Identified by Washingtonian magazine recently as one of “ten legendary Washington lawyers who will forever leave their mark on the District’s legal landscape,” Dick Thornburgh is currently counsel to the international law firm of K&L Gates LLP, resident in its Washington, D.C. office. Mr. Thornburgh served as Governor of Pennsylvania, Attorney General of the United States under two presidents and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations during a public career which spanned over 25 years.
Elected Governor of Pennsylvania in 1978 and re-elected in 1982, Mr. Thornburgh was the first Republican ever to serve two successive terms in that office. He served as Chair of the Republican Governors Association and was named by his fellow governors as one of the nation's most effective big-state governors in a 1986 Newsweek poll.
During his service as Governor, Mr. Thornburgh balanced state budgets for eight consecutive years, reduced both personal and business tax rates, cut the state's record-high indebtedness and left a surplus of $350 million. Under his leadership, 15,000 unnecessary positions were eliminated from a swollen state bureaucracy and widely recognized economic development, education and welfare reform programs were implemented. Pennsylvania's unemployment rate, among the ten highest in the nation when he was elected, was among the ten lowest when he left office.
Following the unprecedented Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979, he was described by observers as "one of the few authentic heroes of that episode as a calm voice against panic."
After his unanimous confirmation by the United States Senate, Mr. Thornburgh served three years as Attorney General of the United States (1988-1991) in the cabinets of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He mounted an unprecedented attack on white-collar crime as the Department of Justice obtained a record number of convictions of savings and loan and securities officials, defense contractors and corrupt public officials. Mr. Thornburgh established strong ties with law enforcement agencies around the world to help combat drug trafficking, money laundering, terrorism and international white-collar crime. The Legal Times noted that Mr. Thornburgh as Attorney General "built a reputation as one of the most effective champions that prosecutors have ever had." He currently chairs a panel of the National Academy of Public Administration examining the transformation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is a member of the FBI Director's Advisory Board.
As Attorney General, Mr. Thornburgh played a leading role in the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act. He also took vigorous action against racial, religious and ethnic "hate crimes," and his office mounted a renewed effort to enforce the nation's anti-trust and environmental laws. In 2002, he received the Wiley E. Branton Award of The Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs in recognition of his "commitment to the civil rights of people with disabilities."
All told, Mr. Thornburgh served in the Justice Department under five Presidents, beginning as United States Attorney in Pittsburgh (1969-1975) and Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division (1975-1977), emphasizing efforts against major drug traffickers, organized crime and corrupt public officials. In August 2002, he was appointed Examiner in the WorldCom bankruptcy proceedings to report on wrongdoing and malfeasance that led to the company's downfall. He was also chosen in 2004 by CBS to conduct an investigation into the 60 Minutes Wednesday segment on President Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard.
During his service at the United Nations (1992-1993), Mr. Thornburgh was in charge of personnel, budget and finance matters. His report to the Secretary-General on reform, restructuring and streamlining efforts designed to make the United Nations peacekeeping, humanitarian and development programs more efficient and cost-effective was widely praised. He also has served as a consultant to the United Nations, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank on efforts to battle fraud and corruption.
In 2006, Thornburgh received a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from The American Lawyer magazine for “important contributions to public life while building an outstanding private practice.” He has regularly been selected by his peers to be included in “The Best Lawyers in America” and the Pennsylvania Bar Association presented him with its Public Service in the Law Award in 1992. He currently chairs the Legal Advisory Board of the Washington Legal Foundation and served as a member of the American Bar Association’s Task Force on the Attorney-Client Privilege.
Throughout his career, he has traveled widely, visiting over 40 countries and meeting with leaders from Canada, Mexico, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Russia, Ukraine, India, Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, Cambodia, Australia and Central and South America. He served as an observer to Russia's legislative (1993) and presidential (1996) elections.