Background in business defines new chief of staff

Appointment of JPMorgan Chase exec William Daley proves controversial

Eric Lipton / New York Times News Service /

WASHINGTON — He is a top executive at JPMorgan Chase, where he is paid as much as $5 million a year and supervises the Washington lobbying efforts for the nation’s second-largest bank. William Daley also serves on the board of directors at Boeing, the giant defense contractor, and Abbott Laboratories, the global drug company, which has billions of dollars at stake in the overhaul of the health care system.

And now, Daley, a longtime Illinois political operative, will hold one of the most powerful jobs in Washington: chief of staff in the White House, where he will help decide who gets access to the Oval Office and what President Barack Obama’s Capitol Hill agenda should be.

The recruitment of Daley to Pennsylvania Avenue from the corporate board room is seen as a savvy step by some in Washington, who argue that Obama has long needed a White House confidant who has the ear of the business community and a record of bipartisanship that might help the president negotiate with Republicans on Capitol Hill.

But his appointment, announced by Obama on Thursday afternoon, is alarming some in Obama’s liberal base, who say that bringing Daley to the White House violates a commitment by the president to curtail the sway of special interests in Washington.

Daley, 62, who is not a close friend of Obama’s, even though both share a Chicago base, has a well-rounded résumé.

It includes work as a lawyer in private practice, a bank president, a telecommunications company executive, a political strategist, fundraiser and campaign chief, a lobbyist for foreign corporations and a three-year stint as commerce secretary in the Clinton administration.

His brother, Richard Daley, is departing after six terms as mayor of Chicago, where his family has an almost royal status.