- 1 Early Life/Family/Personal
- 2 Education
- 3 Career
- 4 Affiliations
- 5 Progressive Governance Conference
- 5.1 ACORN’s Outside Advisory Committee
- 5.2 Apollo Alliance
- 5.3 Center for a New American Security
- 5.4 Center for American Progress
- 5.5 Century Foundation
- 5.6 Constitution Project
- 5.7 Corporation for National and Community Service
- 5.8 Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
- 5.9 League of Conservation Voters
- 5.10 Progressive States Network
- 5.11 Soros Connections
- 5.12 Truman National Security Project
- 5.13 Roosevelt Institute
- 6 Roosevelt Institute
- 7 Political/Financial Stances
- 8 Quotes
- 9 Publications
- 10 External Links
- 11 References
John David Podesta (born January 8, 1949) was the fourth and final White House Chief of Staff under President Bill Clinton, from 1998 until 2001. He is married to Mary Podesta. Podesta is the president and CEO of the left-wing Center for American Progress. Under his leadership, the Center, founded in 2003, has become a notable leader in the development and advocacy for progressive policy. Podesta also served on the action fund and executive committee of the Center for American Progress. Podesta was a co-chairman of the Obama-Biden Transition Project. He is also a graduate of Knox College and the Georgetown University Law Center, where he is currently a Visiting Professor of Law and is teaching classes on Congressional investigations and technology law and policy.
Podesta spent most of his early years in Chicago where he grew up in Jefferson Park on the city's Northwest Side with his Italian-American father, his Greek-American mother and his brother, Tony. Podesta came from a blue-collar family where his father worked in a factory for 50 years.
Podesta is a huge fan of roller coasters. He describes himself in his own biography as a “straight-talker” with an “acerbic wit.” Podesta is also known as Skippy, an alter-ego famous for dressing down subordinates who don’t perform. Podesta also trained for a time to become a Jesuit priest.
In 1971, Podesta graduated from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. He attended the Georgetown University Law Center and graduated in 1976. Podesta worked as a trial attorney for the Department of Justice's Honors Program in the Land and Natural Resources Division (1976–1977) and as a Special Assistant to the Director of ACTION, the Federal volunteer agency (1978–1979).
Podesta's older brother Tony baptized him into the left side of politics in the 1960s. They became part of the anti-war movement. Following that calling, they went to work for the Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern presidential campaigns in 1968 and 1972.
He met Bill Clinton for the first time in 1970. They both devoted their efforts to the anti-war candidate Joseph Duffy's unsuccessful Senate campaign in Connecticut. Podesta and Clinton then went on to work for the McGovern campaign in 1972.
Following in the steps of Capitol Hill power brokers, Podesta started his career as an aide in 1979. He was counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee at that time chaired by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA). In 1980, while Republicans held the Senate majority and amid brutal partisan Senate confirmation battles, Podesta served as minority counsel. He thrived on the conflict and the political brawling.
Podesta was also chief minority counsel for the Senate Judiciary Subcommittees on Patents, Copyrights and Trademarks, Security and Terrorism and Regulatory Reform (1981-1987).
Podesta also served as chief counsel to the Senate Agriculture Committee from 1987 to 1988 under Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
From Discover the Networks:
- Podesta served on the staff of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) from 1981 to 1988. Leahy was an early advocate of circumventing the U.S. Constitution by gaining control over federal courts. Podesta assisted Leahy in pioneering the indiscriminate smearing and filibustering of any and all Republican judicial nominees -- a practice previously unknown in Washington.
In 1988, he went on to form a powerhouse lobbying firm, Podesta Associates, Inc., with his brother, Tony Podesta. One of their first clients was Michael Dukakis. Podesta served as opposition research director -- commonly known as a “dirt digger” -- for Dukakis' 1988 presidential campaign. He returned to the Hill as a counselor to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) from 1995 to 1996.
