Zoë Eliot Baird (born June 20, 1952) is an American lawyer who is president of the Markle Foundation. She is known for her role in the Nannygate matter of 1993, which arose when she was nominated by President Bill Clinton as the first woman to be Attorney General of the United States, but she withdrew her nomination when it was discovered she had hired illegal immigrants and failed to pay taxes. In the last 15 years, she has led the Markle Foundation, which has worked primarily through task forces to achieve broad laws that modernize sectors like health care and the national security community.
Baird earned an A.B. with a joint degree in political science and communications and public policy, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1974 from the University of California, Berkeley. She earned a J.D. in 1977 from the Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley. Baird clerked for U.S. District Judge Albert C. Wollenberg from 1977 to 1978 and worked as Attorney-Advisor at the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice from 1979 to 1980. She was Associate Counsel to President of the United States Jimmy Carter from 1980 to 1981.
Baird was a partner at the law firm O’Melveny & Myers, in Washington, DC, from 1981 to 1986. She was counselor and staff executive at General Electric from 1986 to 1990. Baird was senior vice president and general counsel of Aetna from 1992 to 1996. In 1997, she served as senior research associate and senior visiting scholar at Yale Law School where she worked on the growth of terrorism.
Baird was Clinton's first unsuccessful nominee for United States Attorney General in 1993. Baird withdrew her name from consideration for the position when it was learned that she had informed Clinton that she and her husband had hired illegal immigrants to serve as her chauffeur and nanny and also not paid their social security taxes. Her husband had filed sponsorship papers at the time and sought the advice of counsel on paying taxes. She paid $2900 in fines for the infractions. The matter, dubbed "Nannygate", attracted intense public attention, and the question "Do you have a Zoë Baird problem?" became frequently asked of other political appointees, including subsequent candidates for attorney general.
Clinton subsequently appointed Baird to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) (1994–2000), the Commission on Roles and Capabilities of the U.S. Intelligence Community (1995) and the G-8 Digital Opportunity Task (DOT) Force (2000–2002). In 1997, Baird served on the Department of Defense, Defense Science Board, Summer Study on Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction, as well as the New York Panel for the President's Commission on White House Fellowships. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appointed Baird to the Department of Defense Technology and Privacy Advisory Committee (TAPAC) (2003–2004). Baird was also a member of the National Security Agency Advisory Board Cyber Awareness and Response Panel (2010–2011).
Baird has served as president of the Markle Foundation since 1998. Baird served on the G-8 heads of state DOT Force, which created a roadmap for developing countries' adoption of information technology, investments of development assistance, and resources to help avoid a digital divide and to get information technology into the hands of citizens in developing countries. Baird was also a member of the Global Digital Opportunity Initiative that supported the DOT Force.
Under Baird's leadership in the early 2000s, Markle focused on increasing non-profit and developing country participation in the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Internet's first official governance body, and on making that body more accountable to all users of the Internet.
In 2006, Markle released the Markle Connecting for Health Common Framework for Private and Secure Health Information Exchange.
Baird and former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale served as co-chairs of the Markle Task Force on National Security in the Information Age. Task Force recommendations informed the 9/11 Commission Report and were enacted by executive order and legislation, including the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 and the Protect America Act of 2007.
Along with Starbucks chairman, president and chief executive officer Howard Schultz, Baird serves as the co-chair for the Markle Initiative for America's Economic Future in a Networked World. Baird serves on the boards of numerous organizations, including the Chubb Corporation and Boston Properties She founded Lawyers for Children America, which represents abused and neglected children. She is a member of the Aspen Institute Homeland Security Group and the Aspen Institute Strategy Group, an Advisory Board Member for the Lloyd N. Cutler Center for the Rule of Law at the Salzburg Global Seminar, Honorary Trustee of the Brookings Institution and a member of its nominating committee, and Member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Businessweek named her one of the "50 Top Women in Business", she was included as a "Silicon Alley Reporter 100", and was recipient of the Federal Computer Week Eagle Award, and was a "World Economic Forum Global Leader of Tomorrow", and the inspiration for the Wendy Wasserstein Broadway play An American Daughter.
Baird was married to Yale Law School professor Paul Gewirtz from 1986 to 2008 and the couple had two sons. Baird married William Budinger in 2010.