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Former Gov. Ed Rendell returns to old Philadelphia law firm

Less than a week after leaving office, former Gov. Ed Rendell rejoined the Philadelphia law firm he quit eight years ago to become governor.

Ballard Spahr, where Rendell worked from 2000 to 2003, said yesterday that he will return as a partner. Rendell will work on public-private partnerships, energy, environmental, health care and higher education law, according to Ballard Spahr.

NBC announced this morning Rendell will work as a news analyst for NBC and MSNBC in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election. He'll take an unspecified position with the Brookings Institution, a liberal-leaning think tank in Washington, and continue to teach at the University of Pennsylvania.

In addition, he has said he plans to write a book and might continue his Eagles sportscasting job with Comcast.

Rendell could not be reached. Ballard Spahr Chairman Arthur Makadon declined to comment beyond the firm's prepared statement.

During Rendell's two terms as governor, the state paid Ballard Spahr at least $22 million for legal work. It is one of many large firms with lucrative state contracts. Makadon, in his statement, said the firm wanted Rendell because of his experience in certain areas of law.

Rendell, a former national Democratic Party chairman, brings an impressive Rolodex to the office.

"He is the rare person who has prominence and the insight and wisdom we value so highly," Makadon said.

The House State Government Committee unanimously passed a bill yesterday that would bar state officials from giving contracts to former employers within two years of leaving their jobs. Rep. George Dunbar, R-Penn Township, listed Ballard Spahr as an example of "the highly questionable procurement activities by the Rendell administration."

"It wasn't directed at" Rendell's new role, Dunbar said. During conversations with voters, "pay-to-play comes up quite a bit. This is about removing that cloud of suspicion."

Ballard Spahr represents Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in its bid to win a resort casino license from the state. During a news conference three weeks ago, Rendell, unprompted, criticized the proposal of one of Nemacolin's rivals, Mason-Dixon Resort and Casino.

Mason-Dixon wants to build a casino near Gettysburg. Rendell said he "wouldn't put one close to a battlefield, but that's not my call."

"Given the governor's unprovoked comments on Jan. 3 and his subsequent hiring by Ballard Spahr exactly three weeks later, I really think that says more than anything we ever could," Mason Dixon spokesman David La Torre said.

The law firm employs at least six former aides from Rendell's gubernatorial and mayoral administrations, including John Estey, his chief of staff from 2003 to 2007. His mayoral chief of staff, David Cohen, worked at the firm before becoming vice president of Comcast.

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