Is William & Connolly’s Bob Barnett Superman or Zelig?

In her forthcoming book, out Tuesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D – Mass., acknowledged a Williams & Connolly partner who seems to be counsel to nearly every important politician.

“Once again, Bob Barnett served as a thoughtful adviser, always ready with wise counsel or a deliciously funny barb,” wrote Warren, in the acknowledgements section of “This Fight is Our Fight.

Barnett, of course, was a staunch Hillary Clinton supporter and is a Democrat, but that hasn’t kept Republicans away from him. Who says Washington, D.C. is more divided than ever?

Remember that Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, thanked “my Lord Jesus Christ” first, “the people” second and third “my very wise lawyer, Bob Barnett,” in the acknowledgements of his book, “American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone.”


Pictured: Bob Barnett and wife Rita Braver Barnett in 2010. Photo by Paul Morigi Getty Images for Conde Nast Publications)
Pictured: Bob Barnett and wife Rita Braver Barnett in 2010. Photo by Paul Morigi Getty Images for Conde Nast Publications)


In fact, according to Barnett’s firm bio, he appears to represent nearly every important politician in Washington, D.C., regardless of their political stripe, on their book deal.

Other Republicans who used Barnett to secure a book deal include former President George W. Bush, House Speaker Paul Ryan, former vice president Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne, Sarah Palin and many others. And on the other side of the aisle, clients include former President Barack Obama and his wife, and the Clintons.

Although book deals represent a small portion of his total practice — 10 percent, according to our source who declined to speak on the record — Barnett appears to have a lock on this practice.

Screenshot: From the Acknowledgements of Rubio’s second book.


His ability to bridge the divide between both sides of the aisle, at least as far as book deals are concerned brings to mind Woody Allen’s 1983 movie, “Zelig,” a term defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as, “A person who is able to change their appearance, behaviour, or attitudes, so as to be comfortable in any situation.”

So what is Barnett’s secret magnet attracting such a diverse clientele?

According to a 2004 New York Times article, he was charging $750 an hour almost 15 years ago, and it was a steal compared to the fee structure of a regular book agent. From the New York Times:

One way he does it is by undercutting the competition, even at $750 an hour. Most literary agents take a commission, typically 15 percent, of an author’s earnings on a book. Mr. Barnett charges his usual hourly rate. On a book advance of $2 million, for example, an agent’s fee might be $300,000. Mr. Barnett’s fee might be $30,000. As Peter Osnos, publisher and chief executive of Public Affairs, said, ”Everybody loves a bargain.”

If that irks his New York competition, Mr. Barnett makes no apologies. ”I am a lawyer,” he said. ”I am not an agent.”

So there you have it — book agents found a way to make the billable hour look like a bargain!

H/t Axios, which obtained an advanced copy of the book and flagged the homage to Barnett.