John Podesta

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John Podesta
John Podesta.jpg
Counselor to the President
Assumed office
January 1, 2014
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Pete Rouse
20th White House Chief of Staff
In office
October 20, 1998 – January 20, 2001
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Erskine Bowles
Succeeded by Andrew Card
White House Deputy Chief of Staff
In office
January 1997 – October 1998
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Evelyn Lieberman
Succeeded by Steve Ricchetti
Personal details
Born (1949-01-15) January 15, 1949 (age 66)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Knox College
Georgetown University
Religion Roman Catholicism[1]

John David Podesta (born January 8, 1949)[2] is the current Counselor to the President of the United States, serving since the start of 2014.[3] He was the fourth and final White House Chief of Staff under President Bill Clinton, from 1998 until 2001. He is the former president and now Chair and Counselor of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C., and is also a Visiting Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center. Podesta was also a co-chairman of the Obama-Biden Transition Project.[4]

On January 13, 2015, Podesta announced that he would leave the White House in February 2015 to serve as a Senior Advisor for the presumptive 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.[5]

Early life[edit]

Podesta spent most of his early years in Chicago, where he was born, growing up in the neighborhood of Jefferson Park on the city's Northwest Side.[6] His mother, Mary (née Kokoris), was Greek-American, and his father, John David Podesta, Sr., was Italian-American.[7] Tony Podesta, a lobbyist, is his brother.[8][9] In 1967, he graduated from Lane Technical High School in Chicago. 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). His political career began in 1972, when he worked for George McGovern's presidential campaign, which lost in 49 states.[10]

On June 6, 1998, during his Knox College commencement address, Podesta spoke of his family's early days: "Let me close with a couple of thoughts. Permit me what my kids would refer to as an ethnic moment. One month ago I stood on the White House lawn, and I watched as President Clinton, the man I'm proud to work for, greeted the Italian Prime Minister, Romano Prodi. It caused me to think about my grandparents, who came to America from Italy at the turn of the century and struggled their whole lives, never attending school, living in a walkup tenement in downtown Chicago. My grandfather working as a stevedore. And I thought about my father, who had to quit high school after one year to support his family, who worked in factories his whole life, but who kept pushing my brother and myself to get a good education. I realized that I couldn't have been on that lawn without the support—quite literally the scholarship and financial support, but as importantly, the educational and emotional support—that Knox College gave me."[11]


Podesta held positions on Capitol Hill, including Counselor to Democratic Leader Senator Thomas Daschle (1995–1996); Chief Counsel for the Senate Agriculture Committee (1987–1988); Chief Minority Counsel for the United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks; Security and Terrorism; and Regulatory Reform; and Counsel on the Majority Staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee (1979–1981). In 1988, Podesta founded with his brother, Tony, Podesta Associates, Inc., a Washington, D.C., "government relations and public affairs" lobbying firm. Now known as the Podesta Group, the firm "has close ties to the Democratic Party and the Obama administration [and] has been retained by some of the biggest corporations in the country, including Wal-Mart, BP and Lockheed Martin."[12] Podesta has also served as a member of the Council of the Administrative Conference of the United States, and the United States Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy.[citation needed]

The Clinton years[edit]

Podesta served as both an Assistant to the President and as Deputy Chief of Staff. Earlier, from January 1993 to 1995, he was Assistant to the President, Staff Secretary and a senior policy adviser on government information, privacy, telecommunications security and regulatory policy. In 1998 he became President Bill Clinton's Chief of Staff in the second Clinton Administration and executed the position until the end of Clinton's time in office in January 2001. He had a key role in introducing Executive Order 12958 which led to an unprecedented effort to declassify millions of pages from the U.S. diplomatic and national security history and also oversaw Clinton's pardons in the last days of his administration.[citation needed]

Recent years[edit]

