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Karl Racine

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Preceded by  Irvin Nathan
Role  Lawyer
Name  Karl Racine

Website  Campaign website
Nationality  American
Political party  Democratic Party
Karl Racine On the List Karl Racine Washington Business Journal

Alma mater  University of Pennsylvania (B.A.) University of Virginia (J.D.)
Education  University of Virginia School of Law, University of Pennsylvania

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Karl A. Racine (born 1963) is an American white-collar defense lawyer and public servant, who has served as the first elected Attorney General for the District of Columbia since January 2015. Prior to his election, he was the managing partner of Venable LLP.


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Early life and education

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Born in Haiti, Racine and his family fled the Duvalier regime and emigrated to Washington, D.C. when he was three years old. He attended public schools until eighth grade and graduated from St. John's College High School, and was star high school basketball player.

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Racine attended the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Virginia School of Law, where he worked at a pro bono clinic representing migrant farm workers. He said he was drawn to the law because of the role lawyers played in advancing civil rights. While in law school, he and his mother produced the first Haitian Creole/English legal dictionary, intended to aid Haitian immigrants to the United States.

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After graduating from law school in 1989, Racine joined Venable LLP but left in 1992 to become a staff attorney at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. He then returned to private practice at Cacheris & Treanor, where he handled large white-collar and civil cases, and later served as associate White House counsel in the Clinton administration. In addition, he served as a member of the D.C. Judicial Nomination Commission, a selection panel for judges. Racine returned to Venable in 2000 and was elected managing partner in 2006, becoming the first black managing partner of a top-100 law firm.

He led the team representing food services corporation Sodexo in a class action racial discrimination suit brought by over 2,500 African American employees, one of the largest such suits brought after the 1991 amendments to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

From 2011 to 2012, Racine represented D.C. Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., who pleaded guilty after a protracted investigation to diverting $300,000 in grants earmarked for charity and youth baseball groups to pay for personal luxury items. During sentencing, Racine successfully argued that Thomas deserved a lighter sentence because his guilty plea was an example of his commitment to teaching the District's youth how to “take responsibility when you have done wrong.” Racine later said Thomas “needed counsel to represent him zealously” and told possible critics, “I would represent them if, God forbid, they made significant mistakes, errors and violated the law.”

In July 2014, Racine led an inquest into state-issued credit card spending by members of the Board of Education in Montgomery County, Maryland, finding no evidence of intentional wrongdoing but recommending that access to the cards be revoked.

Campaign for Attorney General

In July 2014, Racine announced his candidacy for D.C. Attorney General, prompting friend and fellow prominent white-collar attorney Mark Tuohey to drop out of the race and endorse him, saying he “has all the qualifications.”

As of August 12, Racine's campaign had raised $256,955, more than any of the 4 other candidates for Attorney General. Notably, the bulk of his funding came from loans and contributions made by Racine himself, totaling $225,000.

On August 28, Washingtonian magazine reported that three anonymous staff members at the Office of the Attorney General had filed complaints with the D.C. Board of Elections alleging two OAG employees, including Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan, had violated the Hatch Act by promoting Racine's campaign at work. According to the complaints, Nathan “praised and recommended Karl Racine, and he asked us to support him” during two meetings on July 9, before Racine had declared he would run for office. In an interview, Racine stated that “Nathan did not recruit” him “to run for the attorney generalship” and that he would have no reason to believe that Nathan would conduct himself in any other way than “appropriately [and] ethically.”

Media sources have characterized Racine as the candidate who reflects the legal establishment. If elected, Racine said he would act with greater independence from the Mayor and the D.C. Council. He supports Attorney General Irvin Nathan's argument that the D.C. budget autonomy act violates the District of Columbia Home Rule Act. Racine has released a 12-page policy platform called “Keys to Justice.”

Racine initially expressed disapproval of the initiative to legalize marijuana in August, saying that it “is going to take a bit more time for the community to get its head around,” but had apparently reversed his position by late September, “enthusiastically” supporting legalization in a debate. The Washington City Paper suggested Racine flip-flopped after a poll showed nearly two thirds of D.C. residents were supportive of marijuana legalization.

Racine has been endorsed by Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, SEIU Local 722, D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans, and The Washington Post, which cited the “unique ... depth and range” of his qualifications and his “rich record of community service.”

Racine had raised an additional $407,736 by the October 10 reporting deadline, more than any other candidate, with $225,000 of that total from a second personal loan from Racine to his campaign. One week after the reporting deadline, on October 17, fellow candidate Edward "Smitty" Smith filed a request for investigation with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance, alleging that Racine's failure to list occupation information for 266 individual contributors and employer information for all 390 individual contributors in the report constituted an “intentional and illegal” breach of the Campaign Finance Act of 2011. Racine's campaign attributed the missing information to “a botched fundraising database transfer” and promised to amend the report.

On October 22 and 23, the Washington City Paper and the Washington Post ran a series of articles on a slate of audits that found Venable had improperly documented expenses charged to the Troubled Asset Relief Program and overcharged the D.C. government, including the Office of the Attorney General, by hundreds of thousands of dollars while Racine was the managing partner of the firm. At a press conference the next day, opponent Lorie Masters criticized Racine for overbilling and his allegedly “cozy” relationship with embattled D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray.

On November 4, 2014, Racine was elected Attorney General for the District of Columbia with 36% of the vote.

Attorney General

In March 2015, it was reported that Racine had still not paid himself back the money he had loaned his campaign. He was continuing to take donations, raising the possibility of a conflict of interest.

In November 2015, Racine said that he was sensitive to the public outcry over Mayor Bowser's FreshPAC, which was created to accept unlimited campaign contributions thanks to a loophole. Racine continued to fundraise to pay off his $451,000 campaign debt from sources that might have business before the District.

Personal life

Racine served as a board member of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, as a member of the steering committee of the Whitman-Walker Clinic's Legal Services Program and as a board member of the local literacy organization Everybody Wins.

He has also been active in aiding his native Haiti, raising $125,000 from Venable’s lawyers, staff, and foundation to support relief efforts after the 2010 Haiti earthquake and raising money for the Haitian Education and Leadership Program (HELP).

Racine lives in Logan Circle.


Karl Racine Wikipedia