The epic implosion of the House Democrats’ campaign arm shows no signs of abating any time soon. Last night, almost all of the DCCC’s senior staff were forced out over “strategic disagreements” with the direction of the party.
Still no word on whether the staffer that started this whole blow up is still on the payroll though…
Top DCCC Staffers Out After Uproar Over Diversity
Heather Caygle, Jake Sherman And Laura Barrón-López
The top echelon of staffers at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee left their jobs Monday, a shakeup following a pair of POLITICO stories detailing deep unease with the party’s campaign apparatus over a lack of diversity.
On Monday morning, Allison Jaslow, the DCCC’s executive director and a close ally of Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) — the chair of the committee — resigned during a tense meeting at the party’s Capitol Hill headquarters. And in the next 10 hours, much of the senior staff was out: Jared Smith, the communications director and another Bustos ally; Melissa Miller, a top DCCC communications aide; Molly Ritner, the political director; Nick Pancrazio, the deputy executive director; and Van Ornelas, the DCCC’s director of diversity.
POLITICO reported last week that top lawmakers in the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus were furious with Bustos, saying she was short-changing minorities by excluding them from her senior staff and failing to live up to promises she made during her campaign for the chairmanship. Bustos surrounded herself with loyalists, eschewing the typical campaign hands that run major party apparatuses. Many Democrats say she has done little to address the lack of diversity in the upper ranks of the campaign arm since winning the chairmanship late last year, and will not acknowledge her role in failing to address the issue
She routinely told lawmakers she was out to “finally” build a “world class” DCCC — which was perceived as a slight to the previous chairman, Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, who helped lead the party back to the majority after eight years out of power.
A staff turnover of this magnitude seven months into the Democrats’ majority is jarring, and will present Bustos with a set of new challenges. She will be forced to rebuild the committee’s top leadership from scratch in the middle of a presidential campaign that has much of the party’s best talent tied up. Democratic aides also would be walking into a campaign committee that is under fire, and working for a chairman that’s hanging on by a thread.
Bustos is, indeed, under a microscope. Democrats across the Capitol have privately griped about what they see as a sub-par campaign committee with a chairwoman unresponsive to member concerns, and unable or unwilling to live up to her own promises to hire a diverse staff.
Bustos did not respond to an email seeking comment. Much of the senior communications staff was in flux Monday evening, and did not respond to emails.
Bustos flew back to Washington this week — the beginning of the August recess — to attend an emergency staff meeting at the DCCC Monday. At the beginning of the Monday meeting, Jaslow resigned and left the session immediately. The meeting — which was described by several sources as spirited and pointed — lasted more than an hour and a half.
“When I was in eighth grade, I decided that my life would be dedicated to serving my country. I did that first in uniform but since have tried to be a force of good in our politics,” Jaslow, an Iraq War veteran, said in a statement later. “And sometimes selfless service means having the courage to take a bow for the sake of the mission — especially when the stakes are so high.”
Bustos decision to return to Washington to address committee staff in person came after several aides demanded an “immediate restructuring” of senior management in recent days.
The staff shakeup follows a tumultuous weekend for Bustos and her senior team, in which they struggled to respond to demands from Democratic lawmakers and committee aides that actions immediately be taken to address the diversity issues.
Jaslow convened an emergency all-staff meeting Friday that was described as “very emotional” by a committee aide present. Jaslow cried as she took responsibility for not doing enough to diversify the upper ranks as some staffers complained that neither she or her deputies were people of color.
Bustos held a tense call with staffers on Saturday before deciding to fly back and address the committee in person on Monday. On the call, Bustos “briefly” apologized for offending people by describing her husband and children as being of “Mexican descent” and announced she will undergo diversity and inclusion training in the coming weeks, according to multiple sources.