J. Scott Jennings

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Jeffery Scott Jennings (born October 26, 1977), a United States political appointee in the administration of George W. Bush. The president appointed Jennings to the position of Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Political Affairs on October 17, 2005. The White House announced the move in February 2006.[1]

Personal[edit]

Jennings is a native of Dawson Springs, Kentucky and graduated from high school there in 1996. Jennings was a Coca-Cola National Scholar and featured in the Foundation's magazine in 2006.[2] He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Louisville in 2000 where he was a McConnell Scholar.[3] While a student at the University of Louisville, he was a news anchor and reporter for WHAS Radio.[4] While at WHAS, Jennings won a local award from the Associated Press for a several-part series on the plight of the homeless living in downtown Louisville.[citation needed]

Career[edit]

Jennings served as political director for President Bush's 2000 Kentucky campaign, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in his 2002 re-election campaign, Gov. Ernie Fletcher in his 2003 campaign, and managed President Bush’s campaign in New Mexico in 2004, before joining the White House. New Mexico was one of only two states to flip from blue to red in between 2000 and 2004; the other was Iowa. He served as Associate Director in the Office of Political Affairs at the White House before being named Special Assistant to the President in October 2005.[5]

After leaving the White House, Scott Jennings moved back to Kentucky and is Director of Strategic Development and Senior Strategist for Peritus Public Relations in Louisville, KY, a firm with additional offices in Frankfort and Nashville, Tennessee.[6] Jennings is frequently quoted by media outlets as a political analyst.[citation needed] Peritus is a full service PR firm that offers public affairs, public relations, and graphic design services to its clients.

Jennings Guides Bush Campaign in New Mexico to Victory in 2004 Presidential Election[edit]

After losing New Mexico to Al Gore in 2000 by just 366 votes, President Bush's reelection set its sights on claiming the only state that borders Texas not to go for President Bush in 2000. To that end, the campaign dispatched Jennings to manage its operations. Jennings arrived in early February 2004 to find a divided state Republican Party.[7] Shortly after his arrival, the state party chairman, State Senator Ramsay Gorham, resigned both her chairmanship and legislative seat and moved out of the state. Jennings and Republican Party counterpart Jay McCleskey set about the work of repairing the damaged party, trying to focus activists on the campaign at hand rather than the factionalism. The two worked together to recruit fifteen-thousand volunteers[8][9] who operated phone banks, went door to door, and executed a grassroots strategy that relied heavily on peer-to-peer, coalition-based activity. The Democratic establishment spent millions of dollars in the state through the Kerry for President Campaign, the state Democratic Party, and through a host of third-party organizations such as American Coming Together and Moveon.org.[10] The Democrats relied primarily on paid workers; the Bush Campaign and Republican Party utilized mostly volunteer manpower.[citation needed] Bush won the New Mexico election by 5,988 votes, making it one of the closest states in the nation. Along with only Iowa, New Mexico flipped from Democrat to Republican between 2000 and 2004.[citation needed]

Jennings Directs Political Operations for Three Statewide Kentucky Victories[edit]

Between 2000 and 2003, Jennings directed the political operations for George W. Bush's presidential campaign, Senator Mitch McConnell's reelection campaign, and Ernie Fletcher's gubernatorial campaign. All three were winners. Bush defeated Al Gore in Kentucky with 56.5%,[11] McConnell set a record by scoring 65% in his campaign,[12] and Fletcher became the first Republican governor in Kentucky in over 30 years by winning 55% of the vote.[13]

GSA Inquiry[edit]

Jennings was mentioned in an inquiry into the politicization of the General Services Administration (GSA). At a Congressional hearing in March 2007, witnesses testified that on January 26, 2007, Jennings was present at a meeting where GSA Administrator Lurita Doan "joined in a videoconference earlier this year with top GSA political appointees, who discussed ways to help Republican candidates."[14] On April 23, 2007 the U.S. Office of Special Counsel announced it was investigating the January videoconference, to look at whether the political dealings of the White House have violated the Hatch Act.[15]

While the OSC has found that Doan violated the Hatch Act, Elaine Kaplan, Special Counsel during the Clinton Administration, said that “nothing in the OSC’s investigative report suggests that anything improper had occurred before Doan initiated the discussion.”[16] Jennings' presentation was similar in nature to several others disclosed by the White House. In fact, political briefings were routinely given to appointees in previous administrations as well, according to publications and news articles. Special Counsel Scott Bloch told the Washington Post, "Political forecasts, just generally . . . I do not regard as illegal political activity."[17] The White House has said that these briefings were purely informational and did not violate any rules. Here’s how White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino described the briefings to reporters: "It's not unlawful and it wasn't unusual for informational briefings to be given," Perino said. "There is no prohibition under the Hatch Act of allowing political appointees to talk to other political appointees about the political landscape in which they are trying to advance the president's agenda." She added: "These briefings were not inappropriate, they were not unlawful, they were not unethical.”[18]

Dismissal of United States Attorneys controversy[edit]

Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy

Jennings was involved in the Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy in early 2007, and was among the White House Staff for whom House and Senate Judiciary Subcommittees authorized subpoenas in March.[citation needed] He testified on August 2, 2007 before the Judiciary Committee, invoking executive privilege and refusing to answer most questions.[citation needed]

However, subsequently published e-mails reflect that Jennings was directly involved in the firing of New Mexico US Attorney David Iglesias, writing in one e-mail to a White House staffer, "Iglesias has done nothing," and to another, "We are getting killed out there," adding that the White House "move forward with getting rid of the NM USATTY."

White House and RNC email accounts[edit]

In the months leading up to the dismissal of United States attorneys controversy, Jennings communicated with Justice Department officials "concerning the appointment of Tim Griffin, a former Rove aide, as U.S. attorney in Little Rock, according to e-mails released [in March, 2007]. For that exchange, Jennings, although working at the White House, used an e-mail account registered to the Republican National Committee (RNC), where Griffin had worked as a political opposition researcher."[14] The e-mail account was on gwb43.com, a previously unknown domain, hosted on an RNC mail server.[citation needed] Several White House officials were issued private email accounts so they could be extra cautious.[citation needed]

References[edit]

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