Director of U.S. Trade and Development Agency: Who Is Leocadia Zak?

Monday, June 14, 2010

President Barack Obama turned to an agency veteran, Leocadia I. Zak to lead the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA). USTDA is an independent agency responsible for helping promote development in other countries while also advancing economic opportunities for US businesses.  It carries out this dual mission by distributing funds to foreign projects that in turn hire American companies to perform such work as technical assistance, feasibility studies and training. Zak was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as USTDA director on March 10, 2010, and assumed office April 10.

 
Born circa 1957, Zak earned her B.A. from Mount Holyoke College in 1979 and her J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law in 1982. Zak practiced law for 18 years at the law firm of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo. She worked first in the firm’s Boston office and relocated circa 1998 to Washington, D.C., where she was a partner practicing in the areas of corporate, municipal and international project finance. Her specialty was creating financing for large infrastructure projects such as airports, toll roads, municipal water systems and power generation facilities.
 
She left private practice to serve as General Counsel of USTDA from April 2000 to December 2005, and was named Deputy Director in January 2006. Zak assumed the duties of Acting Director from April 30, 2007 through March 16, 2008, and again on January 20, 2009. Zak has taught “International Project Finance” as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Boston University School of Law and at the Georgetown University Law Center. 
 
Zak is married to Kenneth W. Hansen, a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of the law firm of Chadbourne & Park. The couple lives in Washington, D.C. A Democrat, Zak has contributed $14,050 to political organizations and candidates since 1992, all of it save $200 to Democrats, including $750 to Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, $2,000 to John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, and $3,300 to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. The sole Republican was Rhode Island’s Nancy Mayer, a law school classmate of Zak’s who ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 1996. 
- Matt Bewig
 

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