By Whitney Smith
July 26, 2016
Robby Mook, Campaign Manager
Political strategist Robby Mook has made history as the first openly gay campaign manager of a major party nominee, not to mention that the nominee happens to be the first female candidate to receive the endorsement of the Democratic party. However, out of all those history-making firsts, campaigning isn’t new to Mook. Mook began working on Democratic campaigns at age 14 and soon after began a lengthy career with the Vermont Democratic Party. As the deputy field director of New Hampshire for former Vermont governor Howard Dean in 2004, Mook found his way into the John Kerry campaign after he won the democratic nomination for the presidency. In 2006, Mook successfully ran a coordinated campaign to elect Governor Martin O’Malley and Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. Mook’s success continued in 2008 as he led the charge of ground operations for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in Ohio, Indiana and Nevada. When Clinton lost the nomination, Mook moved to New Hampshire to manage Senator Jeanna Shaheen’s campaign. Shaheen won the election by a 6% margin and described Mook to Politico as on with “tireless work ethic” and “one of the most talented strategists” she had ever encountered. After this success, Mook served as political director in 2010 for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and was soon after appointed to the executive director position where he put his campaign knowledge to work in raising and allocating money to Democratic congressional candidates with hopes of unseating Republican incumbents. After Clinton announced her candidacy for he presidency in 2015, Mook reenlisted in her campaign, but with a much larger role this time as campaign manager. Since then, Mook was listed as number 12 on Forbes’ 2015 “40 Under 40” list, was credited with the Clinton’s 2008 surprise victory in Nevada and the establishment of the “Mook Mafia,” a group of loyal young operatives working towards Clinton securing the presidency.
Joel Benenson, Chief Strategist & Pollster
With three successful presidential campaigns, a variety of consulting jobs from Fortune 100 CEOs to nonprofits, and even a career in journalism under his belt, the hire of Joel Benenson to the Clinton campaign further highlights the former Secretary of State’s appreciation for lengthy resumes like her own. Known for being as tight-lipped with his polling strategies as a journalist is with their leads, Benenson’s roots can be traced back to where his career began at the New York Daily News in the 1980s. Years later, Benenson made a shift into politics as a communications director for New York Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1994 where he met David Axelrod, the chief strategist of the Obama campaigns. By the time the 1996 election rolled around, Benenson had conducted polls for President Bill Clinton’s campaign resulting in the first successful presidential election for Benenson to add to his resume. In 2000, Benenson began his own strategy group which has served as strategists and consultants on the corporate level with clients including Campbell Soup Company, HBO, Toyota, the NFL, MSNBC, and many more. Benenson Strategy Group received the Pollie Award for Pollster Team of the Year from the American Association of Political Consultants in 2009 after its work on President Obama’s 2008 campaign where Benenson served as the chief strategist and a senior advisor, and the same year that Axelrod received the Pollie Award for Campaign Strategist of the Year. Preparing for the 2016 election began a year early for Benenson as he began working for a different Clinton than the one who gave him his start on presidential campaigns in 1996. Taking on the position Axelrod held for Obama for the prior administration, Benenson began his role as chief strategist for Hillary Clinton, someone he believes is, “a nose to the grindstone, get the work done, let’s make a difference leader.”
