As the next presidential campaign season relentlessly approaches, so it appears do the Bersins, the former San Diego Unified school district honcho Alan and his wife, ex-superior court judge Lisa Foster.
As first locally reported by U-T San Diego's Diane Bell, Lisa, a daughter of late Democratic politico and border baron Stan Foster, was recently picked by exiting Attorney General Eric Holder to be director of the Justice Department's "Access to Justice" project, set up in 2010 by the Obama administration.
According to the department's website, the project's mission "is to help the justice system efficiently deliver outcomes that are fair and accessible to all, irrespective of wealth and status."
"Lisa is a staunch defender of due process, a champion of the rights of all Americans, and a passionate advocate for equal justice under law,” Holder said in an October news release announcing the appointment.
“Throughout her impressive career — from her earliest days in public interest law, to her work as a legal aid provider and her distinguished service on the bench — she has consistently demonstrated superior judgment, impeccable integrity, and a steadfast commitment to the high ideals that the Access to Justice Initiative is charged with protecting."
Foster, whose family has long backed Democratic causes with big money, was once Of Counsel to Phillips & Cohen LLP, a Washington, D.C. law firm that says it is "devoted exclusively to representing whistleblowers in cases brought under federal and state whistleblower reward programs."
Like the Fosters, firm members have been closely tied to Democratic rainmaking; founder John Phillips was a midlevel Obama campaign money bundler, rounding up from $200,000 to $500,000, according to OpenSecrets.Org.
Appointed to the bench here in 2002 by Democratic governor Gray Davis, Foster resigned in 2013 and moved to Washington. There she became a fellow on the staff of Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts.
The political activities of Foster and husband Bersin date back to the early 1990s, when Bersin, an old school chum of Bill Clinton and wife Hillary, became San Diego chief of Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential bid.
Clinton then named him U.S. Attorney here, launching him on a controversial path of public service, with subsequent jobs including superintendent of San Diego Unified schools, state secretary of education under GOP governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and San Diego airport board chieftain.
"Please look out for Alan in San Diego," Clinton aide Karen Skelton wrote to fellow White House staffer Michael Feldman in a June 10, 1998 missive released by the Clinton presidential library. "He's a POTUS Oxford pal and someone we want to know much better. You can use my name, though that might not help much..."
After winning the presidency in 2008, Barack Obama made Bersin his so-called border czar and named him head of Customs and Border Protection, but, amidst controversy regarding his nondocumentation of domestic hired help, the Senate never brought the nomination up for a confirmation vote.
"The nominee was asked why he had not disclosed to the committee that he had changed the classification of the individuals from employee to independent contractor," according to a document released by the Senate Rules committee. "He responded that 'I should have done that.'"
Bersin was required by law to resign his recess appointment at the end of 2011, but he didn't leave the Obama administration, becoming the Homeland Security Department's assistant secretary of international affairs and chief diplomatic officer, a position he still holds.
Lately, with growing talk that Bersin and Foster could assume key roles in the presidential campaign of ex-First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the pair's public profile has begun to bloom anew, including an appearance next Thursday before the #edchatdc Breakfast Club of the Harvard Club of Washington.
"Come hear Alan Bersin AB '68 speak about challenges and opportunities facing American schools today," says an online invitation. "These monthly meetups are meant to give alumni the opportunity to hear from an expert in the field of education and network with alumni who are interested in related issues.”
Adds the notice: “University [Club] of DC requires business attire of both men and women, and no one wearing jeans will be admitted.”