Ron Arnold's Left Tracking Library


John Podesta

A former Clinton White House Chief of Staff, creator of the left-wing Center for American Progress, leader of Barack Obama's presidential transition team, and most powerful node in the Obama public support network.

John Podesta:



John Podesta was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1949. His grandparents immigrated to America from Italy and Greece, and his father left high school after one year to take a factory job and support his family. John has been a lifelong practicing Catholic.
Podesta graduated in 1971 from Knox College in Illinois and got his law degree at Georgetown University Law School in 1976.
He then worked as a trial attorney in the Department of Justice’s Honors Program in the Land and Natural Resources Division (1976-1977), as a Special Assistant to the Director of ACTION, the federal volunteer agency (1978-1979).

Little-known fact: Podesta's political career actually began while he was still an undergraduate, working with Bill Clinton in 1970 on Democrat Joe Duffy’s unsuccessful bid for a Senate seat from Connecticut. You don't get official points for that.

John Podesta began as a Capitol Hill aide in 1979, counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass). Kennedy’s chief committee aide was Stephen Breyer, now a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
When Republicans won the Senate majority in 1980, Podesta served as minority counsel in bitter partisan fights, where his political acumen impressed even his opponents.
Podesta became chief counsel to the Senate Agriculture Committee (1987-1988) under Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

In 1988 he left the Senate to found a powerhouse lobbying firm with his brother, Tony (right), known as Podesta Associates, Inc.

e returned to the Hill as a counselor to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) (1995 to 1996). Later, many of Obama’s campaign hands came from Daschle’s circle, then appointed to White House posts on Podesta's recommendation.

Podesta was named Clinton chief of staff in October 1998 on the eve of the president’s impeachment. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said, ''They'd be stupid not to put him in there, because he's got all the ability in the world. He's a very loyal, dedicated man.”

Podesta gained a reputation in the White House as a hard-working man of rare humor (an "acerbic wit," he says) who made both Democrats and Republicans comfortable.

Friends called him
"a straight-shooter with a low threshold for nonsense." Nonsense or failure to do the job called forth a "mean, surly presence" his White House colleagues nicknamed "Skippy," to be avoided at all costs. The alter-ego was famous for dressing down subordinates who didn’t perform, and is said to have followed him to his CEO position at the Center for American Progress.

Personal: He is married to Mary S. Podesta, a Washington, D.C. attorney. They have three children. He describes himself as "an avid runner and a dedicated fan of roller coasters" and is known as a UFO buff and devotee of Fox TV’s nine-season sci-fi hit, "The X Files."



Podesta’s greatest political achievement is the creation of the progressive think-tank Center for American Progress (CAP). It fulfills the liberal craving for an institution to match the conservative Heritage Foundation. CAP writes policy papers, hosts and, which sends out a daily radio feed to liberal stations.

While other leftists simply wanted to repackage their message, Podesta saw that it was necessary to reinvent liberal ideas entirely. He has explored new ideas and new policies as well as new technology, at which he excels.

Podesta carved out a niche for himself at the nexus between technology and law during his White House years. This lasting interest carried over into his management of the Center for American Progress, reflected in his sponsorship and publication of the controversial document The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio and

hiring race-obsessed, corporation-hating Mark Lloyd - a co-author of the talk radio document - as a Senior Fellow.

He is also very interested in the environment, having served on the board of the League of Conservation Voters during the Bush years and encouraged environmental. leaders to push for the rash of last-minute Clinton administration National Monument proclamations that destroyed private and state land values by imposing draconian limits on human activity. In a more ceremonial move, he and his brother, Tony, organized the huge rally to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Earth Day in 1990

Podesta also worked with Brarack Obama as co-leader of his presidential transition team, a job that required great powers of coordination and a Rolodex of key names fifty feet long to fill literally hundreds of positions in the new Obama administration.
Podesta’s ties to Democratic heavyweights are long and deep.

Podesta particularly worked with high-tech genius Julius Genachowski, co-chair of the Technology, Innovation, and Government Reform Group during the Obama transition and worked to encourage Obama to appoint Genachowski as FCC (Federal Communications Commission) Chairman.


Although not officially part of the Obama administration, John Podesta arguably wields more influence at the White House than all but a few of his close Chicago friends, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (center) and Senior Advisor David Alexrod.


Podesta is also friendly with Pete Rouse, Obama’s former Senate chief of staff. Rouse is seriously important.

A veteran aide to former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Obama inherited Rouse when he was elected to the Senate in 2004, shortly after Daschle lost his re-election bid.
Pete Rouse was known as the 101st senator during his time on Capitol Hill, having began working in the House in 1973, and has a large network of friends in high places, including Daschle and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), for whom Rouse worked as chief of staff.

Obama is said to have told Rouse as soon as they met, "I can make a pretty good speech, but I have no idea how the U.S. Senate works." Rouse taught him.

Now Rouse wields direct power as a Senior Advisor in the White House.
Podesta and these powerful leaders have the same agenda, the same outlook, and the determination to impose Obama's vision for ruling America.