New Paltz Professor Advises White House Lawyers
NEW PALTZ -- Nancy Kassop, associate professor in SUNY New Paltz' Political Science Department, recently completed work on The White House 2001 Project -- a program designed to provide new White House staff members information associated with key White House offices, and to ease paperwork for presidential appointees to executive branch positions.
Kassop was among 14 nationally-recognized U.S. presidency scholars who spent time in Washington, D.C. researching and writing about the White House staff since Richard Nixon was in office -- a period of six administrations. The information they prepared will be available to the White House staff entering office after the January 2001 inauguration.
"I was thrilled to be asked to work on this project. It was the most interesting scholarly work I have ever done," said Kassop, whose extensive research during the 16 years of her professional experience while at SUNY New Paltz focuses on the intersection of law and politics, especially as it relates to the presidency.
The program included two phases: the White House Interview Project and the Presidential Nomination Forms Online Project.
The first aspect of the program, the White House Interview Project, involved building an institutional memory for specific White House offices: Chief of Staff, Staff Secretary, Press Office, Office of Communications, Office of the Counsel to the President, Office of Management and Administration, and Office of Presidential Personnel. Through interviews with approximately 75 former officials and supplementary materials from presidential libraries and secondary sources, this project will furnish incoming staff with substantive information about office functions, organization units and roles of office heads.
Kassop's assignment was the White House Counsel's Office, the lawyer to the Office of the President.
"It is an office that sits at the juncture of law, politics and policy, and plays an influential -- though underreported -- role in all three," she explained. "It reviews every piece of paper that comes across the president's desk, and must approve every visitor who enters the Oval Office. I had the opportunity to interview former White House counsels, and to learn an enormous amount about an office that is at the hub of all presidential activity, yet manages to keep a very low profile and fly 'under the radar screen' until a crisis erupts," Kassop said.
Transcripts of the interviews will be provided through a private web site to incoming staff and, ultimately, a public web site for use by scholars and the general public.
The second part of the project, the Presidential Nomination Forms Online Project, is a software package created through a collaborative effort of public and private institutions to alleviate the cumbersome, often obscure presidential appointments process. Nominees will be able to download the software package from the Project web site, fill out the nomination forms, and return them to the relevant federal agencies seeking the information.
The White House 2001 Project is funded by the nonpartisan organization The Pew Charitable Trusts. It is associated with an American Enterprise Institute initiative,Transition to Governing, and the Presidential Appointee Initiative of the Brookings Institution. It was created by presidency scholars working with the Presidency Research Group, a section of the American Political Science Association. Additional information about the Project is available at http://WhiteHouse2001.org.
Associate Professor Nancy Kassop: Her professional experience while at SUNY New Paltz focuses on the intersection of law and politics, especially as it relates to the presidency. In January 1999, she served as a special correspondent to the Times Herald-Record during the Senate impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. Her most recent published article is "The Clinton Impeachment: Untangling the Web of Conflicting Considerations" in Presidential Studies Quarterly (June 2000). Kassop instituted an annual trip from SUNY New Paltz to Washington, D.C. for students of political science. The group meets with government officials in the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court, as well as with interest groups, political party officials, non-governmental organizations and the press.
Located in the heart of a dynamic college town, 90 minutes from metropolitan New York City, the State University of New York at New Paltz is a highly selective college of about 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
One of the most well-regarded public colleges in the nation, New Paltz delivers an extraordinary number of majors in Business, Liberal Arts, Sciences, Engineering, Fine and Performing Arts and Education.
New Paltz embraces its culture as a community where talented and independent minded people from around the world create close personal links with real scholars and artists who love to teach.