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CAP Faces Challenges as Podesta Steps Back

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo

“By pulling out of the day-to-day, I will be able to pursue two parallel objectives,” Podesta wrote. “Inside CAP, I intend to use this greater time and latitude to play an instrumental role in planning CAP’s strategic growth, increasing our financial support, and drawing new initiatives into the organization. On the outside, I will continue teaching as a visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center and working part-time as an uncompensated senior advisor at the State Department.”

Podesta began advising Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on foreign policy issues last month, a State Department official told Foreign Policy magazine.

The transition in leadership at CAP had been in the works for several months and was timed so the organization could begin the election year with the new team in place and with a whole year to prepare policy ideas for the next Congress.

“I consider Neera the best and the brightest coming out of the Clinton world. She has a very clear perspective of all the issues,” said Jimmy Ryan, a former chief counsel to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) now at the lobbying firm Elmendorf Ryan. “In the absence of great new ideas, it’s important to have groups out there that are focusing not on campaigns but on pulling together policy ideas.”

Podesta, who served as President Bill Clinton’s last chief of staff, founded CAP in 2003. The think tank served as an unofficial Democratic policy headquarters during the George W. Bush years and later became an ally of the Obama administration.

He led Obama’s White House transition team, and when the new president took office, about one-third of CAP’s staff flocked to the administration, including Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, and Gayle Smith, senior director at the National Security Council.

Still, some Democratic lobbyists remain impressed by the talent the organization has been able to attract and keep.

“A lot of people thought that CAP was going to disappear when Democrats reclaimed the White House,” one such lobbyist noted. “They are still here.”

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