Lobbyist Turned Failed Senate Candidate Tapped by Biden to Head DNC

Jaime Harrison to lead Democrats following double-digit loss to Lindsey Graham

Jaime Harrison / Getty Images
January 14, 2021

President-elect Joe Biden (D.) is set to pick former Podesta Group lobbyist and failed Senate candidate Jaime Harrison to lead the Democratic National Committee, the New York Times reported Thursday. 

Harrison will lead the party as Democrats look toward the 2022 midterm elections. Harrison lost to incumbent South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham (R.) in November after boasting record-breaking campaign fundraising numbers. 

During his eight-year stint as a lobbyist at the now-defunct Podesta Group, Harrison’s portfolio of clients included a plethora of energy, pharmaceutical, and banking industry giants including BP, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Merck, and Amylin, as well as WalMart, Lockheed Martin, Google, and General Motors.

Harrison has reported millions of dollars in assets on his financial disclosure forms in the years following his time at the Podesta Group. 

The Podesta Group maintained deep ties with the Democratic establishment. Tony Podesta, a bigwig Democratic fundraiser, cofounded the firm in 1988 alongside brother John Podesta—President Bill Clinton's chief of staff and, in 2016, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. 

The Podesta Group collapsed in late 2017 after Special Counsel Robert Mueller launched an investigation into allegations that President Donald Trump and his campaign had colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election. The probe found that Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had hired the Podesta Group to lobby for a Ukrainian nonprofit subordinate to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. Tony Podesta failed to register as a foreign agent while he lobbied on behalf of Ukraine.

Harrison served as chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party from 2013 to 2017 and was passed over in the race for DNC chair in 2017 in favor of current chairman Tom Perez.

The former lobbyist got his start in politics in 2003, when he worked as a staffer for Rep. James Clyburn (D., S.C.), who in 2016 endorsed Harrison for DNC chairman. 

Harrison broke campaign fundraising records during his failed 2020 Senate race, securing more than $130 million, but lost to Graham by a 10 percent margin.

The Washington Free Beacon reported in October that Harrison's campaign received tens of thousands of dollars from lobbyists, including one who was a registered foreign agent of Turkey.

Harrison has defended his work as a lobbyist, saying he used his salary from the Podesta Group to pay off student debt and finance his grandmother's home.