Thomas Lee Strickland (born May 16, 1952) is an American lawyer who was formerly chief of staff to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks in the Interior Department. Strickland served as United States Attorney for Colorado and was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate for Colorado in 1996 and 2002. He joined WilmerHale as a partner in September, 2011.[3][4]

Tom Strickland
Thomas L. Strickland official portrait.jpg
United States Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks
In office
May 2009 – February 2011
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byR. Lyle Laverty[1]
Succeeded byRachel Jacobson (acting)[2]
United States Attorney for the
District of Colorado
In office
PresidentBill Clinton
Preceded byHenry Solano
Succeeded byJohn Suthers
Personal details
Thomas Lee Strickland

(1952-05-16) May 16, 1952 (age 67)
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materLouisiana State University (B.A.)
University of Texas (J.D.)

Early life and familyEdit

Tom Strickland was born in Texas but attended Louisiana State University where he took a degree in English literature, with honors, and played football. He has three daughters, Lauren, Annie, and Caroline.[5]


Education and early careerEdit

In 1977 he graduated with honors from the University of Texas School of Law[6] then clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Carl Olaf Bue Jr. in the Southern District of Texas.[4] Prior to his appointment as U.S. Attorney Strickland was associated for 15 years with what was then Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber & Strickland rising to named partner.[5] The firm was a prominent Colorado law firm noted for its political connections.[7]

From 1982 to 1984 Strickland served as director of policy for Colorado Governor Richard Lamm, advising the governor on all policy and intergovernmental issues. He went on to serve and chair the Colorado Transportation Commission from 1985 to 1989. Strickland was, with Ken Salazar, one of the founders and a board member of Great Outdoors Colorado, a lottery-funded endowment for Colorado's public parks created in 1992.[8]

United States Attorney for ColoradoEdit

Assuming the office United States Attorney for Colorado the day after the Columbine High School massacre, Strickland's legacy as U.S. Attorney is his tough stance on gun crime. Shortly after taking office, Strickland led efforts to enact Colorado's Project Exile, under which Federal and local prosecutors would cooperate to bring gun charges under state or federal laws, whichever would offer the toughest sentence. During its first year, Colorado Project Exile doubled the number of people who were charged with violating state and federal gun laws in Colorado. Under Strickland's leadership, the project launched with support from gun rights groups including the National Rifle Association and gun control groups such as Handgun Control, Inc.[9]

Strickland's most notable cases include the prosecution of 25 people associated with a major cocaine distribution ring outside of Colorado Springs, Colo.,[10] the indictment of 42 people associated with a motorcycle gang,[11] and the indictment of representatives from three drug running organizations in one of the largest drug roundups in the state's history.[12] In 2000, he prosecuted of the largest drug bust in Longmont's history, an investigation that grew to include California and Nebraska and involved the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Attorney's office, the Federal Housing Authority and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.[13]

Strickland also levied 37 felony counts of selling large quantities of guns to criminals against Gregory Golyansky, his brother Leonid and their employee and cousin, Dmitry Baravik, in a politically charged trial that ended in a plea bargain with a sentence of just one day of probation and a lifetime ban on selling firearms. While critics charged that Strickland targeted the Golyanskys because of their Republican leanings, John Suthers, Strickland's replacement and a Republican, reviewed the case and decided to continue prosecuting despite alleged problems with the case.[14] As Suthers explained, "You've got to rely on hard-core criminals as witnesses. The girlfriends of hard-core criminals are not exactly spectacular witnesses either." In addition, Strickland went after human traffickers as demonstrated by his commitment to prosecuting three people in charges of transporting illegal immigrants after a van crash in northeast Colorado that killed six men. The victims were packed into a van with 14 other passengers who also sustained injuries when a tractor trailer ran into the back of the van.[15]

After almost two years on the job, Strickland left office after acquiring "a reputation as a tough, effective law-and-order prosecutor," according to an editorial appearing in The Denver Post just prior to the end of Strickland's tenure as U.S. Attorney.[16]

Hogan & HartsonEdit

Following his second unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate Strickland joined the international law firm Hogan & Hartson and rose rapidly to the position of managing partner for the firm's Denver office hiring Scott McInnis, a Republican and former Colorado congressman, and Bill Ritter, a Democrat and former Denver district attorney who would become Colorado's governor.[7] He was also a member of Hogan & Hartson's executive committee.[17]

UnitedHealth GroupEdit

On April 24, 2007, he was appointed executive vice president and chief legal officer of UnitedHealth Group, a diversified health and well-being company headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota and serving more than 70 million individuals nationwide.[18] He was brought in as part of a new management team following a "stock options backdating scandal" and was credited for having "cleaned up the backdating mess."[19] At UnitedHealth, he managed an in-house team of 200 attorneys and a nationwide team of outside counsel. He was responsible for all legal, regulatory and compliance matters and implemented a number of corporate governance initiatives.

