By ANNE SCHROEDER MULLINS | 09/10/2009 05:00 AM
In the ultracompetitive culture of DC, loyalty is a priceless commodity.
In the ultracompetitive culture of Washington, enemies can spring from all directions: old drinking buddies, former staff members, ex-flings. Which makes loyalty a priceless commodity.
But where can you find that in a city obsessed with getting ahead? From the same person who made sure the elementary school bully didn’t walk away with your lunch money: your brother or sister. “I know Harry Truman said if you want a true friend in Washington, get a dog,” says Pam Smith, a staffer for Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). “But a sibling does the trick, too.” And Smith would know. Her younger brother is Mike Smith, vice president of Cornerstone Government Affairs.
Washington has a long tradition of powerful siblings, but President Barack Obama appears to have ushered in a new era of powerhouse families: Rahm and Zeke Emanuel holding down key administration posts, while John and Tony Podesta hold sway in a party that controls both chambers of Congress and the White House. POLITICO’s list of Washington’s top power siblings combines some well-known names with the next generation of political packages.
Rahm, Ezekiel and Ari Emanuel
Rahm, Ezekiel and Ari Emanuel have been at or near the pinnacle of their respective professions for so long that they are the ultimate in power siblings.
This year, media interest in the family as a whole spiked as each of the three brothers became even more powerful and influential. Rahm, 49, left Congress to become President Barack Obama’s chief of staff. Leading bioethicist Zeke, 51, also joined the Obama administration as a special adviser for health policy. Hollywood superagent Ari, 48, merged his Endeavor Talent Agency with William Morris to create a monster agency with annual revenues of $300 million.
And naturally, everyone wants to know: How does one family manage to produce so many dynamos? After several stories probing the brothers’ upbringing, the family retreated somewhat from the media spotlight.
The usually press-friendly — or, at least, accessible — Rahm declined The New York Times’ interview requests for an extensive front-page Sunday profile. And the brothers’ parents, Benjamin and Marsha (who also have a daughter, Shoshanna), now have their own representative. A voice mail recording on the phone at their suburban Chicago home refers the press to a spokesman, who then refers reporters to Michael Donkis, a Los Angeles public relations exec who previously worked at Ari’s talent agency.
“Obviously, Ari’s tremendously high profile and now Rahm with his new job — all of a sudden, it got to this point where there were a lot of press inquiries coming in to the family,” Donkis told POLITICO. “I decided I’d help pitch in.”
POLITICO nonetheless got hold of Benjamin Emanuel — a retired pediatrician — who said, “I don’t talk to journalists, sorry.” Afterward, Rahm’s spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg issued a sternly worded brushback to the media.
“Dr. and Mrs. Emanuel are private citizens,” she told POLITICO in a statement. “The Emanuel family would greatly appreciate it if reporters would respect their privacy and refrain from calling them at their home.”
John and Tony Podesta
The Podesta brothers are fixtures on the D.C. political landscape. Together, they started Podesta Associates in the late 1980s. John later made his name as Bill Clinton’s chief of staff and has gone on to establish the think tank Center for American Progress, which has also become a breeding ground for Obama administration officials. Tony, one of the city’s most influential lobbyists, is the chairman of the renamed Podesta Group.
Secretary Ken Salazar and Rep. John Salazar
Though plugged into Colorado politics, these brothers have also successfully taken on the Beltway. Ken, 54, is the Secretary of the Interior. John, 56, has represented the 3rd District of Colorado since 2005 — and considers himself a rancher. Their Stetson hats, bolo ties and cowboy boots may give off a country vibe, but these two ooze political know-how. Rep. Betsy Markey (D-Colo.) tells POLITICO: “Ken and John represent the kind of Western independence that defines Colorado. We are lucky to have them.”
Reps. Loretta and Linda Sanchez
If there were a sister caucus, these Democratic congresswomen from California would co-chair it. Loretta, 49, is a Blue Dog and the typical older sister, admittedly “bossy.” Linda, 40, is part of the Progressive Caucus, a bit more liberal than the conservative Blue Dogs. They share a jokey sense of humor — Linda won the “Funniest Celebrity in Washington” title a few years back — and an ability to lead: Both have chaired House subcommittees. Loretta presides over the Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism, which is part of the Committee on Homeland Security. Linda headed up the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law.
And if you want to win points with these gals, learn the difference. “I really enjoy having an older sister who I never get confused for,” Linda jokes, “despite the fact that we serve on completely different committees and I am a much better baseball player.”
