John Podesta

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John Podesta
John Podesta.jpg
Counselor to the President
In office
January 1, 2014 – February 13, 2015
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Pete Rouse
Succeeded by Vacant
20th White House Chief of Staff
In office
October 20, 1998 – January 20, 2001
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Erskine Bowles
Succeeded by Andy Card
White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations
In office
January 20, 1997 – October 20, 1998
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Evelyn Lieberman
Succeeded by Steve Ricchetti
White House Staff Secretary
In office
January 20, 1993 – June 30, 1995
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Phillip Brady
Succeeded by Todd Stern
Campaign Chair to Hillary Clinton
Assumed office
April 12, 2015
Personal details
Born John David Podesta
(1949-01-08) January 8, 1949 (age 67)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Knox College
Georgetown University
Religion Roman Catholicism[1]

John David Podesta (born January 8, 1949) is the Chairman of the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.[2]

Podesta previously served as Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton and Counselor to President Barack Obama.[3] He is the former president and now Chair and Counselor of the Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C., and is also a Visiting Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center. He was a co-chairman of the Obama-Biden Transition Project.[4][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] Podesta's father did not graduate from high school, but encouraged Podesta to attend college.[10]

In 1967, Podesta graduated from Lane Tech High School in Chicago. In 1971, he graduated from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, where he had served as a volunteer for the presidential candidacy of Eugene McCarthy.[10] He received his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 1976. Podesta worked as a trial attorney for the Department of Justice's Honors Program in the Land and Natural Resources Division (1976–77), 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.[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, he and his brother Tony co-founded 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]

The Clinton years[edit]

Podesta in 1993

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 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. Podesta encouraged Executive Order 12958 which led to efforts to declassify millions of pages from the U.S. diplomatic and national security history.[13]

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

In 2003, Podesta founded the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C., and served as its president and CEO until he stepped down in 2011 (CAP chief operating officer Neera Tanden succeeded Podesta as president and CEO, taking over day-to-day operations).[14][15] Podesta remained the chairman of the nonexecutive board of directors for a time,[15][15][16] and remains on the board today, although not as chairman.[17]

Podesta has taught at his alma mater, Georgetown University Law Center, many times over the years,[18] teaching classes on congressional investigations, law and technology, legislation, copyright and public-interest law.[18][19] On the Georgetown faculty, Podesta's title is Distinguished Visitor from Practice.[19]

From 2002 to 2014, Podesta served as a member of the Constitution Project's bipartisan Liberty and Security Committee.[20]

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 2009, he 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.[21]

Podesta opposes the excessive use of classification, and in a 2004 speech at Princeton University condemned what he called the U.S.'s "excessive government secrecy" and "bloated secrecy bureaucracy."[22] Podesta has called Executive Order 12958, "which set tough standards for classifying documents and led to the unprecedented effort to declassify millions of pages from our nation's diplomatic and national security history," as "perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the Clinton administration."[22] More than 800 million pages of intelligence documents were declassified as part of the program.[23]

Podesta is described as "a longtime advocate for government disclosure of UFO files."[24] Podesta has supported petitions by some who believe UFOs are alien spacecraft to the government to release files related to the subject. 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."[25]

John Podesta testifies before the Senate Budget Committee Task Force on Government Performance

Podesta became an honorary patron of the University Philosophical Society in March 2006. Podesta is an emeritus member of the Knox College Board of Trustees.[26] Currently, Podesta is the U.S. representative to the UN High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.[27]

Podesta has served on the board of directors of Bedford, Massachusetts-based energy company Joule Unlimited since January 2011.[28][29] He has also served on the board of the Portland, Oregon-based Equilibrium Capital.[28] In 2013, Podesta earned $90,000 as a consultant to the West Chester, Pennsylvania-based HJW Foundation, a nonprofit group led by billionaire businessman Hansjörg Wyss.[28]

Personal life[edit]

Podesta is married to Mary S. Podesta, a Washington, D.C. attorney. They have three children.


  1. ^ Lawton, Kim (October 8, 2004). "Catholic Voters". Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. WNET. Retrieved April 3, 2011. 
  2. ^ "John Podesta to leave White House post in February". Politico. January 13, 2015. Retrieved January 13, 2015. 
  3. ^ Talev, Margaret (December 10, 2013). "Obama to Name Former Clinton Official Podesta as Special Adviser". BusinessWeek. Retrieved December 10, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Obama, McCain Transition Efforts Are Worlds Apart". Huffington Post. October 8, 2008. Retrieved July 17, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Washington Post". Who Runs Gov. Retrieved July 17, 2011. 
  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. ^ a b Baker, Peter (February 15, 2015). "For Hillary Clinton, John Podesta Is a Right Hand With a Punch". New York Times. Retrieved February 16, 2015. 
  11. ^ Podesta, John. "During a guest appearance on Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me, broadcast May 17, 2014". 
  12. ^ Elliott, Justin (January 28, 2011) "Who's doing Mubarak's bidding in Washington?",; accessed February 16, 2015.
  13. ^ Kean, Leslie (February 20, 2015). "John Podesta: Pulling Back the Curtain on UFOs". Huffington Post. Retrieved 10 December 2015. 
  14. ^ Janie Lorber, CAP Faces Challenges as Podesta Steps Back, Roll Call (October 25, 2011).
  15. ^ a b c Josh Rogin, John Podesta stepping down as head of CAP, Foreign Policy (October 24, 2011).
  16. ^ Jonathan Allen, W.H., CAP to counter Podesta attacks, Politico (December 12, 2013).
  17. ^ CAP Board of Directors, Center for American Progress (accessed August 5, 2016).
  18. ^ a b John F. Harris, Podesta to Teach at Georgetown, Washington Post (February 5, 2001).
  19. ^ a b Our Faculty: John Podesta, Distinguished Visitor from Practice, Georgetown University Law Center (August 5, 2016).
  20. ^ "The Liberty and Security Committee". Constitution Project. Retrieved August 6, 2016. 
  21. ^ "Clinton in North Korea". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 July 2016. 
  22. ^ a b John Podesta Remarks at Princeton University, Center for American Progress (March 10, 2004).
  23. ^ Shipman, Tim (November 30, 2008). "UFO enthusiasts call on Obama to release X-Files". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. Retrieved December 23, 2008. 
  24. ^ Lee Speigel, John Podesta: I've Convinced Hillary Clinton To Declassify UFO Files, Huffington Post (March 3, 2016).
  25. ^ Norman, Tony (December 2, 2008). "Change is coming (but not for space aliens)". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved December 23, 2008. 
  26. ^ "Board of Trustees". Knox College. December 15, 1957. Retrieved July 27, 2016. 
  27. ^ "UN Secretary-General appoints high-level panel on post-2015 development agenda". United Nations Development Programme. July 31, 2012. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  28. ^ a b c Eric Lipton, New Obama Adviser Brings Corporate Ties, New York Times (December 12, 2013).
  29. ^ Joule elects John Podesta to its Board of Directors, Joule Unlimited (accessed August 5, 2016).

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Phillip Brady
White House Staff Secretary
Succeeded by
Todd Stern
Preceded by
Erskine Bowles
White House Chief of Staff
Succeeded by
Andy Card
Preceded by
Pete Rouse
Counselor to the President