Obama picks Indian American Sonal Shah as adviser

November 7th, 2008 - 12:15 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Nov 6 (IANS) US President-elect Barack Obama has picked Indian-American Sonal Shah, an eminent economist who heads Google’s philanthropic arm, as one of the advisers to help him assemble his White House team.Shah, 40, is part of an advisory board comprising individuals with significant private and public sector experience who will offer their expertise in their respective fields to Obama’s transition team, according to US media reports.

Meanwhile, reports suggest that India-born Preeta Bansal, a Harvard-educated lawyer who was part of Obama’s team of advisers during his election campaign, may be a potential candidate for the office of the Solicitor General, a post yet to be filled by a woman in US.

Sonal Shah along with other members of the advisory board will help the transition team headed by former White House chief of staff John Podesta, longtime Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, and Pete Rouse, the President-elect’s Senate chief of staff.

Others on the list include former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Carol Browner, Obama friend and former Commerce Secretary William Daley, University of California-Berkeley law school dean Christopher Edley and Obama law school friends and advisers Michael Froman and Julius Genachowski.

Shah, who was named the ‘Person of the Year 2003′ by India Abroad publication, currently works for Google.org on their Global Development team, where she is engaged in defining their global development strategy and promoting the firm’s philanthropy work.

Before joining Google, she was vice president at Goldman, Sachs and Co. and developed and implemented its environmental strategy. She has also served as the Associate Director for Economic and National Security Policy at the Centre for American Progress, where she worked on trade, outsourcing and post-conflict reconstruction issues.

Earlier, she worked for eight years at the Department of Treasury on various economic issues and regions of the world. She was the director of the office covering sub-Saharan Africa, worked in Bosnia and Kosovo after the war, and served as the senior adviser to the Under Secretary at the Department of Treasury during the Asian financial crisis.

Shah is the co-founder of the US-based non-profit organisation Indicorps, which offers one-year fellowships for Indian-origin Americans to work on specific development projects in India.

Her father moved from Gujarat to New York in 1970 and she along with her sister and mother joined him in 1972. She also has a brother.

Among names being suggested for the post of Solicitor General, the ‘The Am Law Daily’, citing some unnamed advisers of the Obama campaign, reported that India-born Bansal, 42, who has advised Obama on foreign policy and judiciary matters, is among possible appointees.

“The Solicitor General is the only position where the statute requires that the officer be learned in the law,” it quoted O’Melveny and Myers’s Walter Dellinger as saying.

Bansal, a product of Harvard Law School and a partner at the international law firm of Skadden Arps, has earlier served as the New York state Solicitor General.

Dellinger said that for the post, experience as a state Solicitor General would be valuable, as would be a record of advocacy before the court, the report said.

Bansal, a member of what an Obama lawyer playfully calls the ‘Harvard Law School mafia’, was part of Bill Clinton’s White House and Justice Department in 1993-96. She was also the first Indian-American to head the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

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