Aug. 31, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

DCCC Turns to Mook’s Ground Game for Fall

Second in a series of profiles of committee independent expenditure directors.

Democratic operative Robby Mook’s entry into politics was a little dirty.

“I remember standing in front of the dump for hours,” Mook recalled. “Everyone takes their trash to the dump in Vermont, so that’s where you campaign.”

From a dump in Vermont to high-stakes presidential primaries to a top-tier Senate race, Mook has built his career by being in the middle of some of the biggest political battles in the country.

This cycle he’s in a critical position to help Democrats as they try to keep control of the House of Representatives.

Last week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reserved $28 million in TV ad time to defend 40 districts. Because of campaign finance law, that money will be spent in independent expenditures, an effort Mook will direct.

You wouldn’t expect a party to put a 30-year-old in charge of tens of millions of dollars — the DCCC spent $75 million in IE money last cycle, according to the Campaign Finance Institute — but Democratic strategists believe Mook has the experience and the temperament for the job.

The son of a physics professor and a hospital administrator, Mook grew up in Sharon, Vt. Technically, he was born in New Hampshire (because that’s where the nearest hospital was located), and ties to both states have come in handy.

It seems like politics has always been a part of Mook’s life, whether attending a rally for Bill Clinton in Burlington as a middle-school student or organizing a phone bank for the president four years later.

In ninth grade, Mook auditioned for the school play, and the head of the theater department also happened to be a state legislator running for re-election.

“It was one of the funniest auditions I had ever seen,” former state Rep. Matt Dunne said in a recent phone interview from Vermont, where he is running for governor as a Democrat.

Mook secured a role in “The Imaginary Invalid,” a French comedy by Moliére, and volunteered for Dunne in his spare time.

“Robby was clearly more interested in my campaign than in the play,” Dunne said. “We had a little sense there was a political gene in him.”

After high school, Mook went off to Columbia University, where he studied the classics because he always wanted to read Greek. He didn’t take a single political science course in college, but he continued learning politics during the summers.

As Dunne climbed the political ladder, he hired Mook as the first paid staffer for Vermont House Democrats before Mook had even finished his undergraduate degree. But it wasn’t an easy time as Democrats lost their majority.

After college, Mook worked as field director for Vermont Democrats’ coordinated campaign in 2002, another tough year in which Republicans took over the governorship after five terms of Howard Dean (D). But Mook followed the former governor onto the national political scene when Dean launched his presidential bid.

Mook started as Dean’s deputy field director in New Hampshire, where he finished second to Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), and then shifted to Wisconsin, where the former governor finished third.

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