Chris Lehane

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Chris Lehane
Lehane Formal Photo.Color.jpg
Born Christopher Stephen Lehane
June 2, 1967
Nationality American
Alma mater Amherst College
Harvard University
Occupation Political consultant, crisis communications expert, lawyer, author

Christopher Stephen "Chris" Lehane (born June 2, 1967) is an American political consultant and crisis communications expert who has served as a lawyer, spokesperson and expert in opposition research for the Clinton White House, Democratic candidates for public office and various business, Labor, entertainment and professional sports organizations.[1] A graduate of Amherst College and Harvard Law School, he was a lawyer and spokesperson in the Clinton White House where he and his current business partner Mark Fabiani were called the Masters of Disaster by Newsweek magazine for their part in a "rapid-response" team employed to respond to the increasing number of investigations of the Clinton Administration.[2][3] In 2012, Lehane co-authored a book on damage control titled Masters of Disaster published by Palgrave, MacMillan's academic imprint.[4] He also wrote and produced the film Knife Fight, a political satire acquired by IFC and released in January 2013.[2][5]

Political work[edit]

In 1992, Lehane was the political director of the Clinton-Gore presidential campaign in Maine, and was later brought into the White House where he served as a lawyer in the White House Counsel's Office who worked as part of a small unit responsible for helping the White House manage various scandals throughout the 1990s such as Whitewater and the Monica Lewinsky affair.[1]

In 1995 Lehane authored a 332-page "report" on a media "conspiracy" against the Clintons, of which only 2 and 1/2 pages are written text; the remainder are newspaper and internet clippings. This report was the origin of the phrase "vast right wing conspiracy" that is often attributed to Hillary Clinton. Because of Lehane's scrutiny of the right-wing media "food chain," he is often credited with being a proponent of its methods within the Democratic party.[6]

In the 2000 Presidential campaign, Lehane served as the Press Secretary for Vice President Al Gore. Lehane was credited with improving Gore's press relations with the press corps, his one liners and for his opposition research work.[7][8][9] In his 2010 book, President George W. Bush's top political strategist Karl Rove, call him "one of the Democratic Party’s best opposition researchers" credited Lehane's making public George W. Bush's DWI history just before the election as the basis for Gore winning the popular vote in the 2000 presidential election.[10] Lehane has done work for other leading political figures in the U.S., including New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and former California Governor Gray Davis.[1][7]

The New York Times labeled Lehane the "Master of the Political Dark Arts" for his opposition research work on behalf of the failed Wesley Clark bid for the 2004 nomination when he mounted considerable efforts to derail the Howard Dean bid, portraying him as hypocritical, dishonest, and inconsistent.[11]

In 2007, Lehane helped create the Lincoln Brigade, an organization that defeated a Republican sponsored ballot initiative designed to change how California divides up its Electoral College votes.[12]

In April 2009, Lehane, and Republican political consultant Steve Schmidt, opened up a ballot initiative political firm.[13] Lehane has served as a strategist on various statewide ballot campaigns, including running the "no" side to a Republican Party sponsored Electoral College initiative; Labor's Proposition 17;[citation needed] and the effort to pass California Proposition 19, or the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 and other statewide and local initiatives.[12][14]

In 2010, Lehane helped launch Level The Playing Field an independent expenditure organization backed by organized Labor designed to target Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman.[15]

In 2010 Lehane was a lead strategist on No On 23, the successful effort to beat back the oil industry's effort to overturn California's precedent using climate change laws.[16] He was active in the June 2012 campaign to raise the tobacco tax in California and is the lead strategist for Proposition 39, the Clean Energy Jobs initiative, which seeks to close an existing loop-hole in the California state tax code that provides a more favorable tax treatment for out of state companies who do business in California compared to in state companies.[16] He serves on the board of advisors for various high tech companies, non-profit boards, including as member of the Board of Trustees of Amherst College.[17][18]

Lehane is often included in discussions of bare knuckled methodologies employed by political campaign consultants, including feeding information to selected media outlets.[9] Lehane often works as a television commentator and a frequent op ed contributor.

Business work[edit]

Lehane and his partner Mark Fabiani are retained to represent various corporate, Labor, entertainment and sports organizations.[19] Lehane is often quoted as an expert on crisis management.[20] Lehane's firm has represented California Edison during the California Energy crisis, Goldman Sachs during the financial crisis, Cisco Systems when the Internet bubble burst, Lance Armstrong on various matters,[21] Al Gore's Current TV when it fired Keith Olbermann;[22] Madonna in relation to the Kabbalah Center and her charity in Africa;[23] Rob Reiner[24] and First Five; Hollywood studios, Indian tribes and other leading businesses.[6][25]

Lehane does significant sports work having represented the National Hockey League, the City of Sacramento in its effort to build a new sports and entertainment complex, the Big East, Marion Jones and the San Diego Chargers.[26]

Lehane's entertainment work has included helping Michael Moore with his films such as Fahrenheit 911 and Sicko;[27] and "orchestrat"ing News Corp.-funded Don't Count Us Out campaign against the Nielsen Media Research relating to concerns that minority viewership was being undercounted.[19]

Lehane has worked for consumer groups, trial lawyers and helped lead organized Labor's opposition to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's agenda in California.[28][29]


