Bringing in the Big Guns

Posted April 6, 2005 at 6:29pm

Newly minted Senate candidate Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat who is vying for his party’s nod in Rhode Island, has hired veteran political guru Mike Donilon to serve as a media consultant.

Donilon, who was a top adviser to the failed presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), has long ties in his native Rhode Island. He has worked for Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Providence Mayor David Cicilline.

Besides helping Whitehouse, the former Ocean State attorney general, Donilon is also working for Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) this cycle and for Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) in his bid for governor of the Garden State this year.

The Morrill of the Story. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has turned to a veteran Capitol Hill and Maryland hand for advice as he explores whether to run for the Free State’s open Senate seat next year.

Van Hollen announced recently that Mike Morrill, who has extensive experience managing statewide campaigns in Maryland, is joining his exploratory committee as an adviser.

Morrill, who is currently working as a public relations consultant, was a long-time staffer to Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and served as manager for her re-election campaign last year. He also spent almost four years as communications director to then-Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening (D) and served in the same capacity during the 2002 gubernatorial campaign for Democratic nominee Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

Van Hollen is one of several Democrats actively exploring the Senate race. Former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume has already declared his intention to run.

New Blood for the Greens. The League of Conservation Voters and its advocacy arm, the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, announced new hires Wednesday to help with grass-roots activities.

Tony Massaro leaves his post as executive director of Colorado Conservation Voters to become the league’s senior vice president for political affairs and public education.

Massaro’s Colorado connections run deep — he previously served as field director for the successful campaigns of former Denver Mayor Federico Peña.

Tiernan Sittenfeld was named the league’s legislative director. She previously served as acting legislative director of U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Angela Blake Madnick was tapped to be the education fund’s vice president for education programs. She leaves the Every Child Matters Education Fund, where she was director of public affairs, to help the 501(c)(3) with its voter-

mobilization efforts.

Junk Yard Dog. Jon Anderson has left Democratic mail behemoth Malchow Schlackman Hoppey and Cooper to open his own direct-mail shop. Anderson, who was a vice president at the firm, has started Mad Dog Consultants in Atlanta.

“Yellow Dogs and Blue Dogs need the same kind of consultant in a tough campaign,” he explained in a release announcing the firm. “They need Mad Dog Consultants who tear into the opponent like a pit bull and don’t let up until the election is over.”

Anderson, who was executive director of the Georgia Democratic Party in 2002, says he based his operation in Atlanta instead of Washington, D.C., because “we could care less what happens on K Street. All we care about is our clients winning.”

Sweet Home Montana. Democratic campaign operative Matt McKenna has traded in the frozen tundra of Alaska to return to Bozeman, Mont.

A veteran of Treasure State politics, he will serve as managing director for the new Montana office of Strategies 360, a lobbying and public policy shop based in Seattle.

McKenna last headed up the communications efforts of former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles (D), who lost a tough race against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) last year.

He had a brief stint as deputy communications director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee after directing research operations on the losing re-election campaign of then-Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) in 2002.

Building Bridges. Wealthy philanthropist Rutt Bridges (D), who is weighing a gubernatorial campaign in Colorado, has signed up Jim Merlino as a consultant.

Merlino was the campaign manager for Rep. John Salazar’s (D-Colo.) successful run in the 3rd district last year.

Tyler Chafee, a former AFL-CIO political director who works at Bridges’ Denver-based Bighorn Center for Public Policy, will take a leave of absence to advise Bridges on the campaign, The Denver Post reported.

Batting for Casey. Pennsylvania Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. (D) has signed Marc Farinella on as campaign manager for his Senate bid next year, Congress Daily reported.

Farinella managed the failed 2002 campaign of former Sen. Jean Carnahan (D-Mo.).

Casey’s challenge to Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) is expected to be one of the hardest-fought races of the 2006 cycle.

Off to the Races. A longtime aide to New York Gov. George Pataki (R) and former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.) has been tapped to be president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, based in Lexington, Ky. Ed Martin currently is the executive director of New York’s Racing and Wagering Board. He will also give up his gig as host of a talk-radio show in Albany, Crain’s New York Business reported recently.

Safe Harbor. The Harbor Group has promoted one staffer and hired four new ones.

Jennifer Thomas was promoted from director to vice president. The former journalist will continue to focus on crisis communications and public affairs for the Swidler Berlin subsidiary.

Benjamin Coffey Clark and Rachel Rosenthal were hired as associates. Clark joins the public relations shop from former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, while Rosenthal comes from the Capitol Hill office of the late Rep. Robert Matsui (D-Calif.).

Rebecca Watson and Kasia Witkowski join as account coordinators.

Piling Up Awards. Stevens Reed Curcio and Potholm, a Republican media consulting firm, won five “Tellies” for ads the firm produced last year. Commercials on behalf of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Rep. Mike Oxley (R-Ohio) and Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) won Telly Awards.

The Telly Awards are distributed by the advertising community in recognition of outstanding local, regional and cable TV ads.

Has your campaign hired a new press secretary, finance director or consultant? Does your consulting firm have a new partner? Does your union have a new political director? Are you leaving Capitol Hill to start a consulting business of your own? We want to know about these and other developments in the political industry. Send all information for Shop Talk to nad@rollcall.com.

CORRECTION: An item in the April 7 Shop Talk (“Batting for Casey”) incorrectly reported that Marc Farinella had been named manager for Bob Casey Jr.’s (D) Senate campaign in Pennsylvania. Farinella is serving as interim campaign manager until a permanent one is selected. Also, Farinella managed the successful 2000 Senate campaign of the late Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan (D), not the 2002 campaign of his wife, Sen. Jean Carnahan (D), as was reported.