House Republicans are appointing three top operatives to manage the vast majority of their campaign spending this fall, including the first woman to run a GOP Congressional committee’s independent expenditure unit.
Joanna Burgos will direct the National Republican Congressional Committee’s IE arm, marking the first Hispanic to hold that top post. In addition to Burgos, the NRCC tapped Todd Johnson as its IE research director and Trent Wisecup to consult on California races.
The NRCC’s announcement caps the major staffing choices for the Congressional campaign committees. The three other House and Senate campaign committees already announced their top IE staffs, including the first woman to run the Senate Democrats’ IE unit.
Under campaign finance laws, all of these hired hands are prohibited from coordinating with committee staff while they manage millions in spending for top races around the country.
“If the IE director doesn’t possess great political judgement ... all your hopes are dashed, and your committee has raised millions of dollars for no reason,” said Curt Anderson, a veteran Republican consultant who has run IE units twice. “It’s a very high-stakes game.”
Burgos boasts a decadelong career in communications, spending the past two cycles as a top aide in the NRCC’s press shop. A Miami native, Burgos served as lead strategist and national press secretary for the 2008 Republican National Convention.
“We’ll have contrasting dynamics colliding in just one election with an unpopular president up for re-election, our economy still struggling, many Members who are still new to their constituents and the ramifications of redistricting,” Burgos said.
Wisecup’s appointment shows House Republicans are particularly focused on the Golden State — and with good reason.
California has hosted only a couple of competitive races in the past decade but could feature as many as a dozen contested races this cycle. An independent commission redrew the Congressional boundaries last year, drastically changing the districts.
“There’s pretty much a competitive race in almost every region of the state,” Wisecup said. “California is a state where we can play a lot of offense. There are some vulnerable Democrats out there and a lot of open seats.”
Wisecup’s California experience includes advising former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and, more recently, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman’s gubernatorial campaign. He’s consulted Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) on his successful re-election races, as well as several other Members across the country.
Johnson serves as the committee’s director of field research in his fourth cycle at the NRCC. The Arizona native began his NRCC career as a research analyst for two cycles before becoming deputy research director in 2010.
The three other Congressional committees announced the staffs for their independent expenditure arms earlier this year.
In February, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) announced Travis Lowe as IE director and Kevin McKeon as IE research director.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced Martha McKenna would serve as its IE director.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee tapped Mike DuHaime to serve as director and Greg Strimple to serve as strategist for its IE arm.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.