Chaos is the new normal in political Washington. Or, to put it another way, living in the nation’s capital is like being on a plane flying through permanent turbulence. Without a safety belt. Major decisions are made and unmade, sometimes in a single day. At the White House, the two most important installations are the television screens and a revolving door that spews out fired staff members at an unprecedented rate. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently told an interviewer that he will serve until the president “tweets me out of office.” The statement was a joke: the sentiment behind it was not. President Trump rules by tweet.
This is not to say that the administration is totally without substance, but the style of delivery, the bluster, the fractured syntax, undermine any accomplishments. The first casualty of this disturbing approach to governance is truth. Two opposite narratives keep track of events. The mainstream media, with their increasingly combative reporting, and the administration, which creates an alternative reality often devoid of real facts – while at the same time accusing the media of “fake news.” The second casualty over a long period is democracy. We’ve seen it before” The aggressive bullying the complacent into submission.
In the present situation, compiling Washington Life’s annual list of the powerful and influential in the nation’s capital becomes an important assignment to identify the combatants in an epic battle to defend cherished values at home, and abroad, the norms and institutions of the liberal world order the U.S. had a major role in shaping. In a global economy, interaction with other countries is necessary and ongoing.
The administration has collected a rogues’ gallery of accomplices and elbowed out America’s traditional, and generally more respected allies. To the extent that there is room for non-belligerent participants on the power list, tribute is also paid to the spectacular quality leap in Washington’s art, culture, education, and dining communities. But as the divisions deepen, and the wounds fester, 2020, and what happens then, becomes less important than 2076 and the question whether there will be a tercentenary to celebrate?
Jared Kushner & Ivanka Trump
Kellyanne and George T. Conway III
Senators Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rob Portman (R-Oh
Robert Mueller and the U.S. Attorneys from the Southern District of New York SDNY
Barack and Michelle Obama
Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Donald TrumpPresident of the United States // The Tweeter-in-Chief sits at the pinnacle of power in Washington and has revolutionized the use of social media, bypassing the usual outlets to make policy announcements, fire staffers, and move markets, 140 characters at a time. Herewith, fully tongue-in-cheek, is his latest: @realdonaldtrump TRUMP=MOST POWERFUL PRESIDENT EVER. NOT Fake News!
Mike PenceVice President of the United States // According to former New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s recent book, when he brought Donald Trump together with Mike Pence for the first time, the latter began the meeting with a short prayer. Christie writes that it is Pence’s way, which might explain the Vice President’s inscrutable expression as he stands beside Trump. He is praying. The question then is: What is Pence, a born-again Christian and diehard conservative, praying for? Every vice president is president-in-waiting, at least in his own mind; and Pence’s prayer may be that Trump doesn’t leave the Republican party in such a shambles that it will be shut out of the White House for generations.
Mike PompeoSecretary of State // As secretary of state, Rex Tillerson agonized over President Trump’s jumbled and sometimes contradictory foreign policy ideas. His successor, Mike Pompeo has adopted a more pragmatic approach. He has narrowed down the complexities of U.S. foreign policy to one simple equation: The president gets what he wants. This frequently backfires, as in the failed summit between Trump and North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un. Pompeo lunches alone with Trump at least once a month, but there is so far no available evidence that the Secretary of State has ever managed to dissuade the President from any decision on which he had set his mind — or even that he tried. If a photo is worth a thousand words, the one that marks Pompeo forever is the benign smile of understanding that he lavishes on Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman after MBS had ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. He also has the dubious distinction of being the only U.S. secretary of state ever to have denigrated a former American president’s words in front of a foreign audience in a foreign capital. This was Pompeo’s “the age of self-inflicted American shame is over” speech in Cairo, referencing President Obama’s 2009 address on the U.S. approach to Islamism in the same city.