John Podesta, Campaign Chairman
As former Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton, former chair of President Obama’s transitional team, and now chairman to the Clinton campaign, John Podesta is no rookie in the world of politics. Although he is the founder of the Center for American Progress, Podesta’s efforts towards a more liberal America can be measured in terms broader than super PACs and think-tanks. The visiting Georgetown University Law Center graduate turned visiting professor has published The Power of Progress: How America’s Progressives Can (Once Again) Save Our Economy, Our Climate, and Our Country, counseled the Senate Democratic Majority leader from 1995 to 1996, spearheaded the appointments of the Obama administrations’ cabinet secretaries and political appointees, and even earned a spot on President Obama’s Global Development Council. In 2012, Podesta’s involvement in global affairs became larger as he became the United States’ representative member of the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons, a panel which was selected to advise on the global development framework beyond 2015. Podesta left his position on the Obama administration to start his position as what has been called “the man behind the Clinton campaign curtain” by TIME magazine. Speaking to Podesta’s self-discipline and experience, campaign Manager Robbie Mook said, “He’s John Podesta, you just do what he says.” While his productive nature has been noted within the campaign, it has also been revered by leadership. In an article by the Washington Post, Podesta’s interest in disclosing government information about aliens, Area 51, and flying saucers are detailed through looking at efforts he has made to persuade President Clinton, President Obama, and now Secretary Clinton to release the information. The article reports Secretary Clinton said that Podesta “has made me personally pledge we are going to get the information out” regarding aliens and Area 51.
Amanda Renteria, Political Director
As the first Latina chief of staff for the United States Senate, Clinton’s political director Amanda Renteria fits right in to a campaign filled with experienced professionals known for bringing their own set of “firsts” to the table. Tough and competitive, the former college athlete came from humble beginnings in a what used to be a labor camp and continued to gain attention for her athletic abilities during her time as a legislative worker where she was known for being the meanest player on the court during early morning basketball games organized by a nonprofit against other congressional aides, economists, and former felons. With a fresh undergraduate degree in political science and economic from Stanford under her belt, Renteria began working as a senior financial analyst for Goldman Sachs before she became a high school math and economics teacher and pursued her MBA from Harvard University. 2004 marked the beginning of her political career as she joined the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) as a legislative aide. From there, Renteria transitioned to legislative director and then to chief of staff for United States Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). The former high school teacher said her legacy as the first Latina chief of staff is, “Not about being the first. It’s about making sure you’re not the last.” In 2014, Renteria returned to California where she challenged and lost to Republican incumbent Congressman David Valadao by 16 percent. While the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee asked Renteria to run again for the seat in 2016, she declined and joined the Clinton campaign.
Huma Abedin, Vice Campaign Chairman
39-year-old Huma Abedin has been with the Clinton’s since she was only 19. In 2010, Abedin married the New York congressman Anthony Weiner with President Bill Clinton presiding over the ceremony. “I have one daughter, but if I had a second daughter, it would be Huma,” said Hillary Clinton. Abedin has been with Clinton through her time as first lady, a senator, secretary of state, and two campaigns for president. During Clinton’s time as Secretary of State, Abedin was appointed deputy chief of staff, and allowed to serve in a special position created by the department that allowed her to work for a consulting firm as well, a moved which raised questions about conflicts of interests. After serving as an assistant to Clinton during her 2008 race for the Democratic nomination for the presidency, Abedin has moved up in rank as the vice chair to Clinton’s 2016 campaign. In her life before the Clintons, Abedin was born in Kalamazoo, Mich. And moved to Saudi Arabia with her parents at the age of two where she was raised in the Islamic faith. Abedin moved to Washington, DC to attend George Washington University where she pursued a degree in journalism, leading her to intern at the White House where she met Hillary Clinton in 1996. Often noted for the air of mystery, calmness, confidence, and control Abedin has held throughout her career, she has been called Clinton’s “secret weapon.” “Huma is a terrific leader. She’s multifaceted, has a great strategic sense, and she’s a wonderful colleague. She’s an integral part of the team, and her competence is only exceeded by her humility,” says Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. Abedin’s praises can also be heard being sung from the right side of the aisle as well. In 2012, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee and Senator John McCain responded to a letter written by then congresswoman Michele Bachmann which claimed Abedin was connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. McCain took the Senate floor and said, “I know Huma to be an intelligent, upstanding, hard-working, and loyal servant of our country and our government.”
Whitney Smith is a summer assistant at TransAtlantic Magazine. She is a senior at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn. and majors in journalism and political science.