'Car Czar' Candidate Has History of Controversy

Kenneth Feinberg, the attorney who appears set to become the "car czar" for the federal government's auto bailout package, is seen as a widely acceptable candidate to span two administrations.

But the seasoned Washington, D.C., lawyer is not without his controversies.

Feinberg was the man who managed the victims' families' fund after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. And though he worked pro bono in that role, and has dedicated years helping the families, he was harshly criticized during the days of the Sept. 11 restitution for paying money to help some disaster-stricken families and not others, and for trying to place a monetary value on human life.

At the time, the distressed families of victims decried Feinberg's decisions and proposals as "salt on an open wound," "ridiculous and insulting" and a "slap in the face," according to published reports.

Democratic Senate sources told FOX News that Feinberg has been named to oversee the government plan to help General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler spend a multi-billion bailout. The White House received Congress' plan for those emergency loans on Monday and is reviewing whether the deal could get done as early as next week.

Feinberg would write guidelines -- due on the first of the year -- for a restructuring of the Big Three, and would be responsible for recalling the cash if he thinks the companies are not spending the money wisely by Feb. 15.

While Feinberg is proud of his work with the Sept. 11 fund, and even wrote a book on his experiences, Feinberg says his advice to the government would be not to repeat that kind of compensation program.

"The 9/11 fund, I believe, was the right thing to do because it was a patriotic act by the American people to come to the rescue of these people in need," he told Washingtonian magazine in March.

"If Congress had asked me, 'Well, what do you think of this program?' I would say don't do it again. Here in Washington, if a car bomb goes off, do not set up a victim-compensation program. Or if you're going to do it again, next time make it much simpler. Have a person with the authority simply dole out the same amount to families of all of the dead. Don't ask one person to act like Solomon and try to calculate the value of lives. To be judge, jury, accountant, lawyer, rabbi, etcetera is very, very difficult," he told the magazine.

Feinberg later did work, pro bono, on behalf of Virginia Tech with last year's shooting victims' families. But he said he did so because he felt like it contributed to the healing process. Plus, every one of the 32 families of the dead was compensated equally, unlike after Sept. 11, which he admitted based on the formula for valuing a lifetime of career earnings showed that high-priced World Trade Center stockbrokers were worth more than career military men and women.

However, Feinberg is seen in Washington as an ideal candidate to bridge the two administrations. If he is placed at the helm of the auto industry restructuring, that would essentially mean President Bush's approved pick would be working underneath President Barack Obama as of Jan. 20.

"This is the most awkward time to be talking about this, because we are about 35 to 40 days in transition -- so it clearly has to be someone the Bush administration is comfortable with, but also someone the Barack Obama administration can (work with) as well," said U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., chairman of the Senate Banking Committee dealing with the legislation.

Feinberg has worked on everything from asbestos to Agent Orange to Holocaust litigation, and served as Sen. Ted Kennedy's chief of staff -- and alongside Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani when they were in the district attorney's office.

One senior aide in Senate Democratic leadership told FOX News that Feinberg is "a man of impeccable credentials whose leadership with the Sept. 11 fund will never be forgotten.

"His skills as a mediator would serve this exceedingly complex process well," the aide added.

FOX News' Trish Turner and Carl Cameron contributed to this report.