FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Meet the SEIU Operative Running Barack Obama’s Re-Election Ground Game
Last Tuesday, a pair of seeming coincidences occurred: The first was an article that appeared in the Hill about the SEIU splitting the costs with Priorities USA Action on an anti-Mitt Romney ad in Florida. The second was an e-mail that went out from 1199SEIU featuring ex-1199SEIU boss and current political heavyweight, Patrick Gaspard. While the two appeared unrelated, what they do have in common is the SEIU’s influence on the Democratic Party and the presidential election itself.
Even before the Service Employees International Union became known in center-right households for its thuggish behavior during the 2009 health care debate, the SEIU was already a well-known political powerhouse in Washington. By 2009, the union’s then-president, Andy Stern—already a polarizing figure who successfully broke up the AFL-CIO in 2005—became known as the hand inside Barack Obama’s puppet from his visits to the White House. However, after Stern and his SEIU ‘changed America forever‘ through the imposition of health care reform, Stern abruptly left the union movement.
Although Stern became a corporate insider soon after his departure from the union movement, to many, he still remains the public face of the SEIU. This is despite the fact that there is a far lesser known and much more powerful SEIU operative running both the Democrat National Committee, as well as Barack Obama’s re-election campaign machine, Organizing for America.
Meet Patrick Gaspard. In an e-mail last week from 1199SEIU to its members, the union begins with: “In a series of recent interviews, our brother Patrick Gaspard discusses the presidential election…” Outside of the Beltway Bubble and the SEIU, few people know who Patrick Gaspard is, nor do they know just how politically powerful he really is.
Currently, Gaspard is the Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee and, according to a 2009 Huffington Post piece, Gaspard “may very well be the most brilliant strategist and organizer you have never heard of.” As a life-long community organizer, 44-year old Patrick Gaspard is one of the most powerful, outwardly unassuming, as well as unknown figures to those residing outside Washington, DC.
Described as Obama’s Karl Rove, Gaspard has been involved in politics since Jesse Jackson’s presidential bid in 1989 and, until Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, bounced back and forth between political campaigns, community organizing assignments, as well climbing to the top of one of America’s most powerful union locals as Executive Vice President of New York’s 1199SEIU. In fact, it was Gaspard’s former boss at 1199SEIU, Dennis Rivera, who ran the Left’s war room from SEIU headquarters in Washington while the Obama administration’s takeover of America’s health care was being debated.
Although Gaspard’s rise through the political playing field of the Left included stints working for individuals like Howard Dean, New York’s David Dinkins, Ruth Messinger and Margarita Lopez, he has also worked for George Soros’s America Coming Together (a precursor to the DNC’s Organizing for America), the Working Families Party, and has close ties with ACORN’s Bertha Lewis.
It wasn’t until 2008, however, that Gaspard went from union boss and part-time political operative to kingmaker. Prior to joining the Obama campaign in June 2008, according to a New York Observer article, Gaspard quietly worked to block an SEIU endorsement of then-candidate John Edwards and push his union toward Barack Obama before he finally joined Obama’s campaign as political director.
After his fellow community organizer was elected as President of the United States, Gaspard became Obama’s Director of the Office of Political Affairs inside the White House in January 2009. It was there that Gaspard quietly became known as Obama’s “glue man.”
According to the New York Observer article, Gaspard is the man who quietly gets things done for Barack Obama.
“He’s become a real player in the White House, the president himself told me,” said Representative Gregory Meeks. “He’s a low key, behind-the-scenes, no-fingerprints kind of guy. I need something, I call Patrick. And if he calls, it’s a big deal. He’s close to the president.”
“Don’t be mistaken about him being a gentleman–don’t even go there,” said Ms. [Margarita] Lopez. “When a situation got to a point that there was no resolution I would reach Patrick and say, ‘Go for it, and bring me no hostages, this battle is going to be won with no hostages.’ And I can tell you Patrick delivered every single time.” [Emphasis added.]
In January 2011, nearly two-full years before the 2012 presidential election, Patrick Gaspard was dispatched from the White House to become the Democratic National Committee’s Executive Director and responsible for the DNC’s campaign machine, Organizing for America. Gaspard’s move followed the Tea Party-led retaking of the U.S. House of Representatives by the Republican Party and, for the last year, Gaspard has been working quietly behind the scenes to shore up Obama’s chances at winning a second term.
Earlier this month, BusinessWeek describes the results of Gaspard and the DNC’s handiwork:
The biggest presidential primary campaign team in New Hampshire is tucked on a Manchester side street inside a four-story brick building and it belongs to the best-financed candidate seeking nomination: President Barack Obama.
The office is one of seven in the state and his re-election campaign has about 20 paid employees. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, the two front-runners in the Republican presidential primary after they emerged first and second in the Iowa caucuses, each have one office.
Evidence of the Obama re-election campaign’s extensive ramp-up program lies beyond New Hampshire. There are 62 “tested, trained and mobilized neighborhood teams” in Michigan and 71 in Colorado, Messina said in a Jan. 4 conference call with reporters. The re-election operation has contacted more than 511,000 voters in Nevada and the Florida branch has organized 2,633 events such as door-to-door canvasses and phone banks.
“One of the most important things to remember about New Hampshire is that we never left,” said Frank Benenati, an Obama campaign spokesman, referring to “networks and relationships” built over two and a half years by Organizing for America, the president’s political arm outside the White House. Benenati said the primary is a way to “further expand our organization.”
Below is one of the two videos of Patrick Gaspard sent out by 1199SEIU to its members [the other is here].
[Note for those political observers who think that defeating Obama will be easy: At the four-minute mark, Gaspard begins a discussion about the Obama campaign's mobilization efforts in New Hampshire, Iowa and elsewhere. You should watch it, then get busy.]
“Socialism has no place in the hearts of those who would secure the fight for freedom and preserve democracy.” Samuel Gompers, American Federation of Labor, 1918
Hat-tip: Trevor Loudon
Cross-posted at LaborUnionReport.com