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Phila. GOP star named ambassador to Austria

A giant of Philadelphia's legal community and a major fund-raiser for Republican candidates was nominated today by President Bush to become the next U.S. Ambassador to Austria.

A giant of Philadelphia's legal community and a major fund-raiser for Republican candidates was nominated today by President Bush to become the next U.S. Ambassador to Austria.

David Girard-diCarlo, chairman of the Blank Rome law firm, will fill the seat, which has been vacant in Vienna since November 2007.

"He will have to have a hearing and then a vote," said Emily Lawrimore, a White House spokeswoman. "We encourage the Senate to have a swift and fair confirmation process."

Girard-diCarlo, 65, is a nationally-known power broker who was a top fund-raiser for Bush during the 2000 and 2004 elections.

Most recently, Girard-diCarlo has served as a top money man for Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) in his presidential bid.

Last year, Girard-diCarlo announced he would step down as chief of the Philadelphia-based Blank Rome effective Jan. 1, 2009.

The firm, which employs 508 attorneys, is the 84th largest law practice in the nation, according to American Lawyer Magazine.

Girard-diCarlo could not be reached for comment. A spokesman cited the requirements of the nomination process as the reason for Girard-diCarlo's silence.

Mark S. Schweiker, former Governor of Pennsylvania, praised Girard-diCarlo, calling him "one of the most intelligent guys you'll ever encounter."

"Aside from being politically shrewed, he's a measured man.," said Schweiker, now President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

"Given all David's natural qualities - his comportment and his patriotism - it's a package that will let him do the job effectively and represent the country in the best light," Schweiker said. "I'm looking forward to an invitation to Vienna."

Carl Buchholz, Blank Rome managing partner and chief executive officer, said the firm was thrilled for its top gun.

"David's been a great leader for the law firm for many years, and we're thrilled for him to receive this nomination from the President," Buchholz said.

Girard-diCarlo's long career has taken him well outside the world of the courts.

Born in Bryn Mawr, he was the first in his family to graduate college and worked his way through school as a bank teller.

At Villanova law school he met his wife, Constance. After graduating, Girard-diCarlo went into fund-raising, beating the drum for Richard Thornburgh's 1978 gubernatorial bid.

Gov. Thornburgh appointed Girard-diCarlo in 1979 to the SEPTA Board of Directors.

"I can't imagine a more appropriate preparation for a job in international diplomacy than settling differences between management and labor groups here in Philadelphia," Schweiker said.

After his stint at SEPTA ended in 1982, Girard-diCarlo later became a confident and top fund-raiser for Gov. Tom Ridge, overseeing efforts that raised tens of millions of dollars for his campaign coffers.

Boarding a plane to the Balkans last night, Ridge said Girard-diCarlo was an ideal candidate to become an Ambassador.

"He has the intellect and the energy to build and sustain relationships with other countries," Ridge said by cellphone. "He'll do a phenomenal job. It couldn't happen to a more worthy individual."

Girard-diCarlo was Pennsylvania state Chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000.

As a co-chairman of Philadelphia 2000, the bipartisan committee that organized the Republican convention in the city, he helped amass $52 million in donations and services.

Girard-diCarlo is also known as a civic booster and patron of the arts.

"David's always had an affinity for public service," said his friend, Charlie Pizzi, the CEO of Tasty Baking. "But he's also a big music fan. I'm sure he'll hit all the right notes in Austria."

Girard-diCarlo is a former board chairman of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and has served on the boards of the Academy of Music, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Walnut Street Theater.

In 2001, Bush appointed him to the Board of Trustees for the Kennedy Center in Washington.

He has received many religious honors. Pope John Paul II in 2003 conferred upon him the Pontifical Honor of Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great. The American Jewish Committee in 1999 awarded him the Judge Learned Hand Human Relations Award.