William BarrAttorney General of the United States // Barr campaigned for Jeff Sessions’ job with a memo labeling the Mueller investigation “fatally misconceived,” and saying Trump had the authority to fire FBI Director James Comey. If anyone was surprised when he got the job, that surprise evanesced when (1) Barr produced an ambivalent (not to say misleading) letter in advance of the release of the Mueller report, and it provided convenient cover for Trump; (2) timed the delivery to Congress of the redacted Mueller Report to coincide with lawmakers being on Easter vacation; (3) held a press conference which, to many, confirmed that Trump now had his very own attorney general.
Steven MnuchinSecretary of the Treasury “Fat Cat,” a not exactly friendly new biography, says Mnuchin embodies a “bland, smirking, technocratic style of rapaciousness.” But what matters to the White House is that Mnuchin has been a determined executor of Trump’s trade agenda — tax reform and reducing mammoth U.S. trade deficits. Mnuchin’s $1.5 trillion “tax cut” got mixed reviews, with critics saying it mainly benefits the rich. Lengthy negotiations are expected to produce a trade deal between the U.S. and China, with Beijing promising to buy more American goods and Washington reportedly willing to drop tariffs imposed on billions of dollars of Chinese products.
John BoltonNational Security Advisor of the United States // “The nation’s premier champion of a narrow, defensive, and ultimately self-defeating approach to the U.S. role in the world.” That is the critique of Bolton as national security advisor from a report by the Council on Foreign Relations, the Washington think tank known to favor a strong U.S. role in international affairs. Bolton is well known for his vehement opposition to the United Nations and other multinational organizations, global treaties and international courts, arguing that such institutions threaten to undermine U.S. sovereignty. In the past, he has argued that the U.S. should bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, and North Korea’s. As Trump’s third national security advisor so far, he has at last found a home, giving concrete shape to Trump’s “America First” unilateralism, rejecting virtually all U.S. multilateral commitments, including the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord, and — most recently — a key nuclear arms control pact with Russia, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, opening the way for a new nuclear arms race.
Jared Kushner & Ivanka TrumpSenior Advisors to the President // Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, offered advice to his friend Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on how to “weather the storm,” (New York Times) scudding down on him following Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. Kushner’s Middle East peace plan remains under wraps because experts say it still needs work and reflects his lack of experience in the complexities of the region. And in January, Kushner led negotiations with Congress in the border wall stand-off (a stunning presidential set-back). Kushner, 38, still has Trump’s ear, more so now that retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, his White House nemesis, has quit as chief-of-staff. His recent absurd dismissal of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election as “a couple of Facebook ads” shows his role echoing his father-in-law’s tweets. Ivanka is seen at the White House as having “a unique sway over her father, especially when it comes to personnel decisions,” according to the New York Times, and has essentially served as the president’s ambassador-at-large. Both the Kushners are likely to leave the White House considerably wealthier than when they signed up for duty.
Mitch McConnellSenate Majority Leader // As Trump battled the resurgent Democratic leadership over wall funding, leading to the 2018 government shutdown, McConnell twice blocked Democratic bills to reopen the government, but ultimately played a role in pressing Trump to accept a spending bill without his wall money. The price: McConnell had to accept Trump’s decision to declare an emergency to secure the $5 billion-plus funding he wants, something the senator had been advising against. McConnell, who is unpopular in his own state of Kentucky, needs Trump’s support in getting reelected for a sixth term in 2020, which somewhat circumscribes his power. However, he has quietly and deftly run rough-shod over Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and packed the federal courts with far-right judges that will leave his lasting impact on the republic for decades to come.
Stephen MillerSenior Policy Advisor, The White House // President Trump’s U.N. General Assembly speech in September 2018, in which he used the words “sovereignty” or “sovereign” 21 times, was said to have been drafted by Stephen Miller, a hard-line economic nationalist. Miller, however, is more closely associated with Trump’s tough immigration measures. Within days of Trump’s inauguration, Miller fired his first salvo, the 2017 travel ban, which was promptly blocked in the courts. After that, he engineered the family separation policy at the southern border. He is also a strong supporter of Trump’s insistence on building a border wall. His other distinction as a senior White House staffer is that he has survived numerous firings and purges, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his former U.S. Senate boss, who brought him to Trump’s attention in the first place. And after the mass firings at the Department of Homeland Security, his power has only grown as he directs DHS decision making from his powerful White House perch.
