Joe Onek

Senior Advisor


Joe Onek has held important positions in all three branches of the federal government, as well as in the private sector. He knows how to play offense and defense, and understands how Washington functions. Joe joined The Raben Group after serving as senior counsel to the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, where he worked on a wide variety of matters, including the litigation requiring the Bush administration to turn over documents relating to the inappropriate firing of U.S. attorneys.

In the Clinton administration, Joe served as principal deputy associate attorney general and as senior coordinator for Rule of Law in the State Department. In private practice, he successfully defended renowned scientists against charges brought by overreaching congressional staff and HHS bureaucrats. In the Carter administration, he served as a member of the White House Domestic Policy Staff working on healthcare issues and then as deputy counsel to the president. He managed the Carter White House’s largely successful efforts to boycott the Moscow Olympics.

In the public interest world, Joe served as an attorney at the Center for Law and Social Policy and later as the director and Board chair. There he brought litigation ending discrimination against Medicaid patients by hospitals receiving federal grants. He was also an organizer of an early and highly influential shareholder social responsibility campaign against General Motors’ safety, environmental, and diversity policies. After 9/11, he worked on national security and civil liberties issues at the Constitution Project and the Open Society Institute and, through litigation and lobbying, contributed to the passage of the USA Freedom Act in 2015. He also wrote amicus briefs and white papers challenging the detention of U.S. citizens as “enemy combatants” without a criminal trial.

Joe first entered government service as a law clerk to Chief Judge David L. Bazelon of the District of Columbia Circuit and to Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, and as a staffer for Sen. Ted Kennedy. He was also a partner in two Washington D.C. law firms, specializing in health care and constitutional law issues.

Joe is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard College, a Master of Arts from the London School of Economics — which he attended as a Marshall Scholar — and a Bachelor of Laws from Yale Law School.