Nancy Dorn, a former top aide for Vice President Cheney and Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), plans to leave the Bush administration to take the top lobbying job at General Electric Co., informed Republicans said this week.
The development, which caps a lengthy search by the corporate giant, is the latest move by a major U.S. corporation to hire a prominent Republican to a key post in its Washington office.
Neither Dorn nor General Electric officials would confirm the hire. However, nearly a dozen Republican lobbyists, Congressional aides and administration officials said the parties are ironing out the final details before making an announcement.
“It’s a done deal,” said one GOP lobbyist familiar with the search. White House officials also confirmed that Dorn has told them she is leaving the administration.
Dorn, now the second-ranking official at the Office of Management and Budget, did not return several calls seeking comment. A General Electric spokesman said: “I can’t confirm anything about the search.”
Republican sources said Dorn is likely to be replaced by Clay Johnson, a White House aide who has been rumored to be in line to take over for OMB Director Mitch Daniels. Daniels, who is not very popular on Capitol Hill, is widely expected to run for governor of Indiana.
Republicans who know Dorn well praised her as a solid choice for the high-profile position. She is a bedrock conservative and is considered to be tough as nails.
“She’s very competent. People like her,” said a Republican lobbyist who has known Dorn for decades. “She’s going to do a great job in that role.”
Dorn was selected after an exhaustive search by executive-recruitment firm Korn/Ferry International. General Electric advertised the job with an annual salary of $750,000, but one lobbyist said he had a “hunch that it probably went for more.”
“If she’s worth her salt, she will push that up a bit,” the lobbyist said.
Dorn has more than two decades of experience on Capitol Hill, K Street and in the executive branch.
When the Bush administration swept into power in 2001, Dorn worked as one of Cheney’s top Capitol Hill lobbyists. She served in that role for one year before President Bush tapped her to be deputy director at OMB when Sean O’Keefe moved over to run NASA.
Before joining Cheney’s staff, Dorn was a defense and foreign policy adviser to Hastert.
Dorn started in Republican politics in Texas as an aide to then-Rep. Tom Loeffler (R), whom she followed from the Lone Star state House to Capitol Hill. In 1988, Dorn got her first taste of lobbying and the executive branch when she served as a mid-level legislative affairs aide at the State Department.
When Ronald Reagan left the White House, President George H.W. Bush asked her to remain on board where she rose from assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works to a senior State Department lobbyist.
Dorn has been a hired gun before. After serving as a member of the Inter-American Foundation during President Bill Clinton’s first term in the White House, Dorn began a four-year stint with Hooper, Owen & Winburn. Dorn ignited a bit of a firestorm when she joined Hastert’s staff in mid-2000 after it was revealed that she had worked as a lobbyist for Pakistan.
Insight magazine also alleged that Dorn worked to block a GOP investigation into whether one of her foreign clients used bribes and other unethical tactics to gain control of key port facilities at either end of the Panama Canal.
Dorn did not comment on the allegation, but Hastert’s spokesman John Feehery said at the time that Dorn “came with the highest recommendations.”
Though the allegations cast a shadow over her first days in the House Republican leadership, the storm blew away as soon as she landed in the White House.
Dorn’s years in the administration and on Capitol Hill give her strong contacts in Republican circles, say Republicans who know her well. She also has worked well with key people on K Street over the years. In fact, Dorn is married to James “Whit” Whittinghill, a former top aide to then-Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.), and is now a lobbyist for the American Trucking Association.
“She knows people in the administration and she has wonderful contacts on the Hill,” said one lobbyist. “It’s hard to find people who have both.”