WASHINGTON - Martin Slate, executive director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., seems to have a good shot at becoming the next chief attorney at the Labor Department, many in the benefits community said.
What's more, it seems that some of the known candidates are not waiting around to be nominated: James Castello, deputy counsel to President Clinton, has withdrawn his name and plans to take another job. Also, while he hasn't withdrawn his name from the list, former AFL-CIO labor lawyer David Silberman, recently accepted a position at the law firm, Bredhoff & Kaiser, Washington.
One other candidate reportedly still in the running is Michael Holland, Chicago labor lawyer and former general counsel of the United Mine Workers. Mr. Holland could not be reached for comment.
Sources said the Labor Department might come up with other candidates, but no new names have been floated publicly so far. Labor Department officials would not confirm who is under consideration, nor would they say when a replacement would be named.
Mr. Slate has been executive director of the PBGC for nearly three years and is well liked by Labor Secretary Robert Reich. In addition, Mr. Slate's 26-year history working for the federal government could make him the only candidate who has a chance at getting a quick confirmation from the Senate, sources said.
The current solicitor, Thomas S. Williamson Jr., resigned and went to the Washington law firm of Covington & Burling. J. Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary for the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration, is acting solicitor. A spokeswoman would not say whether Mr. McAteer is being considered for the permanent post.
The solicitor, the chief legal adviser to the secretary of labor, oversees 11 associate solicitors. Sources said Mr. Slate has shown his management skills not only at the PBGC, but also as director of the Internal Revenue Service's employee plans division from 1986 to 1993. He supervised a Washington staff of 200 and the technical work of 700 field employees.
Several sources said Mr. Slate already advises Mr. Reich directly on pension issues. Mr. Reich, the PBGC's board chairman, has worked with Mr. Slate on several pension issues; most recently, the two teamed up against a Republican proposal that would allow companies to tap surplus pension assets for unrelated benefit expenses.
PBGC representatives wouldn't comment.