Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid over responsibility for his caucuss public relations to Sen. Charles Schumer earlier this year.
The Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center faces fresh scrutiny following the departure of the communication war roomís most senior aide to Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The unusual marriage of the Nevada Democratís communications staff with that of Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer ó charged with the running the DPCC ó has from the beginning fueled speculation about Reidís hold on power and whether his New York colleague would use his expanded responsibilities to solidify his influence over the caucus. Last weekís decision by Reidís chief spokesman, Jon Summers, to quit after just five months on the job has helped resurrect such questions, although the factions involved dispute the connection.
Two Democratic sources with knowledge of the inner workings of the DPCC said Summers is leaving in part out of frustration, arguing that while the organization is populated with Reid staff and the Majority Leader participates in decision-making, Schumer and his staff ultimately determine strategy and exert more influence.
ďItís hard to be a Reid island in a sea of Schumer,Ē one source said.
Summers flatly dismissed that contention. More campaign strategist than Capitol Hill operative by nature, he is headed to a political consulting firm with ties to Reid.
ďItís a fantastic opportunity for me, and itís the place Iíve thought for quite some time Iíd like to work for when I decide to leave the Senate,Ē said Summers, who will become a vice president with GMMB. Summers played an integral role on Reidís difficult but ultimately successful 2010 re-election bid before taking up residence in the DPCC.
Another Senate Democratic leadership aide refuted suggestions that Reid and Schumer staffers have been engaged in a daily struggle for control of DPCC strategy and operations, noting that while the Conference vice chairman runs the caucus message center, nothing happens without the Majority Leaderís sign-off. The structure of the DPCC is set to remain the same when Adam Jentleson, Summersí deputy in the war room, takes over as Reidís chief spokesman when Summers officially departs in July.
ďThere is a mutual respect and sense of cooperation that has made the DPCC more successful and productive than people might have thought given how unorthodox it is,Ē the Democratic leadership aide said Monday.
The DPCC, a merger of Reidís press war room from the 111th Congress and the old Democratic Policy Committee, was created late last year in the wake of Conference discontent over the way the health care debate was handled and the subsequent results of the 2010 elections. The operation was designed to be run jointly by Reid and Schumer staff, plus aides to DPCC Vice Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (Mich.). But from the beginning, the DPCC has clearly been a Schumer operation.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.