Lehane is co-author, along with his business partner Mark Fabiani and Stanford Business School Professor Bill Guttentag, of Masters of Disaster: The Ten Commandments of Damage Control. It is scheduled for release on December 11, 2012.[4]


He is also a writer and producer of Knife Fight, a political satire acquired by IFC that consider whether the ends justify the means and stars Rob Lowe as a political fixer dealing with a series of scandals. The film features an ensemble cast that includes Julie Bowen, Eric McCormack, Richard Schiff, Carrie-Anne Moss and Jamie Chung. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival where the satire was reviewed as "entertaining," "fun," "at once wise, witty, and extremely funny" and “a nostalgic kick” for political junkies.[5][30][31][32]


  1. ^ a b c Garofoli, Joe (2004-10-24). "The Spinner / How Chris Lehane, revered by some and reviled by others, gets the campaign consultant job done". Retrieved 2010-06-01. 
  2. ^ a b "Knife Fight (2012)". IMDB. Retrieved 2013-06-24. 
  3. ^ Bizjak, Tony. "Arena effort taps experts in hardball". Sacramento Bee. Retrieved 2010-06-01. 
  4. ^ a b Lehane, Chris; Fabiani, Mark (2012). Masters of Disaster: The Ten Commandments of Damage Control. Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN 0-230341-80-2.  |first3= missing |last3= in Authors list (help)
  5. ^ a b "IFC Acquires Knife Fight". 2012-08-09. Retrieved 2012-08-31. 
  6. ^ a b Garofoli, Joe (2004-10-24). "The Spinner / How Chris Lehane, revered by some and reviled by others, gets the campaign consultant job done". p. 5. Retrieved 2010-06-01. 
  7. ^ a b Kurtz, Howard (2000-01-12). "Al Gore's Hot Media Messenger; Chris Lehane, Meeting the Press Halfway". Washington Post. 
  8. ^ Sack, Kevin (2000-11-06). "The 2000 Campaign: The Phrase Turners". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-06-01. 
  9. ^ a b Green, Joshua (June 2004). "Playing Dirty". The Atlantic. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Stolberg, Sheryl Gay (2004-01-16). "THE 2004 CAMPAIGN: STRATEGY; Master of the Political Dark Arts". New York Times. 
  12. ^ a b Marinucci, Carla (2007-10-07). "Election madness / Voters are angry and the recall may be just the beginning of their rebellion / California's populist revival". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  13. ^ Nagourney, Adam (2009-01-14). "Lehane and Schmidt to Work Together". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ Hoeffel, John (2010-03-25). "Measure to legalize marijuana will be on California's November ballot". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-04-24. 
  15. ^ Matier, Phillip; Ross, Andrew (2010-02-10). "Brown's allies fund effort targeting Whitman". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  16. ^ a b Yamamura, Kevin (November 21, 2011). "Well-heeled environmental group files $1 billion California initiative". Retrieved August 31, 2012. 
  17. ^ Vascellaro, Jessica E. (August 8, 2012). "Young Tech Firms Tap Washington Insiders". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 31, 2012. 
  18. ^ "Amherst College Corporation and Board of Trustees". Retrieved August 31, 2012. 
  19. ^ a b Verrier, Richard (2007-12-06). "Studios bring in political PR guns to boost image". Los Angeles Times. 
  20. ^, 2010/03.
  21. ^ Ford, Bonnis D. (8 Feb 2012). "Lance Armstrong hires Mark Fabiani". ESPN (ESPN). Retrieved 2012-08-31. 
  22. ^ Guthrie, Marisa (30 Mar 2012). "Current TV Retains Crisis PR Experts for Anticipated Battle With Keith Olbermann (Exclusive)". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2012-08-31. 
  23. ^ Garcia, Tonya (4 Apr 2011). "Madonna Hires PR Help for Next Image Makeover". PRNewser. Retrieved 2012-08-31. 
  24. ^ Morain, Dan (30 Mar 2006). "Reiner Quits First 5 Panel". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-08-31. 
  25. ^ Ciarallo, Joe (2010-04-27). "Goldman Sachs Bolsters PR with Democratic Strategist Mark Fabiani". PRNewser. Retrieved 2010-06-01. 
  26. ^ McCarthy, Michael (2005-06-07). "Sports leagues seek advice from political realm". USA Today. Retrieved 2010-06-01. 
  27. ^ Mohr, Ian (2005-06-07). "Weinsteins' hired guns set 'Sicko' spin". Variety. Retrieved 2010-06-01. 
  28. ^
  29. ^ Rau, Jordan (2007-10-16). "Unions give up on gov.'s health plan". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-06-01. 
  30. ^ Kim, Betsy. "Tribeca Film Festival 2012: ‘Mansome’ + ‘Knife Fight’". PopMatters. Retrieved 2012-08-31. 
  31. ^ Ellis, Cynthia (8 May 2012). "Interview: Rob Lowe Brings a Gun to a Knife Fight". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2012-08-31. 
  32. ^ Marinucci, Carla (23 May 2012). "Democrats roll out latest 2012 voter outreach effort: Obama Pride/LGBT Americans for Obama". SFGate. Retrieved 2012-08-31.