Podesta served as White House Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton. He served in the president’s cabinet and as a principal on the National Security Council. While in the White House, Podesta also served as both an assistant to the president and Deputy Chief of Staff, as well as Staff Secretary and a Senior Policy Advisor on government information, privacy, telecommunications security and regulatory policy.
He is best known for his role in containing the damage from the myriad scandals in the Clinton White House; from Whitewater, to the travel office firings, to the affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky that led to Clinton’s impeachment in December 1998.
From 1993 to 1995, Podesta served as Clinton’s staff secretary — a job in which he controlled the paper flow to the president’s desk. In 1995, he left to return to his alma-mater, Georgetown University’s Law Center, to teach a course on congressional inquiries from the perspective of the “tortured,” as he likes to put it. When Clinton won re-election, Podesta returned as deputy chief of staff and assistant to the president, assuming the role of chief of staff during the last two years of the Clinton presidency.
Relationship With Bill Clinton
Clinton and Podesta met during the 1970s as they worked to organize adjacent districts in a Connecticut Senate contest. The fact that he did not have a long friendship with the president might have helped him to forgive Clinton for lying directly to him in the Lewinsky matter. “He has asked for our forgiveness, and I've certainly forgiven him, and I think he wants to move on. I think the country wants to move on,” Podesta told CNN in October 1998, two months before Clinton was impeached by the House.
But Podesta’s loyalty to Clinton got him into trouble legally more than once as he became a frequent grand jury guest. During his time serving in the Clinton White House, Podesta managed to suppress numerous federal investigations into Clinton wrongdoing and helped short-circuit the Clinton impeachment proceedings through brokering backroom deals.
He became enmeshed in the Lewinsky matter when he twice suggested the intern’s name as a job prospect to then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, as a favor to then Clinton secretary Betty Currie. A fanatic of the TV show “X-Files,” Podesta joked about art imitating life in his three grand jury appearances. “Was that a trick question?” he bantered when asked whether he was the same John Podesta who appeared before the grand jury the previous week, explaining to jurors that he had seen the X-Files over the weekend and thus couldn’t be sure.
From Discover the Networks:
- The Clintons recognized Podesta's talent for scandal-suppression early. While still a mere staff secretary at the White House in 1993, Podesta found himself swamped with so many scandal clean-up assignments that he nicknamed himself, "Secretary of [Expletive]." "He's good at it," James Carville remarked to the Washington Post.
In 2009, Podesta accompanied former President Clinton to North Korea for negotiations securing the release of two American journalists imprisoned on espionage charges. He can be seen in numerous widely circulated photographs of Clinton meeting with Kim Jong Il.
- Podesta's most lasting contribution to the leftist cause came through his promotion of a strategy that White House aides dubbed "Project Podesta." This was a system that enabled the Clintons to push through unpopular policies that neither Congress nor the American people wanted. Its implementation marked a dramatic tilt in the balance of power, giving the executive branch an unprecedented ability to force its will on the legislative branch.
- Project Podesta enabled the President to bypass Congress through the use of executive orders, presidential decision directives, White-House-sponsored lawsuits, vacancy appointments to high federal office, selective regulatory actions against targeted corporations, and a host of other extra-constitutional tactics.
- In short, Podesta showed the Clintons that they could gain by force what they might fail to achieve through legislation. "Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kind of cool," quipped White House aide Paul Begala to The New York Times on July 5, 1998, in response to questions about the Clintons' growing disdain for the will of Congress.
- When US News and World Report first revealed the existence of Project Podesta on November 1, 1999, two Congressional hearings convened to investigate the Clintons' abuse of executive power. But the investigators issued no reports and took no action.
- Regarding Podesta's war of attrition against tobacco firms and gun manufacturers, even Clinton's former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich warned fellow leftists in the January 17, 2000 issue of The American Prospect, "You might approve the outcomes in these two cases, but they establish a precedent for other cases you might find wildly unjust.… [T]hese lawsuits are blatant end-runs around the democratic process."
