David Girard-diCarlo, a giant in Philadelphia's legal community and a major fund-raiser for Republican candidates, was nominated yesterday by President Bush to become the next ambassador to Austria.

Girard-diCarlo, 65, is chairman of the Blank Rome law firm. The ambassadorship in Vienna has been vacant since November.

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

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

Girard-diCarlo is a nationally known power broker who was a top fund-raiser for Bush during the 2000 and 2004 elections. He recently has served as a top money man for Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) in his presidential bid.

Last year, Girard-diCarlo announced that he would step down as chief of Blank Rome on Jan. 1, 2009. The firm employs 508 lawyers and is the 84th largest law practice in the nation, according to American Lawyer Magazine.

Former Gov. Mark S. Schweiker called Girard-diCarlo "one of the most intelligent guys you'll ever encounter."

"Aside from being politically shrewd, he's a measured man," said Schweiker, now president and chief executive officer 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."

Former Sen. Rick Santorum said, "I am very pleased that David has been selected to represent our country in Vienna. I've known him for years and believe him to be a tremendous choice for this important role."

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 from college and worked his way through school as a bank teller.

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

Elected, Thornburgh appointed Girard-diCarlo in 1979 to the SEPTA board. As chairman, he negotiated several union contracts.

Girard-diCarlo later became a confidant of and top fund-raiser for Gov. Tom Ridge, overseeing efforts that raised tens of millions of dollars.

Boarding a plane for the Balkans last night, Ridge said Girard-diCarlo was an ideal ambassadorial candidate.

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

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

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

Contact staff writer Sam Wood at 215-854-2796 or at samwood@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writer Kathleen Brady Shea contributed to this report.