Kellyanne and George T. Conway IIICounselor, The White House; attorney // When pollster and Trump campaign strategist Kellyanne Conway spoke of “alternative facts” in the early days of the Trump administration, it turned out that she was serving notice of a planned White House strategy to continuously challenge the truth with its own manufactured version of reality. Since then Conway has been a star dispenser of Trumpian facts for the media and the diplomatic community. On the opposite side of the fence is her attorney husband, George, who is publicly critical of Trump and has started a conservative lawyer group called Checks and Balances to speak out against the president’s tweets and decisions in an administration he recently called “a shit show in a dumpster fire.” Oh, to hear their coffee talk.
Rudy GiulianiTrump's personal attorney // It’s hard to see in Trump’s court jester (double meaning intended: The New Yorker called him “Trump’s clown”) the successful mayor of New York City from 1994 to 2001 and the steadying hand in the metropolis following 9/11. His role seems to be less to give legal advice and more to create a smoke screen of contradiction and confusion behind which Trump’s real lawyers do their work.
Brade ParscaleChairman, Trump 2020 presidential campaign Trump picked the computer specialist to head the 2020 campaign on the strength of his work in getting him elected the first time. Parscale once boasted on “60 Minutes” that Facebook got Trump into the White House. With a more vigilant Facebook, a defunct digital data supplier, Cambridge Analytica and presumably less Russian help — can Parscale do it again in 2020?
Michael PillsburyChina affairs advisor Pillsbury published his book, “The Hundred- Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower,” while he was a Pentagon consultant advising the Obama administration. Today he counsels the Trump administration on its confrontational China policy. According to a couple of administration insiders, Pillsbury, an urbane, scholar with a droll sense of humor, may be a hardliner on China, but amid the pandemonium of the White House, he seems to be a voice of reason. Recently, the Chinese didn’t give him a visa to attend a conference in Beijing, without explanation. Perhaps he could be doing something right?
Senators Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rob Portman (R-OhThese U.S. senators represent a group of relatively more moderate lawmakers in the G.O.P.-dominated Senate who have shown themselves willing to break ranks on specific issues and vote against the pro-Trump party line. Twelve of them voted with the Democrats to pass a resolution opposing Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border. The president promptly said he would veto the resolution, but the action of this small group may be the first crack in the solid front of total obedience to the White House by Republican lawmakers.
Robert Mueller and the U.S. Attorneys from the Southern District of New York SDNYSpecial Counsel // The completion of Mueller’s investigation in to Russian penetration in the 2016 presidential elections is not the end of the story, but the beginning of a larger one over where its findings will lead in terms of Congressional action, and its impact on Trump and his presidency. Even before submitting his tip toe-to-the edge report, two years in the compiling, Mueller cut a swath through Trump’s closest staff and advisors, indicting Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, plus two dozen Russians, and another handful of alleged Russian intelligence officers for hacking the Democratic National Committee and U.S. election infrastructure. Part of the Mueller legacy is that aspects and offshoots of his investigation, including Trump’s personal and Trump Organization finances, continue to percolate in the Southern District of New York (where both Comey and Giuliani are former staffers) in addition to Congress and jurisdictions across the country. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Burman, a Trump appointee, has recused himself from these ongoing investigations.
Barack and Michelle ObamaFormer U.S. president and first lady // Many Democrats feel the former president has shown remarkable restraint while his successor dismantles his legacy piece by piece. But the conventional wisdom is that Obama will step into the fray once the 2020 election campaign gets underway. Democratic strategists believe that Obama is almost sure to focus his support his former vice president Joe Biden. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who is also close to the Obamas, is another possible candidate to get his backing. Michelle Obama’s very successful book tour raised hopes that she might consider running herself. For what it’s worth, she has repeatedly said, "Absolutely, no.”