- Project Podesta reached its logical conclusion in Al Gore's effort to litigate his way into the White House in 2000. During the infamous 36-day, post-election stand-off, Podesta worked behind the scenes with Gore's legal team even as the Clinton White House publicly declared its neutrality. Podesta bears personal responsibility for forcing the election into the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Most of official Washington assumed that the election crisis would end on November 14, when Gore's recount deadline expired and Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris would certify the winner. In order to reassure Americans that this would be the case, General Services Administration head David Barram held a press conference on November 8, 2000, at which he announced that he was ready to release the $5.8 million in presidential transition funds and to open the transition offices to whichever candidate was certified the winner on November 14. Barram repeated this promise several times via radio and television interviews.
- However, on November 13 -- the day before the recount deadline -- John Podesta sent a memo to Barram ordering him to keep the transition offices locked and to withhold the presidential transition funds, thus giving Gore extra time to litigate.
- Bush won the Florida recount, as expected. But the transition offices remained locked. Podesta's unprecedented act stunned official Washington and plunged America into a constitutional crisis.
European Socialist ties
The Party of European Socialists dialogue with the US Democrats and the Transatlantic partnership "was a priority over the last years" (written in 2009).
Delegations, meetings and exchanges of information were held on a regular basis. After the victory in the Congress, where the Democrats won the double majority, a Party of European Socialists Delegation, led by PES President Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, discovered the new mood in Washington D.C., on 15-18 April 2007. It had meetings with Governor Howard Dean, Chair of the DLC; Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), Chairman of the Committee on Financial Services; Senator Bernie Sanders and with Senator Ben Cardin; John Podesta, CEO of the Center for American Progress, Former Chief of staff of President Clinton; John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO and Andy Stern, Chair of Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The underlying motive of the delegation was reiterated with the need for US and EU progressive forces to actively prepare for the post-Bush EU-US relations. 
Progressive Governance Conference
Hosted by the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, and organized in partnership with the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), the conference brought together centre-left leaders from across Europe and other countries around the world, as well as over 200 leading academics, political thinkers and policymakers.
The Norwegian prime minister welcomed a number of heads of state and party leaders including: George Papandreou, prime minister of Greece; Boris Tadic, president of Serbia; Eamon Gilmore, deputy prime minister of Ireland; Job Cohen, leader of the Dutch Labour party; Håkan Juholt, leader of the Swedish Social Democrats; Caroline Gennez, leader of the Flemish Socialist Party; Ed Milliband, leader of the UK Labour party; Helle Thorning-Schmidt, leader of the Danish Social Democrats; Victor Ponta, leader of the Romanian Socialist party.
Leading academics, political figures and policy thinkers included, among others: Tom Bentley, deputy chief of staff to the Australian prime minister; Liam Byrne, UK shadow secretary of state for work and pensions; Helen Clark, head of the UN development programme; Anna Diamantopoulou, Greek minister of education; Marco Aurelio Garcia, senior foreign policy adviser to the Brazilian President; Jacob Hacker, professor at Yale University; Will Hutton, executive vice-chair of the Work Foundation; Raymond Johansen, secretary general of the Norwegian Labour Party; Karen Kornbluh, US ambassador to the OECD; Pascal Lamy, director-general of the WTO; Enrico Letta, deputy secretary of the Italian Democratic Party; Matthias Machnig, minister of labour, economics and technology in the German state of Thuringia; Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, president of the Party of European Socialists; John Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress; Andrés Velasco, former minister of finance of Chile.
ACORN’s Outside Advisory Committee
In 2009, the ACORN Outside Advisory Committee comprised of John Banks - Vice President of Government Relations Con Ed, Dave Beckwith - Executive Director, Needmor Fund, Henry Cisneros - Executive Chairman, Cityview, Eric Eve - Senior VP of Global Consumer Group, Community Relations, Citigroup, Harvey Hirschfeld - President, Lawcash, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend - Board Member, RFK Foundation, former MD Lt. Governor, John Podesta - President and CEO, Center for American Progress, Andy Stern - International President, Service Employees International Union.
