Digital Crossroads: Kelly Nallen (Chet Susslin)
In the wake of last year’s election, American Crossroads is recalibrating its digital strategy.
“We’re trying to figure out what we did well and what we didn’t do well,” says Kelly Nallen, the conservative super PAC’s new director of digital. “We were very good at delivering messages to people where they were already—reading an online newspaper article, for example—but [less effective] at steering them to our website or to a Facebook page they weren’t familiar with.”
“We thought it’d be a good idea” to have a dedicated staff member, Nallen adds. “Someone who would start thinking about things a little earlier than the summer before an election.”
Nallen, 24, was raised in Westport, Conn., a prosperous suburb of New York City. Her father, John Nallen, is in finance at News Corp. “My parents are both pretty conservative, and that’s a little rare where I grew up,” she says. “My dad always encouraged me to read both The New York Times and the New York Post in the morning to make sure I was getting both sides of every story.”
After graduating from George Washington University in 2010, Nallen joined American Crossroads as a “catchall political assistant,” working on the group’s television programs, direct mail, phone calls, and “just helping make the trains run on time,” she says. “We’re very lean and mean.”
Christopher Snow Hopkins
Sans Clinton: Kris Balderston (Richard A. Bloom)
Last month, Kris Balderston woke up for the first time in 18 years without a boss named Clinton.
Instead, the former aide to President Clinton and international collaborator with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has shifted into the private sector as general manager and senior partner in the Washington office of Fleishman-Hillard.
“They have a global platform for companies that want to do good and do well,” Balderston says in explaining his move from the State Department, where he was special representative for global partnerships under Clinton until her retirement Feb. 1.
Balderston, 57, brings much more than experience with the nation’s most celebrated Democratic couple to the strategic communications firm. Earlier in his career, he worked for ex-Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis; former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Maine; and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich.
If there is a common theme throughout his 33 years in public service, it is collaboration, Balderston said. It’s an art he said he learned growing up in Little Falls, N.Y., a small manufacturing town on the Erie Canal where his father owned a bar that opened at 6 a.m. so that factory workers so inclined could have a shot and a beer before their shift. As a young boy, Balderston noticed that whenever anyone in town had a problem, others would offer whatever they had to help solve it, he said.
After graduating from LeMoyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., and earning a master’s degree in government at Georgetown University, Balderston went to work for the Council of State Community Affairs Agencies and then the National Governors Association, which led to a position running the state office in Washington for Dukakis from 1987 to 1991. Dukakis, of course, won the Democratic nomination for president in 1988, giving Balderston his first real taste of national politics.
After Dukakis stepped down as governor in 1991, Balderston became a senior policy adviser to Mitchell—“a very pragmatic guy who worked closely with the private sector,” Balderston said—and he also maintained ties to Bill Clinton, who had chaired the NGA when Balderston worked there. After Clinton became president in 1993, Balderston was tapped as deputy chief of staff to Labor Secretary Reich and served as his director of intergovernmental relations.
Two years later, Clinton made Balderston a special assistant at the White House and promoted him to deputy assistant to the president and deputy secretary of the Cabinet during his second term. His main task was finding ways for government agencies to collaborate on solving problems, he said.
Just as Bill Clinton left the White House, his wife arrived on Capitol Hill as a senator from New York. “Because I was from New York, there was some logic in going to work for her,” Balderston said. He became Sen. Clinton’s deputy chief of staff and again focused on collaboration. “We brought upstate farmers to downstate markets,” he says. “We used our power to network and convene to fix things.”
Balderston went with Clinton to the State Department in 2009, first as managing director of the office of the secretary and then as special representative for global partnerships. In that capacity, he helped Clinton bring together governments, corporations, foundations, and nongovernmental organizations in partnerships tackling a variety of issues.
As an example, Balderston cited the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, which has a goal of providing 100 million safe cooking devices to families around the world by 2020. Fumes from open stoves are the fourth-largest killer in the world, he said, and already more than $130 million has been raised for the effort to replace them.
Balderston said he plans to continue his collaborative work at Fleishman-Hillard, which has 80 offices around the globe. “There is a new convergence between NGOs and corporations,” he says.
Juliane Sullivan, a onetime policy director for then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, is the new staff director of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. The 42-year-old was most recently a lobbyist with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
Asked if there is something masochistic about returning to Capitol Hill, Sullivan says laughingly, “There’s something intoxicating about it. There’s such camaraderie up there.
“I’ve got two young children, and the flexible hours that come with working downtown have been fantastic…. But I think I’ve got a little more Hill time left in me.”
Born in Houston, Sullivan grew up in Kentucky and studied journalism, with a minor in political science, at Western Kentucky University. “I had a professor who always said that a party with a bunch of journalists was the most entertaining type of party you could go to because everybody had something to talk about. Not to put down any profession, but if you went out with a bunch of doctors, what are they going to talk about?”
During her final semester, Sullivan was seized by a fit of existential anxiety while speaking to her sorority chapter adviser, who also happened to be a field representative for Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “I did all this bemoaning, as college students are wont to do. ‘What am I going to be when I grow up?’ And, she said, ‘Why don’t you consider interning?’ ”
Sullivan dutifully applied for an internship in McConnell’s press office and has never left the political arena (apart from a hiatus in the marketing and communications department of a Florida medical clinic). In 1995, Sullivan was hired as an aide to then-freshman Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky. After that, she took a job as senior legislative assistant under then-Rep. Anne Northup, R-Ky., before joining then-Majority Whip DeLay as his appropriations adviser. Sullivan bolted to the private sector when she became pregnant with her first child.
