Obama’s Transition Team Includes Mix of Washington Insiders, Fundraisers, and Longtime Advisors

President elect Barack Obama has named his transition team. It’s a mix of longtime advisors, Washington insiders (many with experience in the Clinton administration), and a few prominent Obama fundraisers. MediaMouse.org has short write-ups on all of the members.


Hardly more than 24 hours after his election, Democratic president elect Barack Obama has named his transition team. While it has been talked about for months, the team gives an early indication of the types of folks Obama intends to surround himself with in the White House.

A “Transition Team” is used by an incoming administration to ensure a smooth transition from the outgoing administration and to help aid the incoming president in filling positions in the government. The list is primarily made up of Clinton administration officials, people that Obama has known for years, close advisors, and some major fundraisers. Moreover, his team includes a number of people who can best be described as “Washington insiders.”

Obama’s transition team–officially called the Obama-Biden Transition Project–has 27 publicly named members. What follows is a brief outline of their backgrounds since much of the media’s coverage of the transition team has not included any biography information.


John Podesta was President Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff. He has worked for a variety of non-profit advocacy organizations including the League of Conservation Voters and his own Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank that was created to emulate the influential think-tanks on the right. Podesta is considered by many to be one of the Democratic Party’s “toughest” political operatives and is a so-called “Washington Insider.”

Valerie Jarrett is a longtime Obama advisor who played a key role in his US Senate campaign. She was formerly involved in Chicago’s city government, working as Deputy Chief of Staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley and as chairwoman of the Chicago Transit Authority. She left city government in 1995 for the Habitat Company a residential development and property management company where she is now CEO. The New York Times reports that this may bring some baggage as the company has been criticized for mismanaging public housing in Chicago and allowing it to deteriorate even further. Her great uncle is longtime Washington DC power broker Vernon Jordan. Jarrett was a bundler for Obama and raised over $100,000.

Pete Rouse is Obama’s former Chief of Staff in the Senate. He held the same post for Democrat Tom Daschle. Rouse has worked in Washington DC since becoming a legislative aide to former South Dakota Senator James Abourezk in 1973. The New York Times describes him as “the consummate insider.” Rouse also served as an advisor to Obama’s presidential campaign and told Obama not to ban lobbyists from serving in his White House.

Advisory Board:

Carol Browner is a former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Bill Clinton. She is currently a principal in the Albright Group and Albright Capital Management, a business consulting firm run by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Browner has been a critic of the Bush Administration’s environmental policy.

William M. Daley is a former US Security of Commerce under Bill Clinton. In 1993, Daley was Clinton’s “NAFTA Zaar” and played a key role in getting the trade agreement through a reluctant Congress. Daley has been involved in Obama’s presidential campaign since the beginning. Daley comes from a corporate background, having worked for SBC, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Bank One.

Christopher Edley is a law professor who has a long history of involvement in Democratic politics. He worked under the Carter administration as an assistant director of domestic policy staff, worked on the Michael Dukakis campaign as national issues director, served on Bill Clinton’s transition team and as associate director for economics and government at the White House Office of Management and Budget from 1993 to 1995. He also served as a consultant to Clinton’s advisory board on his One America Initiative. Edley is was an advisor to the Obama campaign and has known Obama since his Harvard days.

Michael Froman is the CEO of CitiInsurance, a member of CitiGroup. In the 1990s, he worked for the Clinton administration in the Treasury Department, including a stint as Chief of Staff of the department. He has known Obama since their days at Harvard. Froman was a bundler for the Obama campaign, raising over $200,000.

Julius Genachowski is a veteran of technology firms and Washington DC, having served as Chief Counsel to former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) head Reed Hundt. Genachowski has been an Obama advisor on tech policy issues and he has been a friend of Obama dating back to their time at Harvard. Genachowski is a former CEO of IAC/InterActiveCorp and is co-advisor and founder of Rock Creek Ventures. According to the Washingto Post, he’s not seen as a “traditional lobbyist.” Genachowski was a bundler who raised more than $500,000 for the Obama campaign. He was also instrumental in building Obama’s online fundraising operation.

Donald Gips is an executive at Level 3 (a telecommunications firm) who worked for Vice President Al Gore as Chief Domestic Policy Advisor. He also worked for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Gips was a bundler for the Obama campaign and raised $500,000 for the Obama campaign. Gips has been part of Obama’s inner circle since the beginning of his presidential run.

Janet Napolitano is a Democratic governor of Arizona. She formerly was US Attorney for the District of Arizona under Bill Clinton and Arizona Attorney General. She has advocated for comprehensive immigration reform but also called for the National Guard to be placed on the US-Mexico border and has signed legislation increasing penalties for employers that hire undocumented immigrants. Napolitano endorsed Obama’s candidacy before Arizona’s primary and is considered a centrist Democrat.

Federico Pena served in the Clinton administration as Secretary of Transportation from 1993 to 1997 and Secretary of Energy from 1997 to 1998. Pena was Obama’s campaign co-chair. Pena is also a managing director of Vestar Capital Partners.

Susan Rice served on President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council and as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. She is currently on leave from the center-right Brookings Institution while serving as a senior foreign policy advisor to Obama. She also served in both the Dukakis and Kerry campaigns.

Sonal Shah is the Director of Global Development at Google. She served in the Clinton Administration in the Department of the Treasury and the National Security Council. After working in the Clinton Administration, she worked for the Center for American Progress–a think-tank run by one of Obama’s transition team co-chairs.

Co-Chairs of Biden Transition:

Mark Gitenstein is a lobbyist at Mayer-Brown.

Edward “Ted” Kaufman is Senator Biden’s former chief of staff.

Along with these individuals, there is a team of day-to-day staffers that include a variety of people from different backgrounds. These include members of Obama’s campaign–Chris Lu, Dan Pfeiffer, Stephanie Cutter, Cassandra Butts, Jim Messina, Patrick Gaspard, Melody Barnes, Lisa Brown, Phil Schiliro, and Michael Strautmanis. The staff also includes former Clinton Administration members, including Christine Varney was involved in the Clinton administration in a number of positions (including Federal Trade Commissioner) and Brad Kiley who was a former Deputy Assistant to the President for Management and Administration at the White House. Rounding out the staff is Katy Kale who was a legislative correspondent and administrative director for Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown.

Author: mediamouse

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