Department of the InteriorEdit

On January 21, 2009, it was announced that Strickland had accepted an appointment to serve in President Barack Obama's administration as the chief of staff and Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks in the Department of the Interior.[20] On his retirement from the Department of the Interior he was praised by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and by the editorial board of The Denver Post for his role in America's Great Outdoors Program which is modeled after the popular and successful Great Outdoors Colorado program. America's Great Outdoors, which led to the passage of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, was heralded as one of the most important conservation measures in decades. His work on restoration of the Everglades, protecting the bluefin tuna, and the environmental impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was cited.[21]


Strickland joined Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr in 2011 and is a partner in the firm's Regulatory and Government Affairs, Litigation/Controversy and Securities Departments. His practice focuses on a range of matters at the intersection of law, business, and government policy, including government enforcement cases, Congressional and internal investigations, corporate governance, and high-stakes crisis management matters. Additionally, he has particular expertise in natural resources and environmental law, health care regulation and securities law.

Professional activitiesEdit

In March, 2013, Strickland was appointed by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to serve on the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Board (NFWF), which was recently designated by the United States Department of Justice to distribute the $2.5 billion in criminal penalties from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the five Gulf Coast States.

U.S. Senate campaignsEdit

1996 electionEdit

The United States Senate election in Colorado in 1996 was for the open seat which resulted from the retirement of Hank Brown. Strickland had represented the Sierra Club and had served on the regional board of the Environmental Defense Fund; he was endorsed by nearly every environmental group in Colorado; however, his Republican opponent, Wayne Allard, who had an abysmal environmental record, borrowed a tactic from Strickland's law partner, Steve Farber, and painted him as "the polluters' lawyer" in commercials based on research of his record of legal work for numerous clients over a ten-year legal career. He could only reply by referencing his duty to represent his clients' interests zealously. He fell behind in the polls and eventually lost.[5]

2002 electionEdit

The 2002 election for the U.S. Senate, with the same candidates running, resulted in a narrow victory for Allard. A record-breaking total of $9 million was raised by the candidates. The campaign was characterized by mutual accusations that the other candidate was linked with a powerful communications company, Allard with Qwest and Strickland with Global Crossing. Allard's winning strategy was to characterize Strickland as a "millionaire-lawyer-lobbyist." Strickland ran on moderate positions. Both candidates had help from prominent party leaders, Allard being helped by President George W. Bush.[22][23][24][25]


