action, securities, insurance and business litigation, including E-commerce. His clients included prominent companies like Prudential, Allstate, Travelers, The Chicago and North Western Railway, and General Motors.
 
Earlier this decade Jacobson started the Chicago networking event known as First Tuesday, a monthly cocktail-hour get together for tech entrepreneurs, financiers, and corporate executives. He also founded AtomWorks, an organization to bring together corporate, civic and academic leaders in order to foster nanotechnology in the Midwest.
 
Jacobson has served as a member of CEOs for Cities, a national bipartisan alliance of 75 mayors, corporate executives, university presidents and nonprofit leaders organized to advance the economic competitiveness of cities. He also has served on the boards of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago and the Better Boys Foundation.
 
His decision to get involved in politics was reportedly triggered by the death of his father in the 1990s. Before meeting Obama Jacobson raised money for Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. He was introduced to Obama by Sonnenshein partner, and best-selling author, Scott Turow, who was hosting a party at his home on Chicago’s North Shore in August 2003.
 
Jacobson did not immediate ally himself with Obama. In fact, he supported Biden during the early days of the Democratic primary campaign. After joining the Obama camp, Jacobson forged “Lawyers for Obama” and became deputy finance chair for the national campaign. He helped raise between $50,000-$100,000, according to OpenSecrets.org.
 
Following the presidential transition, Jacobson joined the White House in January as a special assistant to the president for the Office of Presidential Personnel. His focus was on filling slots on executive branch boards and commissions.
 
After Jacobson was announced as the next ambassador to Canada, Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson said a key criteria for the position is having a personal relationship with the U.S. president. “They’ve all been able to pick up the telephone and reach the president.”
 
Jacobson has been described as being “a whip-smart lawyer” with legendary skills on the golf green and a penchant for fine clothing. 
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
Obama Fundraiser Touted as Ambassador to Ottawa (by Mike De Souza, Canwest News Service)
Putting Chicago on High Tech's Map (by Roger Crockett, BusinessWeek)

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