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William Daley considered for White House job

The former Commerce secretary would become another strong Chicago presence as the Obama administration undergoes a midterm reshuffling.

January 04, 2011|By Christi Parsons and Katherine Skiba, Washington Bureau
  • William Daley was secretary of Commerce under President Clinton.
William Daley was secretary of Commerce under President Clinton. (Abel Uribe, Chicago Tribune )

Reporting from Washington — President Obama may bring former Commerce Secretary William Daley into the administration in a top-ranking position, a move that would cement the Chicago presence in the White House and possibly bring to full circle a chain of events set off by Daley's brother.

In one scenario under discussion, Daley would be the president's chief of staff, a position that opened up after Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley announced last year that he would not seek reelection. Within weeks, Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, was on his way back to Chicago to run for the job.

The talks with Daley coincide with a shuffle of top advisors in the West Wing, as senior advisor David Axelrod prepares to return to Chicago to work on Obama's reelection campaign. That would leave Valerie Jarrett as the lone advisor from the president's hometown.

Obama has started a sweeping review of the flow chart at the top levels of his administration with an eye toward midterm adjustments. Among other priorities, Obama is trying to reach out to independent voters with a strategy to collaborate with Republicans and spur the economy.

Daley, 62, would bring a strong business resume to the White House. He is an executive with JPMorgan Chase & Co. and a prominent figure among centrist Democrats.

In 2009, Daley was one of the first high-profile Democrats to urge Obama to move toward the political center. In an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, Daley said the party must either "plot a more moderate, centrist course" or risk major losses in the midterm congressional election and future campaigns as well.

In July, Daley joined the board of trustees of Third Way, a Democratic think tank whose agenda he characterized as "moderate, pro-business and pro-growth."

When joining the think tank, Daley said in an interview that he wasn't running for anything. He said he saw the role as a means to help the Democratic Party by reaching out to independents and trying to find a middle ground on issues such as the economy and foreign policy.

His appointment to a White House post, however, would not come without some controversy. As Midwest chairman of JPMorgan, Daley reportedly was engaged in discussions that led to the financial regulation overhaul bill approved by Congress.

Daley has spoken with administration officials about a range of subjects, according to a source familiar with the discussions who described them on condition of anonymity. The possibility of an administration post for Daley was first reported by Bloomberg News on Monday.

Daley did not return calls late Monday. Aides to the president, wrapping up his vacation in Hawaii, declined to speak about the matter.

Michael A. Memoli of the Washington bureau contributed to this report from Honolulu.

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