Catalyst for Change

Posted October 26, 2005 at 6:16pm

Two GOP fundraisers have merged. Joe Rachinsky’s Rachinsky Consulting and Nathan Wurtzel of Campaign Resources Strategies have become The Catalyst Group in Washington, D.C.

Krissy Rodriguez left the office of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), where she had been the scheduler, to assist the new firm.

Among Catalyst’s clients are: Reps. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Cathy McMorris (R-Wash.), Don Sherwood (R-Pa.) and Dave Reichert (R-Wash.).

Hildebrand Tewes Is Better Than One. A new power is rising in the Democratic consulting world, and with a high-profile issue campaign under its belt and a few Senate candidates signed up, it looks like Hildebrand Tewes Consulting will be a major player in the midterm elections and beyond.

Steve Hildebrand and Paul Tewes emerged from losing Democratic campaigns last year — Tewes was political director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Hildebrand managed the unsuccessful re-election bid of then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) — to found their own firm.

Almost immediately they scored a major coup — a coalition of big labor and liberal groups asked them to spearhead the opposition campaign to President Bush’s Social Security plan.

Tewes assembled a team comprising many former Democratic Senate campaign aides and assumed executive director duties at Americans United to Protect Social Security in Washington. Hildebrand set up shop in Sioux Falls, S.D., where he long has been stationed, and focused on the firm’s Senate and other clients, including Daschle’s still-active leadership political action committee.

Now that Bush has all but scrapped his plan to create private Social Security accounts — and many Democrats are crediting Americans United for its role — the coalition is looking to create a more enduring issue-based organization.

“There’s nothing more gratifying than being a part of the effort that defeated Bush’s No. 1 domestic priority,” said Hildebrand, who was quick to point out Tewes’ and the Democratic Congressional leadership’s leading roles. “We showed Bush’s true colors — the destructive things Bush wants to do to this country.”

The coalition, led by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, US Action, MoveOn.org, and others, has retained Hildebrand Tewes to organize and run another 501(c)(4), this time to fight Congressional Republicans’ budget cutting plan.

Emergency Campaign for America’s Priorities has grown out of Americans United and features much of the same cast of characters.

Former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee flacks Brad Woodhouse and Cara Morris, who worked on the Americans United campaign, have joined Hildebrand Tewes and will also handle communications for ECAP.

That effort is “about priorities,” Hildebrand said. They want to convince Congress, in its effort to save money, not to put programs aimed at the poor on the chopping block.

ECAP is targeting 60 House Members, 15 Senators and might even nudge some Democrats in its effort to oppose budget reconciliation legislation that includes entitlement program-cutting language.

The Environmental Defense Fund has also tapped the duo to “help convince Congress to pass meaningful climate-change legislation,” Hildebrand said. And the seven-person team has been signed as general consultants to the re-election campaigns of Sens. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) as well as the Senate campaign of Montana state Auditor John Morrison (D).

“We wanted to do a mix of issues and campaigns,” Hildebrand said.

As for whether Hildebrand and Tewes felt that beating Bush on Social Security was vindication for the Democrats’ five-seat Senate loss last year, including Daschle’s, Hildebrand insists revenge is not his motivator.

“Neither of us approached it that way,” he said. “You’re in this long enough to know you win some and you lose some and you can never go back.”

Santorum of Duty. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) has beefed up his campaign staff ahead of what is expected to be a bruising re-election effort next year.

The Republican Conference chairman has tapped Mindy Finn as director of new media and political technology.

Finn previously served as deputy director of the Republican National Committee’s eCampaign, which used e-mail and the Internet to bolster GOP efforts. Prior to that, Finn was deputy Webmaster for Bush-Cheney 2004.

Santorum also named Virginia Davis to be press secretary.

Davis previously served Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) in the same capacity, and she was the deputy press secretary on the unsuccessful 2002 Senate campaign of now-Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).

Santorum also named three regional political directors, all of whom previously have worked for him: Kim Ward, Athan Koutsiouroumbas and Luke Bernstein.

Koutsiouroumbas has also worked for Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) while Bernstein had a role on the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign.

Tip of the Stenberg. Patrick Davis has inked a general consultant deal with the 2006 Senate campaign of former Nebraska Attorney General Don Stenberg.

Davis served as political director to the National Republican Senatorial Committee last cycle.

Stenberg, who’s in a three-way race for the Nebraska Republican Senate nomination, is looking for a rematch with Sen. Ben Nelson (D), who defeated him in 2000.

Hi Ho Silverman. A creative duo has flown the Fenton Communications coop to launch its own agency.

Art Silverman and Sandra Chambers, the former creative director and art director of Fenton, respectively, have opened Op-Ad Media in Washington, D.C.

At Fenton, the team conceived most of MoveOn.org’s print ads over the past few years. They also worked for a diverse client list including Greenpeace, the American Medical Association, the Ford Foundation and Ben and Jerry’s.

Not unlike Fenton, the new firm will specialize in issue advertising for liberal campaigns and organizations.

Feeling Minnesota. New Minnesota Democratic Party Chairman Brian Melendez has put the finishing touches on his staff.

Andrew O’Leary replaced Jennifer Siems Ford as executive director, while Peggy Flanagan assumed outreach director responsibilities from Eric Mitchell earlier this year. John Schultz was made finance chairman, and longtime staffer Bill Amberg continues in his capacity as spokesman and research director.

O’Leary most recently worked on the successful primary campaign of Scott Stringer (D) for Manhattan Borough president. Prior to that, he was national field director for 21st Century Democrats. In 2002, he served as political director of the Indiana Democratic Party.

Spitzer and Polish. New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer (D) is rounding out his 2006 gubernatorial campaign staff.

Ryan Toohey, who worked on Spitzer’s 1998 AG campaign, is serving as campaign manager, Crain’s New York Business reported this week.

Toohey tapped Patrick Jenkins, formerly of Rep. Gregory Meeks’ (D-N.Y.) office, and municipal worker Miriam Hess Berlin to be his deputies.

Spitzer loyalist Cynthia Darrison and Kristie Stiles, who worked on the unsuccessful presidential campaign of former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), are fundraisers, while investment banker Paul Francis is chief policy adviser. Attorney Priscilla Almodovar was named deputy policy director.