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The Company They Keep

A Guide to the Presidential Candidates' Domestic Policy Advisers

By Taylor Lincoln

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“Personnel is policy” is an oft-cited axiom in Washington, D.C., especially in the context of presidential administrations. It is rooted in the notion that the people who populate a president’s administration will effectively decide how the president’s policies are implemented. The decisions of key appointees may end up being more determinative in affecting results than the views of the president.

The converse is also true. Presidents (and presidential candidates) almost certainly invite people into their orbits based on how those individuals’ outlooks mesh with their own. As such, personnel choices provide a window into politicians’ true views.

This paper offers brief synopses of many of the individuals who have reportedly served as advisers to the two major-party 2016 presidential nominees. Some of the individuals on this list fulfill officialpositions with the two campaigns or on the candidates’ transition teams. Many others have reportedly served in informal, but perhaps even more influential, capacities.

This list is not comprehensive. In general, those included are people whose expertise focuses on policies as opposed to politics. That is, messaging gurus, pollsters and spinmeisters are not included. Some of those who have been dubbed policy advisers also are not included, simply because there is no evidence that they truly have the candidate’s ear. For instance, a member of one of the candidates’ economic teams said recently that he had never spoken to the candidate.1

The potential roles of these individuals vary. Some are potential leaders of post-Election Day transition teams if their candidate wins; others may be candidates for prominent appointments, such as to cabinet-level positons; still others might be positioned to be influential advisers if their candidate wins, even if they are not likely to join the administration.

In each of these scenarios, these individuals’ backgrounds and outlooks matter, both because oftheir potential to shape policies and because of what their proximity to the candidates says about the candidates themselves.

This report is part of a series by Public Citizen studying the presidential candidates’ transitionplanning. In addition to keeping track of the personnel appointed to transition teams (both in the pre-election and – for the winner – post-election phase), Public Citizen is monitoring the degree to which the candidates adhere to small-d democratic principles – such as transparency and establishing ethics policies – in conducting their transition work.