Home>Highlight>Lewis Kaden, counsel to Gov. Brendan Byrne, dies at 78

Lewis B. Kaden, a former counsel to Gov. Brendan Byrne. Photo: Center for the America Governor, Eagleton Institute, Rutgers University

Lewis Kaden, counsel to Gov. Brendan Byrne, dies at 78

Ex-aide to Robert F. Kennedy, Kaden ran for Congress in 1970

By David Wildstein, June 29 2020 1:58 am

Lewis B. Kaden, Gov. Brendan Byrne’s first counsel and a former aide to U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, died on Sunday.  He was 78.

He died of injuries related to a fall at his Westchester home on June 15, according to Donald Linky, a former aide to Byrne.

The brainy Kaden was 31 when Byrne appointed him as special counsel in 1974.  He shared the post now known as chief counsel with former State Sen. Jerry Fitzgerald English, who was the legislative counsel.

During Byrne’s 1973 gubernatorial campaign, Kaden served as communications director.

Kaden joined Kennedy’s Senate staff following his graduation from Harvard Law School and after serving as a clerk to Judge, Edward Lombard of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

When Kennedy sought the Democratic nomination for president in 1968, Kaden moved over to the campaign staff.

In 1970, the 28-year-old Kaden ran for Congress in the old Middlesex-based 15th district, challenging four-term incumbent Edward Patten (D-Perth Amboy) in the Democratic primary.

Kaden, fervently opposed to the war in Vietnam, came at Patten from the left, pulling in student volunteers from Rutgers and Princeton and capitalizing on opposition to the U.S. invasion of Cambodia a month before the Democratic primary.  He filed a lawsuit in federal court arguing that organization lines were unconstitutional, but his case was dismissed.

The grass-roots Kaden campaign reportedly knocked on 100,000 doors but couldn’t compete with the strength of the Middlesex County Democratic organization.  Patten won by a margin of 12,023 votes, 66%-34%.

Kaden left post as Byrne’s counsel in 1976 after Byrne appointed him to the State Commission of Investigation.

During his 1977 re-election campaign, Byrne faced criticism for asking Kaden to launch an investigation into Patrick McGahn, a legendary Atlantic County Democratic leader and the brother of State Sen. Joseph McGahn (D-Absecon).

Democrats had dumped Senator McGahn from the organization line and replaced him with Assembly Majority Leader Stephen Perskie (D-Margate) and McGahn, the uncle of future White House Counsel Donald McGahn, was seeking re-election as an independent.

Byrne was angry that McGahn was using senatorial courtesy to block his nomination of Gerald Weinstein to a Superior Court judgeship.

Kaden left the SCI in 1981.

After leaving government, Kaden became a tenured professor at Columbia University Law School.  With teaching at Columbia, he was the  director of the Center for Law and Economic Studies.

Kaden served as vice chairman and general counsel for Citigroup from 2003 to 2013.

Prior to joining Citigroup, he spent two decades as a partner at a top New York law firm, Davis Polk & Wardell.  Kaden returned to the firm after his retirement from Citigroup.

Kaden was a member of the Trilateral Commission and the Council of Foreign Relations, chairman of the Markle Foundation, chairman of the United States Government Overseas Presence Advisory Panel, the Industrial Cooperation Council of the State of New York, and Governor Mario Cuomo’s Commission on Competitiveness.

He grew up in Perth Amboy and attended Harvard University.  He was the John Harvard Scholar at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University, from 1963 to 1964.

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