Varnum Attorney Takes Senate Post

August 1, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — Trial Attorney David K. Porter of Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt & Howlett has accepted an opportunity to serve as legal counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.

Porter will take a leave of absence from the firm starting in August and anticipates he'll spend at least three and a half years in the Senate advisory post.

He will serve on the staff of Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, chair of the committee, and will advise other senators on the committee on their oversight responsibilities and their role in national security. He will work alongside the committee's Chief General Counsel Michael Bopp, as well as others on the Senate committee staff.

Porter's job will include investigating and reporting on the effectiveness of present national security measures and on efficiency of federal departments, agencies and programs. He'll also identify the aspects of crime that affect national health, welfare and safety.

Porter said he has had an interest in domestic security issues and national security issues for quite some time. He has been on the verge of joining the military several times, most recently after 9/11.

"If it weren't for my kids, I'd probably be outside of Baghdad right now," he said. "Since law school I've been trying to find a way to sort of mesh that interest with a more formal practice of law. I started trying to figure out how I could get into the security arena."

A while back Porter applied for and was accepted to a master's program in security studies at GeorgetownUniversity. Though he didn't enter the program, the acceptance opened some doors and brought him into contact with a few people in Washington, D.C. He heard about the Senate advisory post through U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra's office and interviewed for it three months ago.

As Porter explained, the committee is the Senate's main oversight committee with respect to Homeland Security and Government Affairs. Government Affairs pertains to the interactions of all the different federal agencies — their management, their track record of working together, and the efficiency, effectiveness and economy of their operations.

It was the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs that took the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Report, conducted hearings and investigations, and put together the legislation that restructured the intelligent community. 

"The committee sort of molded the way that the intelligence community operates right now," Porter said. "That was a huge task."

He assumes the post Aug. 29.

One of the things that attracted Porter to the position was its three-and-a-half-year shelf life. Sen. Collins will no longer be chair of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee after three and a half years because chairmanship positions are rotated.

"All of us on her staff will have to find new work," Porter said. "I'm taking a leave of absence from the firm, but if something exceptional were to present itself after three and a half years, it would be difficult to walk away from that. It's also hard to tell what that might be at this point."    

Porter graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in May 2001 and has been with the litigation group at Varnum since August of that year, working on commercial matters and employment disputes. He's a Grand Rapids native and a graduate of CalvinCollege.

He believes his litigation experience will definitely help with respect to the work he'll be doing for the committee because in committee work the end game is either legislation or a Senate hearing, he said. Although the areas that he'll be working in will be different — national security issues and governmental oversight — he believes that's where his personal interests will really carry the day.

"I've been interested in this for a long time. I follow it in the national media. I'm most looking forward to getting an in depth look into these different areas, and investigating and advising in those areas.

"I think I've really found a niche here, and I think I can be effective using the skills that I've been able to put together over the past four years or so with respect to my litigation experience."    

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