Driving Bill Bradley
Kevin Kramer learned all about health-care policy while hustling the senator, just one of his political mentors, to appointments
Published in 2007 New Jersey Super Lawyers magazine
By Kevin Featherly on March 19, 2007
Before becoming a lawyer, Kevin Kramer spent nearly a decade on the staffs of high-profile Democrats who all had one thing in common: they all left office shortly after he arrived. “That’s part of the reason why I got out of politics,” he says with a chuckle.
His list of short-term Democratic mentors is impressive—Mario Cuomo, Bill Bradley, Richard Bryan. They all taught him much, if not for long.
The 35-year-old associate at Newark-based Gibbons had law school on the brain as an undergrad at Syracuse when a stop at the university’s career services center sent him in a different direction. “Mario Cuomo was looking for an unpaid intern,” he remembers. He signed up, assuming Cuomo had several years of public life still ahead of him. “It was Mario Cuomo—he wasn’t going to lose to an unknown assemblyman named George Pataki.”
Of course, that’s what happened. So at the beginning of 1995, Kramer moved to Washington, D.C., where he ran public policy seminars for high school students. After the school year ended, he dropped off résumés with every New Jersey congressional Democrat. One day later, Bradley called.
“He was the most high-profile politician in the state, and the least likely person to give me a call,” he says. But Kramer got the job. It wasn’t exactly an instant introduction to the intricacies of senatorial politics, though. It was a mailroom gig. He eventually was promoted to legislative correspondent, the guy who answers the mail, when one day the senator asked him to also be his driver. “He had a beat-up car, rusty, messy, lousy radio,” Kramer says. “But I had a lot of one-on-one time with him and his wife. That was an experience I didn’t think I was going to have.”
Kramer found the senator, who has a reputation for being aloof, engaging. “He was open and pretty chatty,” he says of the former Rhodes scholar. “I was able to read him well. When he was studying a bill that he was going to be voting on, I wasn’t going to be asking him about what he had for dinner last night. But most of the time he was in a light mood—as long as I knew where I was going.”
It was during his 19 months working for Bradley that he learned the ins and outs of health-care policy, working on, among other things, the Newborn and Mothers Health Protection Act, which guarantees new mothers 48-hour hospital stays after a natural delivery, or 96 hours after a Cesarean section. Fascinated, he decided to devote his career to health care.
But then Bradley announced his retirement. Kramer was sorry to lose his mentor, but felt fortunate that he was able to land a job with Sen. Bryan. When he decided to retire at the end of his term, Kramer knew he needed to look at all options. “I now had worked for one guy who lost and two guys who retired, and I felt, ‘OK, maybe law school,’” he says with a laugh. “‘Hopefully the place won’t close down while I’m there.’” He enrolled at Washington’s Catholic University of America.
After earning his J.D. in May 2000, he took a post in the Florham Park office of Drinker, Biddle & Reath, where he became an expert on tax-exempt bond financing for hospitals and helped providers navigate the regulatory soup that is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). “HIPAA has followed me through my entire career,” he says.
In February 2006, Kramer moved over to Gibbons. Instead of representing hospitals in bond financing, he represents the New Jersey Health Care Facilities Financing Authority. And he has been appointed to the Hoboken Municipal Hospital Authority, the quasi-governmental group that administers Hoboken University Medical Center.
Kramer’s reacquaintance with politics has him thinking about running for office some day. If he should choose to do so and win, he hopes his tenure would outlast his terms as a legislative aide. Still, one of his biggest supporters thinks he should consider taking advantage of his decidedly un-Midas political touch.
“If you asked my mother, she would say I should work for President Bush,” he says. “That would get him out of office.”
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