  1. ^ "LYLE LAVERTY: IF I WERE CHIEF OF THE FOREST SERVICE... - Evergreen Magazine". 2017-01-31.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Biography". Thomas L. Strickland Partner. Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. Retrieved May 21, 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Interior Department Assistant Secretary and Chief of Staff Thomas Strickland Joins WilmerHale". Publications and News. Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. September 20, 2011. Retrieved May 21, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c James Brooke (October 12, 1996). "Where Green Is Good, A Topsy-Turvy Race". The New York Times. Retrieved May 21, 2013. The citizens of Colorado will not send a lawyer-lobbyist for corporate polluters to the United States Senate, John Heubusch, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in one of a torrent of attacks faxed to Colorado media outlets. Tom Strickland is a hypocrite; he is running as a 'passionate environmentalist' when court records show he represented the biggest polluter in the history of Colorado.
  6. ^ Emily Birr (2002). "Online NewsHour The Colorado Senate Race -- Tom Strickland Biography". PBS. Retrieved May 21, 2013.
  7. ^ a b Greg Griffin (March 13, 2005). "Courting political power Hogan & Hartson beefs up Colorado-based law staff". The Denver Post.
  8. ^ Frank Quimby (April 30, 2009). "Secretary Lauds Senate's Confirmation of Tom Strickland as Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks" (news release). U.S. Department of the Interior. Retrieved May 21, 2013. Together with Secretary Salazar, Strickland was a founder and board member of Great Outdoors Colorado, the lottery-funded endowment for Colorado's public parks system that was created in 1992. From 1982 to 1984 Strickland served as director of policy for Colorado Governor Richard D. Lamm, advising the governor on all policy and intergovernmental issues. He went on to serve and chair the Colorado Transportation Commission from 1985 to 1989. Strickland also served as legal counsel to the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and was a founder and board member of Great Outdoors Colorado, the lottery-funded endowment for Colorado's public parks system. Strickland received his bachelor's in English literature, with honors, from Louisiana State University, where he was an All-SEC Academic Football Selection. He received his J.D., with honors, from the University of Texas School of Law. He is a member of the Colorado, Minnesota, and Texas Bars.
  9. ^ Michael Janofsky (March 7, 2000). "Opposites Join In Supporting Gun Initiative In Colorado". The New York Times. Retrieved May 21, 2013.
  10. ^ Emery, Erin. "Colorado Springs Cocaine operation broken up 17 suspects arrested; guns, cash were seized." The Denver Post October 17, 2000, "Southern Colorado News" page 5, section B
  11. ^ Nieves, Danielle (1999-10-09). "37 arrested in raids on Sons of Silence". BNET. Retrieved 2008-08-11.
  12. ^ "Authorities tout Denver-area drug-trafficking arrests as 'largest ever'." Associated Press Newswires September 23, 1999.
  13. ^ Auge, Karen. "Longmont 21 arrested in drug sweep 78 officers gather meth, cocaine, guns." The Denver Post February 25, 2000, Rockies edition, page 4, section B
  14. ^ Abbott, Karen. "Charges in Gun-selling Case Dismissed; Plea Agreement Bans 3 Men from Peddling Firearms." The Rocky Mountain News November 9, 2002, page 24, section A
  15. ^ "Three indicted in deaths of 6 illegal immigrants." Associated Press Newswires 30 March 2001.
  16. ^ "Editorial Good work, Tom Strickland." The Denver Post March 28, 2001, page 8, section B
  17. ^ "Thomas L Strickland". Forbes. Retrieved 2008-08-11. dead link as of May 21, 2013
  18. ^ Decker, Noël (2007-04-24). "Denver Office Managing Partner Tom Strickland Appointed Chief Legal Officer of UnitedHealth Group". Hogan & Hartson. Archived from the original on 2011-08-07. Retrieved 2008-08-11.
  19. ^ Sue Reisinger (April 2013). "Quick Change". Corporate Counsel.
  20. ^ Power, Stephen (21 January 2009). "Salazar: Time to 'Rebrand' Interior Department". The Wall Street Journal.
  21. ^ Editors of the Denver Post (January 15, 2011). "Editorial: Tom Strickland's lasting legacy" (Editorial). The Denver Post. Retrieved May 21, 2013. Salazar credits Strickland with bringing a "stellar" team to Interior. "For two years he probably gave us 80 hours a week," Salazar told us. That's hardly the type of bureaucrat that cynics like to think about when talking about Washington. We thank Strickland for his good work defending wildlife and the national park system.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  22. ^ Michael Janofsky (September 3, 2002). "In Colorado Race, 2002 Looks a Lot Like 1996". The New York Times. Retrieved May 21, 2013. true to the tenor of recent television advertisements, each man is just as eager to blast the other as unsuitable for the Senate because of ties to big telecommunications companies under criminal investigation -- Mr. Allard to Qwest, Mr. Strickland to Global Crossing.
  23. ^ Janofsky, Michael (2002-11-06). "The 2002 Elections: The Senate -- Colorado; Saving a Seat For the Republicans". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-11.
  24. ^ Christian, Nichole M.; Cushman Jr, John H.; Day, Sherri; Dillon, Sam; Lewis, Neil A.; Pear, Robert; Pristin, Terry; Shenon, Philip; Steinberg, Jacques; Wayne, Leslie (2002-11-06). "The 2002 Elections: West; Colorado". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-11.
  25. ^ Janofsky, Michael (2002-11-09). "The 2002 Election: The Voters; Jefferson County, Colo". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-11.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Josie Heath
Democratic Party nominee for United States Senator from Colorado (Class 2)
1996, 2002
Succeeded by
Mark Udall