Shocking secret emails reveal that political operatives can be dorky

Democratic operatives jockeying for position on Hillary's campaign are making lame jokes -- and the media is on it!

By Jim Newell
Published November 14, 2014 5:35PM (EST)
  (AP/Cliff Owen)
(AP/Cliff Owen)

ABC News has a SHOCKING ExClUsIvE SCOOP this morning and you will never believe it: Some of the political operatives fighting for slots on Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign are dorks! Political operatives ... dorks? This is a game-changer. Everything you thought you knew about politics has been one big lie told by liars, for centuries. "Read the Secret Emails of the Men Who May Run Hillary Clinton's Campaign," the headline reads. That "May Run Hillary Clinton's Campaign" bit seems like one hell of an overselling for the dorks in question here. But in any case, oh yeah, let's read them.

"For the past five years," ABC's Rick Klein writes, "a prominent Democratic operative who is a leading contender to manage a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign has maintained a private email listserv for friends and associates that carries a provocative name: the 'Mook Mafia.'" PROVOCATIVE NAME indeed. Is this prominent Democratic operative, Robby Mook, endorsing organized crime? Why is Robby Mook in the Mafia? What sort of image does that send to the children -- that he and the Democratic Party are hit men for Don Corleone of the Mafia? Oh, maybe it's just a bad joke. We can relate.

The "Mook Mafia" listserv, "which one member said reaches more than 150 fellow campaign veterans, has been a means for Robby Mook and a close friend Marlon Marshall to stay connected with many of the operatives who would likely populate a Democratic presidential campaign in 2016." What do these operatives chat about? Oh, probably a lot of mundane things over the course of five years. But ABC has "obtained" numerous instances of them being typically dorky ambitious political operative dorks.

Here is Mook name-dropping Nancy Pelosi. Ha ha Nancy Pelosi called us a silly name! Aren't we cool? This is scandalous:

“TEAM! I was just at the DCCC last night for the GOTV [get-out-the-vote] rally, where we were in the middle of GOTV calisthenics when Nancy Pelosi walked in and said we looked like the Village People. Some things you can’t make up,” Mook wrote at 2:59 pm on Election Day.

Here they are talking about "crushing it mafia style" on Election Day, a counterintuitive reference to working for various losing campaigns:

“I know many of you are out there on campaigns, crushing it mafia style,” Marshall wrote. “We unfortunately didn’t do a call this year, but Robby and I wanted to start a chain to acknowledge many in our great family who have been out there busting their tails for all that is right in the world.

Here is Marlon Marshall, who (for now) works in the White House, indicating that he doesn't care for Republicans and would like to "punish" voters by annoying them with GOTV telephone calls.

“F U Republicans. Mafia till I die,” he wrote. “If you have just a few minutes, hop on that activate and punish those voters!” (“Activate” is an apparent reference to a software program allowing volunteers to contact targeted voters by phone from anywhere in the country.)

Rick Klein exposes several other instances of this sophomoric, but perhaps not quite scandalous, Mafia imagery being used. As far as we can tell, though, the "F U Republicans" is the only instance of near-profanity. This is extremely restrained by the standards of political operatives.

Well, who knows, but it seems like a stretch to believe that 34-year-old Robby Mook and/or midlevel White House staffer Marlon Marshall were ever likely to "run Hillary Clinton's campaign." But perhaps they were in line to get decent jobs on the campaign -- jobs that other operatives covet. And that's why this is the most important part of Klein's story:

The private emails were provided to ABC News by a Democrat on the listserv who has worked alongside Mook and Marshall on previous campaigns. The person who provided the emails is, like the vast majority of those on the listserv, supportive of Hillary Clinton, but does not support the idea of Mook or Marshall holding leadership roles in a second presidential bid. They were provided on the condition of anonymity.

Jobs on the likely Hillary Clinton presidential campaign are the most prized possession for Democratic political operatives. They are golden tickets to lucrative careers. This story is the first of what should be a hilarious series in which consultants jockey for position by knifing each other in the back, by leaking relatively unflattering emails and stories.

This doesn't augur well for Hillary Clinton. Her 2008 team was dominated by extraordinary egos leaking on each other left and right to save themselves at the expense of the campaign -- a noted contrast to Barack Obama's "No Drama" operation. Will she be able to run a tighter ship next time? That we're still weeks or months away from the campaign, and this is already happening, isn't a wonderful sign.

Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2016 Elections Abc News Democrats Hillary Clinton Listservs Marlon Marshall Political Operatives Robby Mook