Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (Photo: Jason Schmidt / New York Magazine)
President-elect Barack Obama is strongly considering Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to head the Environmental Protection Agency, a Cabinet post, Democratic officials told Politico.
Obama's transition planners are weighing several other celebrity-level political stars for Cabinet posts, including retired Gen. Colin L. Powell for secretary of defense or education, the officials said.
Kennedy's cousin, Caroline Kennedy, who helped Obama lead his vice presidential search, is being considered for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, although some Obama officials doubt she would take the post. Obama is indebted to the Kennedy family for a hearty endorsement at a crucial point in the Democratic primaries.
The selection of Kennedy would be a shrewd early move for the new presidential team. Obama advisers said the nomination would please both Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).
It also would raise the profile of the EPA, which would help endear Obama to liberals who may be disappointed on other issues important to the Democratic left because of budget restrictions.
The EPA enforces clean air and clear water laws. Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and son of the late senator and attorney general Robert F. Kennedy, has long championed a cleaner water supply for New York City.
As an officer and attorney for the environmental watch group Riverkeeper, Kennedy has taken on governments and companies for polluting the Hudson River and Long Island Sound.
Kennedy, a falconer and white-water rafter, also worked as an assistant district attorney in New York City.
Kennedy gained Washington experience by fighting anti-environmental legislation in Congress in 1995 and 1996, when Newt Gingrich took over as House speaker.
The officials were unsure when Obama will make the selection. His transition planners have focused first on top West Wing staff and his economic and national security teams, all of which are scheduled to be announced early in the 76-day transition period. President-elect Bill Clinton was widely criticized for moving too slowly to appoint key staff and Cabinet secretaries during his presidential transition.