She is married to Thomas Sullivan, a lobbyist with Nelson Mullins Riley Scarborough.
In August 2009, then-Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., was lacerated by his constituents at a town-hall meeting in Lebanon, Pa. Before an irate crowd—an early manifestation of the tea party—Specter defended a single-payer system, the “public option,” and other controversial proposals for health care reform. At one point, a man walked into the aisle waving a piece of paper and launched into a diatribe.
“We were all standing along the wall,” recalls Scott Hoeflich, then Specter’s chief of staff. “We had two Capitol Police officers with us, and one of them said, ‘Jesus Christ, he’s going in.’ Specter was approaching the man screaming at him.”
This moment—which foreshadowed Specter’s political demise—is one of the most memorable from Hoeflich’s 11 years under the late statesman. One year later, Specter would switch parties in a last-ditch effort to keep his seat. He was defeated in the general election by now-Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.
This month, Hoeflich was named a senior vice president in RLM Finsbury’s Washington office. He joins Eric Eve, a former first deputy comptroller for New York City, and Stephen Labaton, a former reporter for The New York Times. Hoeflich, 33, was most recently a senior associate at IKON.
The Philadelphia Eagles fan—a hobby that causes more pain than pleasure, he says—grew up in Harrisburg, Pa. His father worked in the tire business and his mother was a nursing-home dietitian.
Hoeflich joined Specter’s office as an intern during his sophomore year of college. Three years later, he was mulling over the prospect of law school when Specter was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“We all circled the wagons, and I put my personal ambitions on hold,” says Hoeflich, then Specter’s press secretary. “Between Supreme Court nominations, immigration reform, and all the other issues going before the Judiciary Committee, I didn’t have time for anything else.”
In 2006, just four years after arriving in Specter’s office, Hoeflich became his chief of staff.
In the Tanks
Back to CAP: Carmel Martin (Richard A. Bloom)
The Center for American Progress is welcoming back one its first policy directors, Carmel Martin, after her four years of service as assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development at the Education Department.
Martin will be the liberal think tank’s executive vice president for policy, a key development post that has been held by Sarah Wartell, president and CEO of the Urban Institute, and Melody Barnes, former director of President Obama’s Domestic Policy Council.
“It wasn’t a given I would leave,” Martin says of the post she has held at the Education Department since Secretary Arne Duncan’s arrival in 2009. “But it was an opportunity that was hard to pass up, to go back to CAP.”
Martin, 45, is still wrapping up work at Education, where she has been involved in budget and policy issues in every program area. As she was preparing for her exit, she says, “it was a difficult decision to leave the president and the secretary. But it is very demanding work. And I was interested in working across multiple issue areas.”
A New Jersey native who went to the University of Texas to earn a law degree and a master’s degree in public policy, Martin has been involved in education issues since early in her career. She worked first in Austin, Texas, for five years at Hogan and Hartson (now Hogan Lovells), focusing on school-finance issues and civil-rights cases.
She moved to the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department and was detailed to the office of then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. That led to a full-time job with then-Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., working on education and other issues, including welfare reform and child care.
Martin became associate director for domestic policy at CAP shortly after it was founded in 2003, but not long after that she received a call from Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., asking her to return to Capitol Hill to help with his work on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. “He was a tough guy to say no to,” Martin says, “and he was a great boss.” Martin was Kennedy’s deputy staff director for five years before leaving at the end of 2008 to work for Duncan immediately after he was tapped to be Education secretary.
When she’s back at CAP next month, Martin says she’ll be “eager and excited to think about education in the economic space,” as well as work on other domestic policy issues such as health care and immigration reform.
Around the Agencies
After four years as second in command at the Agriculture Department, Kathleen Merrigan is stepping down as the top deputy to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The surprise move was announced last week without any specifics about Merrigan’s plans, though she did hint at the intense workload.
“It has been an ambitious first term,” Merrigan said in a prepared statement. “From implementing the 2008 farm bill, improving school meals, expanding opportunities for American farmers, spending countless hours in the White House situation room, to shepherding USDA budgets through challenging times, it has been an honor to play a small part in history.
“I hope that during my tenure, I was able to help open USDA’s doors a little wider, inviting new and discouraged constituencies to participate in USDA programs.”
Merrigan did not respond to a request for an interview.
Vilsack, who recently announced he would stay on for Obama’s second term, issued a statement praising Merrigan. “She has played a vital role in the department-wide focus on the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, as well as our efforts to achieve budget efficiencies and savings during an uncertain budget time,” Vilsack says. “Deputy Secretary Merrigan has led USDA’s efforts to implement important regulations, and she has been an important advocate for a strong National Organic Program.
“I deeply appreciate her service, and I wish her all the best in her future endeavors.”During her tenure at USDA, Merrigan, 53, has been a strong advocate for locally grown foods and organic farming while also maintaining support for conventional subsidies and biotechnology.
A graduate of Williams College, she has a master’s degree in public affairs from the University of Texas and a doctorate in environmental planning and policy from MIT.
She was a senior staffer for Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on the Senate Agriculture Committee and led USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service at the end of the Clinton administration.
Before returning to USDA in 2009, Merrigan spent eight years as an assistant professor and director of the Agriculture, Food, and Environment graduate program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.