US ambassador to Japan in at the deep end

John Roos

When California attorney John Roos was raising lots of money for candidate Barack Obama, he probably didn’t expect that that three years later he would be a key player in the U.S. response to a massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

But he is.

As the U.S. ambassador in Tokyo, Roos is playing a prominent role providing information to U.S. citizens in Japan and in pledging support for the Japanese recovery operation.

It’s not exactly a role he was prepared for. Before Obama took office, he was the chief executive of a top California law firm, Palo Alto-based law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. It’s fair to say his efforts in raising money for Obama are the main reason he got the post in Japan.

Your blogger interviewed him in April 2008 about his fund-raising for Obama, which put him in competition with Hillary Clinton supporters in his own firm. Of course, now, both Clinton and Obama are his superiors.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the story (available in full on the subscription only Daily Journal website):

Lawyers at Palo Alto-based law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati are playing a quiet but crucial role in this year’s Democratic presidential primary election.

With the Democratic primary season reaching its climax in Pennsylvania today, it’s a little-noticed fact that the key fundraisers for the national campaigns of Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are both partners at the firm.

Most visibly John Roos, the firm’s chief executive, is Obama’s California finance committee co-chairman.

But behind the scenes, partner Steven M. Schatz, a national co-chair of Lawyers For Hillary, is also hard at work on behalf of his chosen candidate.

Each of them has been reaching out to lawyers across the state and to contacts within the Silicon Valley business community.

Both are claiming to have raised substantial amounts from fellow attorneys.

“We have done extremely well among lawyers,” Roos reported.

Obama’s message of change has gone down well among lawyers, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs alike in Silicon Valley, he added.


In Roos’ case, he was “blown away” by Obama’s now famous speech at the 2004 Democratic convention.

Later, when Obama was planning his run for the presidency but had not yet formally announced his candidacy, Roos got to meet the senator in person and was “incredibly impressed,” he added.

It’s impossible to tell for sure exactly how much the two attorneys have raised so far.

But within Wilson Sonsini, at least, Roos is the winner.

Lawyers at the firm had donated $60,500 to Obama by the end of February, and only $48,850 to Clinton.

The firm’s lawyers based in California donated $31,050 to Clinton’s campaign and $48,350 to Obama’s. That makes the firm one of the top five California law firm contributors to each campaign.

Roos could be talking for either campaign when commenting on his success so far:

“In every cycle, lawyers are key,” he said.

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