Center for a New American Security
Center for American Progress
John Podesta is the president and chief executive officer of Center for American Progress. As the head of Center for American Progress, a think tank he founded in 2003 to revitalize the progressive movement by thinking outside the Democratic box, Podesta has been preparing for a Democratic revolution since the eight years of the George W. Bush presidency. Podesta took a leave of absence from CAP to serve as President Barack Obama's transition co-chair, but has no formal role in the administration. He has furthered CAP extensively in both reach and power under the Obama administration. Podesta was hand picked by George Soros and Morton Halperin, according to a March 1, 2004 report in The Nation by Robert Dreyfuss. Inside sources have described CAP as "the official Hillary Clinton think tank" - a media spin machine and policy generator designed to serve as a springboard for Mrs. Clinton's presidential ambitions.
Podesta’s single biggest policy achievement, was the creation of the progressive think-tank CAP in 2003. CAP writes policy papers, hosts ThinkProgress.com and MicCheckRadio.org, which sends out a daily radio feed to liberal stations.
When other progressives were looking to simply repackage their message, Podesta sought to reinvent liberal ideas entirely. Podesta, for instance, is intrigued by the idea of a “flatter tax” that would tax income and investments.
Podesta has written some 40 articles for CAP on climate change, Iraq and the pitfalls of too much government secrecy.
Podesta established CAP to rival the depth and breadth of the conservative movement’s Heritage Foundation and the think-tank, which is entirely underwritten by private donors, has snagged such wealthy benefactors as George Soros, Peter Lewis, chairman of Progressive Insurance, and the Hollywood producer Steve Bing.
Corporation for National and Community Service
Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
League of Conservation Voters
Progressive States Network
In 2010, John Podesta served on the Board of Directors for the Progressive States Network, an organization which seeks to "transform the political landscape by sparking progressive actions at the state level".
On November 29, 2006, Open Society Institute held a roundtable discussion entitled "How Do Progressives Connect Ideas to Action?"
- Individuals and organizations with similarly progressive goals often dilute their power by working alone or even working at cross-purposes. As Americans who are politically left of center move forward, questions of infrastructure, communication, and collaboration are particularly important.
Participants included several key leaders of the "progressive" movement;
- Deepak Bhargava, Center for Community Change
- Robert Borosage, Campaign for America's Future.
- Rosa Brooks, Open Society Institute
- Anna Burger, Service Employees International Union
- Eric Foner, Columbia University, Department of History
- Michel Gelobter, Redefining Progress
- Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker
- Alan Jenkins, Opportunity Agenda
- Gara LaMarche, Open Society Institute
- Jal Mehta, New Vision Institute for Policy and Progress
- David Moss, The Tobin Project
- Iara Peng, Young People For
- Stephanie Robinson, The Jamestown Project at Yale
- Joel Rogers, University of Wisconsin Law School
- Andrea Batista Schlesinger, Drum Major Institute for Public Policy
- Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Nation - Editor
- John Podesta, Center for American Progress
- Michael Waldman, The Brennan Center for Justice
- Matthew Yglesias, The American Prospect
Truman National Security Project
As at September 8, 2010, John Podesta served on the Board of Directors for the Truman National Security Project. The project is an organization that seeks to recruit, train and elect progressives who will impact on national security legislation.
- Jim Dean
- Representative Rosa DeLauro
- Al From
- Katrina vanden Heuvel
- Representative Zoe Lofgren
- Senator Richard Lugar
- Dee Dee Myers
- Amy Overton
- Robert Reich
- Simon Rosenberg
- Rob Stein
- Jim Roosevelt
- Patricia Bauman
- Bill Perry
- John Podesta
- John Prendergast
- Robert Borosage
The Roosevelt Institute works closely with many progressive political and educational organizations to encourage public debate, promote sound public policy and involve students in the civic life of their communities. In addition, they are supportive of the efforts of a wide range of groups involved in similar progressive causes. Partners include:
Women's Voices. Women Vote.