Mike and Tom Donilon
After many years of heavy involvement in Democratic politics, these brothers have each become an integral part of the White House team. Mike, 50, is the counselor to the vice president, while Tom, 54, serves as the deputy national security adviser. As political hands go, Tom has been around the block: In the Clinton years, he worked for the State Department as assistant secretary of state for public affairs and chief of staff under Warren Christopher’s tenure. He was later made executive vice president at Fannie Mae.
Howard and Harold Koh
Howard, 57, is the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services. Harold, 54, is a State Department legal adviser. They’re both integral to their operations yet are often confused for one another, as they told the Boston Globe recently: “People regularly get our names confused and think I’m the lawyer and he’s the doctor,” said Howard. “In fact,” added Harold, “one colleague of mine was watching C-SPAN and sees Howie in Sweden or something, giving a paper about malignant melanoma or something, and said, ‘I had no idea Harold had such range!’”
Mike and Tom Manatos
Mike, 41, is the vice president of Manatos & Manatos, a public affairs lobbying firm. Tom, 30, is deputy director of member services for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. They couldn’t help but be in government, as their family has been in public policy development for more than 70 years: Their father was assistant secretary of commerce for Jimmy Carter, and their grandfather was the head of Senate liaison for both John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
“Both of us love working in government and politics,” Tom says. “And it is in our blood, since we are the third generation of our family to do so.”
Mike says: “On the Hill, Tom may be known as one of the most talented young staffers, but in my home, he’s the world’s greatest baby sitter.”
Jen, Stephanie and Kristen Psaki
Here’s a triumvirate of sisterly talent: Jen, 30, is a spokeswoman for the White House; Stephanie, 28, is a title researcher at the National Institutes of Health and a Ph.D. candidate; and Kristen, 24, is the co-founder of the DC Project.
Long hours are no match for these gals, especially Kristen, who worked for the Obama campaign and as a field researcher and new media director in Florida. So don’t be surprised when these three wind up at the top of their fields. Where does Jen see the Psaki sisters in 10 years? “I hope to be retired and living in Hawaii. Kristen will probably be running a nonprofit that is changing the world, and Stephanie will be in Africa working on women’s health issues.”
Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart
Part of South Florida’s political dynasty, Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart represent the Republican connection to Cuban-Americans. Lincoln, 55, a lawyer, is known to be the more methodical and buttoned-up of the two. In 1996, he played a lead role in the legislation that strengthened the embargo against Cuba’s dictatorship. Mario, 47, followed his older brother to Washington after serving 14 years in the state Legislature. Mario serves on the Budget Committee and founded the Everglades Caucus.
Brendan, Matthew and Corbett Daly
Brendan Daly, 47, is a familiar name to many on the Hill: He’s Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s longtime communications director. His twin, Matt, is an AP reporter covering Pacific Northwest issues, and brother Corbett, 38, is an economic reporter for Reuters. (They have another brother, Sean, 53, who is a TV reporter in Rhode Island.)
Brendan says having a twin can get tricky in the Capitol at times: “Last year, my brother Matthew was in the House press gallery writing a story. He got to chatting with a reporter for a large metropolitan daily, and soon he noticed the reporter take out his notebook and start taking notes. He had to tell the reporter he was not me, so he shouldn’t be quoting him.” Back in 2002, when Pelosi was minority whip, Brendan went to the whip meeting only to be told by a member, “This meeting is closed to press.”
Curt and Wes Anderson
After working on numerous GOP campaigns, Curt, 47, started the Anderson Group in 1997. Wes, 42, joined in 1998, and in 2005, they started On Message Inc., a marketing communications firm. They boast a client list including Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, Steve Forbes, the Bush/Cheney campaign and former Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential bid.
“Our firm is one big argument,” Curt says. “I feel bad for our third partner, Brad Todd, but not really, because he is just as opinionated as we are. That said, it is great to know that someone always has your back.”
Wes weighs in: “We share the same pastime … disagreeing with each other. One reason we are able to vigorously disagree without ever endangering our friendship is because we place a high value on loyalty. Same is true of our partner Brad.”
Mr. Senator, Meet the Editor
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) took office in January, and in doing so, he gave Washington another power-sibling pair: His brother, James Bennet, is editor of The Atlantic Monthly. Both brothers have long and varied runs of success: Michael, 44, was managing director at the Anschutz Investment Co. before turning to public service in his home state of Colorado. James, 43, worked the Middle East beat as Jerusalem bureau chief for The New York Times before being tapped to run The Atlantic. And both have enough Yale in their education to make their family proud: Michael attended law school there, and James obtained his undergrad degree at the university.
Kenneth P. Vogel contributed to this story.