Chris Lehane

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Chris Lehane
Chris 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] As of August 2015, Lehane serves as the Head of Global Policy and Public Affairs for home-sharing startup Airbnb.

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 memo on a media "conspiracy" against the Clintons, of which only 2 and a half pages are written text; the remainder being newspaper and internet clippings. This report was the origin of the phrase "vast right-wing conspiracy" that is often attributed to Hillary Clinton.[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 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.

In May 2015 Lehane assessed Republican Marco Rubio as a "Dan Quayle without the experience” in the field of potential opponents to Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.[19]

Business work[edit]

Lehane and his partner Mark Fabiani are retained to represent various corporate, Labor, entertainment and sports organizations.[20] Lehane is often quoted as an expert on crisis management.[21] 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,[22] Al Gore's Current TV when it fired Keith Olbermann;[23] Madonna in relation to the Kabbalah Center and her charity in Africa;[24] Rob Reiner[25] and First Five; Hollywood studios, Indian tribes and other leading businesses.[6][26]

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.[27]

Lehane's entertainment work has included helping Michael Moore with his films such as Fahrenheit 911 and Sicko;[28] 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.[20]

Lehane has worked for consumer groups, trial lawyers and helped lead organized Labor's opposition to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's agenda in California.[29][30]


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.[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][31][32][33]


If you look at the landscape in politics, business, entertainment, and sports over the last 20 or 30 years there's been a similar dynamic. You've had an explosion of media outlets. Information now travels at hyper speeds. The public has both a thirst for it, and particularly with social networking, they can now engage and participate with newsgathering and discussion. All that means there's a higher premium than ever before on making sure you protect the brand. In politics, especially after Watergate, new standards came into play, and success became a question not of whether you were going to face a crisis, but how you responded when you did face a crisis. The politicians who have been successful at the highest level are those who have been able to manage their way through a crisis and go on and get reelected. That's now becoming true in other areas, like sports.

— Chris Lehane, quoted in Atlantic Monthly, March 17, 2010[21]

If the other guy brings a knife, bring a gun.

— Chris Lehane, quoted in the Sacramento Bee, December 23, 2009[3]

[Y]ou have to plant a lot of seeds in the spring and the summer so you can capitalize on it. If you have a story that's going to hit in the middle of September, middle of October, what you really want to do is build several things that come off of the story so that it's not just a one-day hit. If the story runs on the front page of a major paper, you also want to set it up so that it hits some of the television morning shows, and from there you want to have surrogates out the next day, so that you get a second hit. On the third day, ideally, you have some additional information you've been holding back that you can feed into it, another round of stories. On the fourth or fifth day you try to hold your candidate back from saying anything, so that eventually, when he does say something about the issue, you get another round of stories. If you do it all effectively, you can basically wipe out a guy's entire week. He'll spend the entire week responding to a story that showed up on a Monday.

— Chris Lehane, quoted in Atlantic Monthly, June 2004[9]

[H]it back harder than you got

— Chris Lehane, quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle, October 24, 2004[34]


  1. ^ a b c Garofoli, Joe (October 24, 2004). "The Spinner / How Chris Lehane, revered by some and reviled by others, gets the campaign consultant job done". Retrieved June 1, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Knife Fight (2012)". IMDB. Retrieved June 24, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Bizjak, Tony. "Arena effort taps experts in hardball". Sacramento Bee. Retrieved June 1, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Lehane, Chris; Fabiani, Mark; Guttentag, Bill (2012). Masters of Disaster: The Ten Commandments of Damage Control. Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN 9780230341807. 
  5. ^ a b "IFC Acquires Knife Fight". August 9, 2012. Retrieved August 31, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Garofoli, Joe (October 24, 2004). "The Spinner / How Chris Lehane, revered by some and reviled by others, gets the campaign consultant job done". Retrieved June 1, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b Kurtz, Howard (January 12, 2000). "Al Gore's Hot Media Messenger; Chris Lehane, Meeting the Press Halfway". Washington Post. 
  8. ^ Sack, Kevin (November 6, 2000). "The 2000 Campaign: The Phrase Turners". New York Times. Retrieved June 1, 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c Green, Joshua (June 2004). "Playing Dirty". The Atlantic. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Stolberg, Sheryl Gay (January 16, 2004). "THE 2004 CAMPAIGN: STRATEGY; Master of the Political Dark Arts". New York Times. 
  12. ^ a b Marinucci, Carla (October 7, 2007). "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 (January 14, 2009). "Lehane and Schmidt to Work Together". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ Hoeffel, John (March 25, 2010). "Measure to legalize marijuana will be on California's November ballot". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 24, 2010. 
  15. ^ Matier, Phillip; Ross, Andrew (February 10, 2010). "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. ^ Peters, Jeremy W., " Prospect of Hillary Clinton-Marco Rubio Matchup Unnerves Democrats", New York Times, May 22, 2015. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  20. ^ a b Verrier, Richard (December 6, 2007). "Studios bring in political PR guns to boost image". Los Angeles Times. 
  21. ^ a b, 2010/03.
  22. ^ Ford, Bonnis D. (February 8, 2012). "Lance Armstrong hires Mark Fabiani". ESPN. ESPN. Retrieved August 31, 2012. 
  23. ^ Guthrie, Marisa (March 30, 2012). "Current TV Retains Crisis PR Experts for Anticipated Battle With Keith Olbermann (Exclusive)". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 31, 2012. 
  24. ^ Garcia, Tonya (April 4, 2011). "Madonna Hires PR Help for Next Image Makeover". PRNewser. Retrieved August 31, 2012. 
  25. ^ Morain, Dan (March 30, 2006). "Reiner Quits First 5 Panel". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 31, 2012. 
  26. ^ Ciarallo, Joe (April 27, 2010). "Goldman Sachs Bolsters PR with Democratic Strategist Mark Fabiani". PRNewser. Retrieved June 1, 2010. 
  27. ^ McCarthy, Michael (June 7, 2005). "Sports leagues seek advice from political realm". USA Today. Retrieved June 1, 2010. 
  28. ^ Mohr, Ian (June 7, 2005). "Weinsteins' hired guns set 'Sicko' spin". Variety. Retrieved June 1, 2010. 
  29. ^ Archived July 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  30. ^ Rau, Jordan (October 16, 2007). "Unions give up on gov.'s health plan". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 1, 2010. 
  31. ^ Kim, Betsy. "Tribeca Film Festival 2012: ‘Mansome’ + ‘Knife Fight’". PopMatters. Retrieved August 31, 2012. 
  32. ^ Ellis, Cynthia (May 8, 2012). "Interview: Rob Lowe Brings a Gun to a Knife Fight". The Huffington Post. Retrieved August 31, 2012. 
  33. ^ Marinucci, Carla (May 23, 2012). "Democrats roll out latest 2012 voter outreach effort: Obama Pride/LGBT Americans for Obama". SFGate. Retrieved August 31, 2012. 
  34. ^ Garofoli, Joe (October 24, 2004). "The Spinner / How Chris Lehane, revered by some and reviled by others, gets the campaign consultant job done". p. 1. Retrieved June 1, 2010.