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Ryan Beefs Up Speaker's Communications Team

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 4:00 p.m. | One of Paul D. Ryan’s plans for the speakership was to make up for less time spent on the road with more time spent communicating the GOP’s message. In a sign he plans to deliver on that pledge, the Wisconsin Republican announced Monday eight appointments to his communications staff.  

“This speakership is going to be about communicating a conservative vision and bold agenda for the American people, and I’m building a first-rate team to help me do the job,” Ryan said in a statement. Along with Brendan Buck, who was his communications director on Ways and Means and was already announced as chief communications adviser in the speaker’s office, the fresh crop of hires include four other staffers Ryan is bringing over from Ways and Means, three Boehner holdovers, and one former presidential campaign and Senate press aide.  

In addition to the communications team appointments, Ryan announced that his longtime chief of staff Andy Speth will serve as senior adviser in the speaker’s office.  

Buck told CQ Roll Call Ryan plans to add another two to four people to the communications team and that the office will also be re-examining how each role works.  

Ryan “has hired a very well qualified communications team,” said Ron Bonjean, who served as communications director to former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert. “They’ve done a really well-rounded job of figuring out what strengths each person can bring to the table.”  

With experience in the House, Senate, presidential trail and Wisconsin politics, Bonjean said, “It’s pretty clear that they’re bringing the Delta Force squad into the speaker’s office.”  

Ryan will have one of the largest communications teams on the Hill because of the “huge expectations” on the speaker’s operation to effectively communicate the Republican Conference’s message, Bonjean added.  

Ryan’s current team of nine communications staffers is equivalent in size to former Speaker John A. Boehner’s communications team.  

“Every speaker kind of has different numbers,” said John Feehery, who spent six years as Hastert’s lead spokesman. “Newt had a huge communications team. Hastert had a small one. Boehner had a big one.”  

Feehery, president of Quinn Gillespie Communications, said “the most important thing is to make sure everyone is coordinated and has their own role and they’re not stepping on each other’s toes.”  

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had around 10 communications staffers when she was speaker, her former communications director Brendan Daly told CQ Roll Call. Pelosi’s team included Daly and two others staffers that spoke to the press on the record — Nadeam Elshami, now Pelosi’s chief of staff and Drew Hammill, now deputy chief of staff — as well as staff focused on the team’s digital communications effort.  

In addition to communicating the speaker’s individual views, Pelosi’s team put together fact sheets on bills, developed talking points on legislation, and met with press staff for the Democratic caucus and other House Democratic leaders.  

“When you’re the speaker’s office, you’re also in charge of the whole caucus,” Daly said.  

One thing Ryan’s team can do that Boehner’s did not is engage more with conservative media, in addition to the mainstream media, Feehery said.  

“I think it’s important for him to engage with all parts of the media universe, including conservative critics,” he said.  

The eight communications staffers Ryan announced Monday are:

  • Vanessa Day, senior communications adviser. Day has led Ryan’s digital communications efforts for eight years on the Ways and Means and Budget Committees. She also worked on the 2012 presidential campaign for GOP nominee Mitt Romney and Ryan, his running mate.
  • Brian Bolduc, director of speechwriting. Bolduc was Ryan’s chief speechwriter on the Budget Committee, did speechwriting work for the Romney-Ryan campaign in 2012, and was senior communications adviser for Ryan at Ways and Means.
  • Mike Ricci, communications director. Ricci was deputy communications director under Boehner.
  • Caleb Smith, digital communications director. Smith stays in the role he held under Boehner.
  • Sarah Swinehart, director of media affairs, remaining in the role she held under Boehner. Prior to joining the speaker’s office, she served in the Ways and Means press office under former Chairman Dave Camp.
  • AshLee Strong, press secretary. Strong most recently worked as national press secretary for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential campaign. She was previously communications director for Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune, R-S.D.
  • Doug Andres, press secretary for White House press. Andres was Ryan’s press secretary on Ways and Means and previously did press for the House Rules Committee.
  • Molly Edwards, deputy press secretary. Edwards also served in that role on Ways and Means.

 

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