By John E. Mulligan
Journal Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- Rhode Islander Tom Donilon is among the members of the Democratic government-in-waiting who are playing big roles in the transition to President-elect Barack Obama's administration.
Donilon, who grew up in a politically active South Providence family, is one of two Clinton administration veterans who will lead the preparations for new management at the State Department. He has been in the business since his undergraduate days at Washington's Catholic University, when he caught on as an intern in President Jimmy Carter's White House. Donilon also served for several years as a top officer at Fannie Mae, the troubled mortgage finance giant that the government took over this year.
Donilon has long been involved in both the campaign and the policy arenas. He has worked in presidential election politics since Carter's famous nomination battle against challenger Ted Kennedy at the divided Democratic National Convention in New York 28 years ago.
As a top aide to Senator (and presidential candidate) Joe Biden in 1987, he was a key player in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings that led to the rejection of Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court. This year, he helped Obama to get ready for his debates with Republican nominee John McCain.
Donilon is a longtime partner at O'Melveny & Myers, the law firm of Warren Christopher, who was Clinton's first secretary of State. Donilon was Christopher's chief of staff at State. He later served for several years as the top lawyer at Fannie Mae, which was on the verge of collapse when the federal government took it over this year.
Joining Donilon at the helm of State Department transition will be Wendy R. Sherman, a Foggy Bottom veteran who is a longtime business partner of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.