Joe BidenFormer Vice President // In April, Biden threw his hat into the already crowded ring, immediately taking the lead in early polls, including racing ahead of Trump by nearly six percent. The Biden challenge has pressed panic buttons at the White House, where Trump doubtless considers the former vice president the candidate he least wants to face. Were Biden to win, he would be 77 when elected, and the oldest president since Trump, unless, of course, Sen. Bernie Sanders wins.
Jerry Nadler and Adam SchiffChairman, House Judiciary Committee; Chairman, House Intelligence Committee // In March, Nadler subpoenaed 81 individuals and entities as part of his investigation into Trump, his family and his affairs, a Congressional probe that gives new meaning to the phrase “wide ranging.” Nadler’s investigation is one outcome of Michael Cohen’s recent testimony, in which he named names. California Democrat Schiff also wields considerable power as he draws on the Mueller report to lead the House Intelligence Committee's investigation of the President.
Ruth Bader GinsburgAssociate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court // No other Supreme Court Justice has been the subject of a widely praised CNN documentary and a biopic produced in the same year. But, as The Guardian newspaper expressed it, she is “a tough, old school liberal feminist whose dissenting positions and elegant, distinctive public profile have turned her into an A-list celebrity.” The documentary, “RBG,” shows why she is a role model for young female lawyers, and feminists alike. Justice Ginsburg describes the biopic, “On the Basis of Sex,” as part fact and part fiction. What is true is that she hasn’t hesitated to express her views on President Trump, calling him “a faker” during his campaign, and vowing to stay on the court until after the 2020 election, notwithstanding fracturing three ribs last fall.
Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
San Francisco Democrat Pelosi is the first woman to hold the gavel, and one of only a few speakers to have served in the post twice. Her firm stand over the partial Federal shutdown and her success in blocking the president’s State of the Union address announced the start of an era of checks on Trump’s seemingly unfettered power. Her well-honed political instincts paid off in the 2018 elections and since then she has masterfully navigated the diversity in her own caucus, bringing left and right, and some Republicans, together into the mainstream center. Her success or failure in this regard will have a significant impact on the 2020 presidential race.
Sisterhood of Congressional Firsts
“We’re in the building,” Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Instagram in January beneath a stylized photo of herself and five colleagues whose elections were historic firsts. Cortez (D-N.Y.), who has 3.2 million Instagram followers, is the youngest woman elected to Congress and has celebrity-like buzz. A surge in gender politics represented by #MeToo and other movements, plus the backlash against men behaving badly on the sexual front resulted in a record number of female lawmakers like Cortez elected to Congress in the 2018 midterms. Congress was color-coded for Trump’s State of the Union address, with female members en bloc wearing white, a color historically linked to the suffragette movement. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) are the first two Muslim American congresswomen. Sharice Davids (D-Kans.) and Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) are the first two Native American women elected to the U.S. Congress. It’s not just women on the “left,” but Democratic centrists like former CIA operative Abigail Spanberger and former Navy pilot Mikie Sherrill, that reflect the rise of powerful women in the House.
Jerry Falwell Jr., Franklin Graham, Pentecostal-Charismatic Christians, John Hagee
Sheldon AdelsonCasino magnate, philanthropist, Zionist // Mega-rich Vegas casino owner and leading Trump backer (he gave $26 million to the Trump 2016 campaign), who is a supporter of Netanyahu and far-right Israeli politicians, has been so influential on the Trump White House that The New York Times recently called him a member of “a shadow National Security Council” advising Bolton and the President. He has been credited with getting Trump to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and, with Jared Kushner’s help, to recognize the annexation of the Golan Heights.
Tom SteyerFounder, “Need to Impeach” movement // Hedge fund billionaire, Trump antagonist and Democratic activist Steyer has spent millions bombarding televisions and computer screens around the country calling for immediate action to oust the president. To date, according to his Need to Impeach website, more than seven million Americans agree with him. He’s expected to spend millions more to fight Trump’s reelection.
Michael BloombergFormer mayor of New York // Bloomberg spent over $110 million backing Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms and is credited with helping at least 21 Congressional Democrats to win their seats. Although out of the presidential race, Bloomberg continues to push his climate control and sensible gun control agenda at appearances across the country, and he is likely to spend as much as $400 million from his sizable fortune to defeat Trump in 2020, a Bloomberg political advisor told Politico.
