South Carolina Democrat Jaime Harrison has left his position as a top lobbyist for the Podesta Group as he attempts to rally support behind his bid to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Harrison, currently chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, announced shortly after the election that he was pursuing the top spot at the national party. His candidacy received a major boost when Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.)—the number three Democrat in the House and Harrison's former boss—sent a letter to DNC members endorsing him for the role.
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Harrison got his start in politics in 2003 as a staffer in Clyburn's House office and rose through the congressional ranks until 2008, when he left to join the Podesta Group.
Harrison has now emerged as one of the top candidates for the DNC job. He participated in Friday's "Future of the Party Forum" alongside other leading candidates such as Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.) and New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley. The field also thinned at the forum, as Howard Dean, who used to be DNC chairman, announced in a video at the forum that that he was dropping out of the running for the post.
Harrison says that he "deregistered" as a lobbyist from the Podesta Group so that he could devote all his time to the battle for DNC chairman, which won't be decided until February.
"I decided to spend full-time running for DNC position so have deregistered and have taken an unpaid leave of absence," Harrison told the Washington Free Beacon.
Harrison added that he had always planned to take a leave of absence from the firm if he ran for the DNC position and that the decision was not due to anticipation of attacks from opponents.
Reached by phone, the Podesta Group confirmed to the Free Beacon that Harrison is no longer with the firm. The Podesta Group did not respond to an email with questions regarding the terms of Harrison's departure.
Harrison has defended his decision to become a lobbyist after serving as Rep. Clyburn's director of floor operations, stating that he puts the large paychecks to good use.
"It's how I pay back the $160,000 of student loan debt," Harrison has said. "It's how I pay the mortgage for my grandmother."
Harrison's firm was founded by Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta and his brother Tony Podesta, who currently serves as chairman of the firm.
Harrison had a diverse set of clients at the Podesta Group, including banks such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo, financial giants Berkshire Hathaway and Avenue Capital Management, big pharmaceutical companies Merck and Amylin, and casinos such as Caesars and Harrah's.
The Podesta Group made over $23 million in lobbying income in 2015.