Podesta carved out a niche for himself at the nexus between technology and law during his White House years. Podesta’s ties to Democratic power brokers are long and deep. His brother, Tony, is head of Podesta Associates, Inc. and has represented clients such as Amgen Inc. and Lockheed Martin. John Podesta is a registered lobbyist for CAP.
Tony’s wife, Heather Podesta, has a separate lobbying practice and proudly sported an “L” on her lapel to have fun with the idea that lobbyists were outcasts in Obama’s world.
Podesta has a very close relationship with ex-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, now the Mayor of Chicago (they are both Chicago natives). He is also friendly with Pete Rouse, Obama’s former Senate Chief of Staff who is a senior adviser in the new White House.
Co-chaired Obama’s Transition Team
John Podesta served Barack Obama as co-chair of the president's transition team, where he coordinated the priorities of the incoming administration’s agenda, oversaw the development of its policies, and spearheaded its appointments of major cabinet secretaries and political appointees.
Podesta is also very interested in the environment, having served on the board of the League of Conservation Voters during the Bush years. He and his brother, Tony, organized a huge rally to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Earth Day in 1990.
Podesta was a featured speaker at the March 2008 "Take Back America" conference of Campaign for America's Future. It was at this forum that he declared global warming was a "severe national security problem" and that President Bush had failed to address it in any meaningful way.
John Podesta has supported efforts from the UFO research community to pressure the United States government to release files to the public. At a 2002 news conference organized by Coalition for Freedom of Information, Podesta stated that, "It is time for the government to declassify records that are more than 25 years old and to provide scientists with data that will assist in determining the real nature of this phenomenon." When he worked for the Clinton White House, Podesta was in charge of a project to declassify 800 million pages of intelligence documents.
- “A majority isn't enough; we've got to break a filibuster over there, ... That's a sad commentary on the state of where this Congress is.” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/30/11)
- “...basically just didn't care if we followed Justice Department guidelines.” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/19/11)
- “I believe that President Clinton considered the legal merits of the arguments for the pardon as he understood them, and he rendered his judgment, wise or unwise, on the merits.” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/19/11)
- “I did answer all of the questions put to me today, ... Nothing in my testimony in any way contradicted the strong denials that the president has made to these allegations, and since I have been asked to return and answer some additional questions, I think that it's best that I not answer any questions out here and reserve that to the grand jury.” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/30/11)
- “I think ... that things are a little bit up for grabs right now...” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/30/11)
- “I think you've got to deal with it on a one-step-at-a-time basis. We don't want to see a long timeout, if you will, from the peace-making process, ... Late Edition.” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/30/11)
- “If medicine was practiced in 1965 the way it's practiced today, there's no question that prescriptions would have been included in Medicare.” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/30/11)
- “If there's a will to do it, there's certainly a way to do it, and we're going to keep pressing for it. We refuse to give up on it...” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/30/11)
- “It is time for the government to declassify records that are more than 25 years old and to provide scientists with data that will assist in determining the real nature of this phenomenon.” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/30/11)
- “NATO did do an assessment of putting ground troops in, in a nonpermissive environment, and those plans and assessments
could be updated quickly if we decide to do that, need to do that, ... Meet The Press.” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/30/11)
- “Our administration has already moved to liberalize export controls on encryption, allowing more companies to export the technology to more end users. And we've done so while maintaining a framework necessary to protect our national security, ... Today we are announcing significant new updates.” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/23/11)
- “Realistically, I think we are not prepared to go home until we do get more teachers and lower class sizes...” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/30/11)
- “Resignation is just simply out of the question...” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/30/11)