Three older, white men in suits and ties stand on a stone balcony, with trees and brick buildings behind them.
Podesta meeting with Bill Clinton and Georgetown University president John J. DeGioia in 2006

Podesta founded and is currently Chair of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C., and Counselor to the Center for American Progress Action Fund. In addition to his work at American Progress, Podesta is currently a Visiting Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center, his alma mater, where he has taught classes on Congressional investigations[13] and technology law and policy. He is also a member of the Constitution Project's bipartisan Liberty and Security Committee.[14]

In 2008, Podesta authored his book The Power of Progress: How America's Progressives Can (Once Again) Save Our Economy, Our Climate, and Our Country. In it, he articulates a vision of progressive values based on four core lessons: 1) Progressives stand with people, not privilege; 2) Progressives believe in the Common Good and a government that offers a hand up; 3) Progressives hold that all people are equal in the eyes of God and under the law; and 4) Progressives stand for universal human rights and cooperative global security.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Podesta has supported efforts from the UFO research community to pressure the United States government to release files to the public that could bring light on the simmering allegations of conspiracies and cover-up of the issue. 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".[15] When he worked for the Clinton White House Podesta was in charge of a project to declassify 800 million pages of intelligence documents.[16][17]

Podesta became an Honorary Patron of the University Philosophical Society in March 2006. Podesta remains on the Board of Trustees of Knox College.[18] Currently, John Podesta is the U.S. representative to the UN High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.[19]


  1. ^ Lawton, Kim (Oct 8, 2004). "Catholic Voters". Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. WNET. Retrieved Apr 3, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Washington Post". Who Runs Gov. Retrieved July 17, 2011. 
  3. ^ Talev, Margaret (10 December 2013). "Obama to Name Former Clinton Official Podesta as Special Adviser". BusinessWeek. Retrieved 10 December 2013. 
  4. ^ "Obama, McCain Transition Efforts Are Worlds Apart". Huffington Post. October 8, 2008. Retrieved July 17, 2011. 
  5. ^ "John Podesta to leave White House post in February". Politico. January 13, 2015. Retrieved January 13, 2015. 
  6. ^ Sweet, Lynn (November 6, 2008). "All-business Obama begins transition to White House". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  7. ^ Fusco, Chris (March 12, 2007). "Cooking, wit nourished D.C. Dem elite: Younger son was chief of staff to Bill Clinton". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  8. ^ Crispin, Jessa. "Podesta: Progressive Politics Will Cure U.S. Ills". NPR. Retrieved July 17, 2011. 
  9. ^ Pear, Robert; Broder, John M. (September 5, 2000). "In a Lobby-Happy Washington, Politics Can Be Even Thicker Than Blood". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ Podesta, John. "During a guest appearance on Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me, broadcast on 17 May 2014". 
  11. ^ June 6, 1998, Knox College Commencement Address
  12. ^ Elliott, Justin (January 28, 2011) Who's doing Mubarak's bidding in Washington?,
  13. ^ "Georgetown Law Courses - Congressional Investigations Seminar". Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  14. ^ "The Constitution Project - The Liberty and Security Committee". Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  15. ^ Norman, Tony (December 2, 2008). "Change is coming (but not for space aliens)". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved December 23, 2008. 
  16. ^ "UFO enthusiasts urge Obama to release X-Files about alien sightings". Daily Mail (London). November 30, 2008. Retrieved December 23, 2008. 
  17. ^ Shipman, Tim (November 30, 2008). "UFO enthusiasts call on Obama to release X-Files". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved December 23, 2008. 
  18. ^ "Board of Trustees | Knox College". December 15, 1957. Retrieved July 17, 2011. 
  19. ^ "UN Secretary-General appoints high-level panel on post-2015 development agenda". United Nations Development Programme. July 31, 2012. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Erskine Bowles
White House Chief of Staff
Succeeded by
Andrew Card
Preceded by
Pete Rouse
Counselor to the President
Succeeded by
Brian Deese