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
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

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[14] and technology law and policy. He is a member of the Constitution Project's bipartisan Liberty and Security Committee.[15]

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.[16]

Podesta has supported petitions by some of those 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".[17]

When he worked for the Clinton White House, Podesta was in charge of a project to declassify 800 million pages of intelligence documents.[18][19]

Podesta became an Honorary Patron of the University Philosophical Society in March 2006. Podesta remains on the Board of Trustees of Knox College.[20] Currently, Podesta is the U.S. representative to the UN High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.[21]

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

In 2013, Podesta was paid $87,000 as a consultant by Wyoming-based Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss, who lobbies to prevent energy exploration on American land. Podesta has been described as "the driving force inside the White House to block 12 million acres of land in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling … [he] emerged as one of the architects of the new White House policy that seeks to end any future drilling for oil on Alaska's coastal plain." Wyss has donated at least $4 million to Podesta's Center for American Progress (CAP), and holds a seat on its Board. Podesta worked at Wyss's HJW Foundation in 2013 and joined the White House in January 2014. Federal conflict of interest rules overseen by the Office of Government Ethics also instruct political appointees to "not work on any matter" if the work of their previous employer "would raise a question regarding the employee's impartiality". The law applies to White House officials and it is not known if Podesta ever sought or received a waiver. A 2013 article in The Nation named CAP as being "among the most secretive of all think tanks concerning its donors." 2013 tax documents from the HJW Foundation and the Wyss Foundation show that Wyss contributed $1.5 million to CAP in that year alone.[22]

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. ^ "Georgetown Law Courses – Congressional Investigations Seminar". Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  15. ^ "The Constitution Project – The Liberty and Security Committee". Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Clinton in North Korea". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 July 2016. 
  17. ^ Norman, Tony (December 2, 2008). "Change is coming (but not for space aliens)". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved December 23, 2008. 
  18. ^ "UFO enthusiasts urge Obama to release X-Files about alien sightings". Daily Mail (London, UK). November 30, 2008. Retrieved December 23, 2008. 
  19. ^ Shipman, Tim (November 30, 2008). "UFO enthusiasts call on Obama to release X-Files". The Daily Telegraph (London, UK). Retrieved December 23, 2008. 
  20. ^ "Board of Trustees". December 15, 1957. Retrieved July 17, 2011. 
  21. ^ "UN Secretary-General appoints high-level panel on post-2015 development agenda". United Nations Development Programme. July 31, 2012. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  22. ^ "Obama adviser John Podesta caught 'green-handed' in major ethics violation", Daily Caller, January 29, 2015.

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