- “Small attacks -- those under $5,000 damage -- should be treated as a misdemeanor and not a felony. But multiple attacks should be treated as one large attack and punished accordingly...” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/23/11)
- “The president is committed to saving Social Security, maintaining our hard won fiscal responsibility, reforming and strengthening our public schools so they work better for our children, passing a patient's bill or rights, strengthening America's leadership in the global economy and securing the peace in troubled areas around the world,” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/23/11)
- “There should be greater judicial oversight of trap and trace authorities, ... Federal law should make clear that such orders should only be issued after a judicial officer has determined that the proper factual showing has been made.” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/23/11)
- “There was no wrong-doing.” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/19/11)
- “They are well on their way to dipping into the Social Security surplus, ... They ought to stop lying about it.” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/30/11)
- “They decided that rather than just doing a document dump, they would do a garbage dump on Monday, and I think people are going to wonder about that, ... Meet the Press.” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/30/11)
- “This tax cut is bloated. It uses up the entire surplus. It provides not one cent for Medicare. It provides not one cent to extend the solvency of Social Security. It will not result in paying down the debt.” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/30/11)
- “...wants us to be ready to govern on day one, and so he pledged to work with us.” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/23/11)
- “We bear the responsibility for having a process that we thought was manageable that in the last days, I think, broke down and let some of these (late pardon requests) go through. There are very few that came up -- and I would put Rich as probably the number one example, in which the process broke down. I don't think the president got good and full advice on it.” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/19/11)
- “We never discussed any matters having to do with any of the things that have been alleged by his critics. There was no wrongdoing.” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/19/11)
- “We're frustrated ... The next two weeks will tell for the American people...” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/30/11)
- “We're going to keep pressing them to fulfill the commitment they not only made to the president but to the American people that this program to put teachers in the classroom will be funded adequately, and there won't be any gimmicks to take the money out the back door, as we have now currently in the current bills,” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/30/11)
- “We're trying ... to bend ears, not break peoples' arms...” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/30/11)
- “When you look at your exit polls tomorrow, you will find Democrats did very well because the economy is not going in the right direction...” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/30/11)
- “[White House Chief of Staff John Podesta said Clinton hopes to begin serious negotiations with the GOP-led Congress on spending and tax issues after the veto is official.] We believe that some tax relief is appropriate, ... It ought to be balanced against the other important national needs.” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/30/11)
- “With regard to planning for the use of ground troops, as you know, we have a substantial elaborate plan to insert a force in the event that there's a peaceful environment for which they can -- permissive environment for them to go into, ... Meet The Press.” Thinkexist.com (accessed 05/30/11)
- John D. Podesta Who Runs Gov (accessed 05/16/11)
- Obama, McCain Transition Efforts Are Worlds Apart Huffington Post, Nov. 8, 2008
- John Podesta Discover the Networks (accessed 05/31/11)
- John Podesta Wikipedia (accessed 05/18/11)
- The PES in action 2007-2009, Activity Report of the Party of European Socialists Adopted by the 8th PES Congress 8th PES Congress, Prague, December 2009
- Policy network, Progressive Governance Conference 03 May 2011
- ACORN Press Release September 29, 2009
- Apollo Board of Directors Apollo Alliance
- PSN website: Board of Directors (accessed on Sept. 1, 2010)
- How Do Progressives Connect Ideas to Action? Open Society Foundations, Nov. 29, 2006
- Truman National Security Project website: Board of Advisors (accessed on Sept. 8, 2010)
- Roosevelt History Roosevelt Institute, October 29, 2010
- National Advisory Board Roosevelt Institute, October 29, 2010
- Partners Roosevelt Institute, October 29, 2010
- Change is coming (but not for space aliens) Post-Gazette.com, Dec. 2, 2008
- UFO enthusiasts urge Obama to release X-Files about alien sightings Mail Online, Nov. 30, 2008