Nelson Cunningham is an American lawyer and political advisor. He spent much of his childhood in Latin America, where he became fluent in Spanish. He attended Yale College (class of 1980) and Stanford Law School, where he edited the law review. He subsequently worked for Hale and Dorr, a private law firm in Boston. In 1988, he was hired by Rudolph Giuliani to serve as federal prosecutor in New York. In 1994-95, he served as General Counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee under then-chairman Joseph R. Biden. He served on the White House staff under President Bill Clinton as Special Advisor to the President for Western Hemisphere affairs and advised John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign on foreign policy and trade issues. He was also a member of the Obama-Biden transition team after their electoral victory in 2008.
In 1998, he co-founded Kissinger McLarty Associates (KMA), where he served as managing partner, a role he continues at McLarty Associates, one of the two successors to KMA. McLarty is a Washington, D.C.-based strategic advisory firm that advises companies on government and strategic issues around the world.
As of 2009, he serves on several boards, including the Institute of the Americas, the Business Council for International Understanding, the American Security Project, and the US-India Business Council. He also chairs the New Democratic Network's Latin America Policy Initiative and is a member of the Yale President's Council on International Activities and the United States Department of State's Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy.