Posted by: sweeneyblog | January 9, 2012

Need a clue about a politician? Look to their staff

Peter Lew - Obama's New Chief of Staff

When I heard the news today that Bill Daley, Obama’s previous Chief of Staff, was being relieved of duty, I was delighted. The former JP Morgan CEO had no place in the White House, and was neither very ethical or very good at his job. I was disappointed when Obama chose him to replace Rahm Emmanuel. Rahm, for his many many faults, was quite effective at his job. It is not easy being Chief of Staff, your role is basically to filter what gets to the President, make deals with Congress to pass legislation, make sure policy is getting drafted AND run a tight ship in the West Wing. In short, it requires a very specific skill set. It has to be someone the President can trust, and rely on to finish the job.

Which is why I’m delighted that Obama has chosen Peter Lew as his new Chief of Staff. Lew has served as deputy Secretary of State (managerial skills), he was one of the lead policy writers on the Clinton Health Care attempt, and was most recently serving as Obama’s financial numbers man at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). There he got high praise from Democrats and Republicans for his polite nature and mastery of budget finance.

A good politician needs good staff, without a sharp team even the most talented politician will be left treading water (see: Carter). So as both Jack Louws and Kelli Linville transition into their new jobs as County Executive and Bellingham Mayor respectively, watch who they hire. Whose skills and talents will they draw upon to make our municipalities stronger, more efficient and more effective?

When I heard news that our County was going to be ground zero for a Congressional battle, one of the first things I did was look up who is running. In sorting out the candidates, I always check their staff. What consulting firm did they hire? Who is their campaign manager? What previous campaigns have they worked on? That can often tell me more about the candidate then their kickoff speech.

Keep your eyes peeled for a couple fun articles this week. I will be attending the first county council meeting this year, if only to say hi to my good friends Ken Mann and Kathy Kershner. I have also received a whole new bundle of public records from the Employee Moonlighting investigation. People keep telling me there is more to this story than meets the eye, so I’m reviewing and reexamining all the information that can be gathered without a subpena. Finally, if you have something that you feel should be investigated by the Political Junkie, feel free to email me here. I am happy to keep your name out of it so long as the information is verifiable.



  1. Riley,
    In the last graf, the link to Ken Mann goes to the Kathy Kershner post. Is there a separate article about him?

    • Nope, it was just the post that he responded to and commented on. Sorry for the confusion!

      • Ah, thanks, I didn’t look at the comments. O_o

  2. […] in campaigns. I’ve urged campaigns to buy local, when it comes to campaign managers, to examine the quality of those around them and to take care when hiring political staff. Whatcom Dems Chair Mike Estes and myself at a Labor […]

  3. […] spoken about the importance of having quality political staff. Jay Inslee recently hired David Schumacher as his budget lead (Director of the Office of Fiscal […]

  4. […] know that every dollar should be spent on voter contact. Of course you have to pay the bills, hire a campaign manager and throw a few fundraisers. But mostly you need to be conserving resources for ads and voter […]

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