Charles KochChairman and CEO, Koch Industries // With the retirement of his brother David a year ago, Charles acquired full control of the Wichita-based $115 billion-a-year family business and the powerful, tentacular machine pushing the Koch’s arch-conservative agenda. The Koch brothers, who considered Ronald Reagan too liberal, have not supported Trump. However, Trump has introduced some measures the Koch organization favors, notably tax cuts for the rich and government deregulation. But free trade is holy writ for the Kochs so Trump’s imposition of tariffs is one disputed area, as is his tough stance on immigration.
Thomas BarrackChairman, Colony Capital // The Lebanese- American billionaire real estate investor is a longtime Trump friend and an advisor, especially in the early days of the Trump presidency. Barrack brought Paul Manafort into the Trump campaign as chairman. It was reportedly Barrack who connected UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba to Jared Kushner and organized Trump’s meeting with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia during the president’s first overseas trip. Now Barrack is under scrutiny from the House Judiciary Committee along with numerous other Trump associates and friends, and in a separate action, federal prosecutors in New York have asked the Trump inaugural committee, of which Barrack was chairman, to surrender documents relating to the $107 million celebration.
Jerry Falwell Jr., Franklin Graham, Pentecostal-Charismatic Christians, John HageeChristian Ministers and Trump Supporters // Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Donald Trump’s rise to power, given his scandal-littered life, is the staunch support of the Christian right. A new “spiritual biography” of Trump (“The Faith of Donald Trump”) claims that large numbers of Christians believe “God has installed Donald Trump in the Oval Office to Make America Great,” and compares him to St. Augustine, much as others compare him to Cyrus the Great. Evangelist Jerry Falwell Jr. cites King David to rationalize allegations of Donald Trump’s extramarital affairs. According to the Biblical account, King David seduced Bathsheba and had her husband killed so that he could marry her. “God called David a man after God’s heart even though he was an adulterer and a murderer,” Falwell said in an interview. “You have to choose a leader that would make the best king or president and not necessarily someone who would be a good pastor.” Pentecostal-charismatic Christians who make up one-fourth of the American population were some of Trump’s earliest supporters in part because his campaign promises resonated with their admiration for Israel. Even the respected Franklin Graham, son of the charismatic Billy Graham, is prepared to make allowances for the president. “As human beings, we’re flawed,” he told the New Yorker when questioned about the squalid side of Trump’s reputation. San Antonio megachurch pastor John Hagee, another Trump ally and founder of the Christians United for Israel movement, was one of two pastors invited to bless the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem
Salem and Rima Al-Sabah
Meshal Bin Hamad Al-Thani
Yousef Al Otaiba
Salem and Rima Al-SabahAmbassador of Kuwait and his wife // The Al-Sabahs’ lavish social evenings recall old-style diplomatic entertaining as it is not often seen in Washington these days. Their events gather the power elite to support charitable causes and to advance the small, oil-rich kingdom’s interests in the nation’s capital. A skillful Ambassador and hostess combo, the Al- Sabahs make sure they have a bipartisan guest list, plus a sprinkling of movie stars, media and Washington old money. The focus remains on the leading figures of the administration. President Trump and his wife were guests early in the administration, ditto the Pences; the Kushners are regulars.
Meshal Bin Hamad Al-ThaniAmbassador of Qatar // Talk about bad timing. A member of Qatar’s ruling family and a seasoned diplomat, Al-Thani arrived in Washington when tension broke out between his country and its main Persian Gulf neighbors, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Initially, the Trump administration supported Riyadh, with the president accusing energy-rich Qatar of harboring terrorists. But Qatar is home to the Al Udeid Air Base, the largest U.S. military base in the Arab world, and the administration quickly reversed itself. As a testament to Qatari power, Secretary of State Pompeo was in the Qatari capital, Doha, in January to co-chair with his Qatari counterpart a so-called Strategic Dialogue meeting, where he spoke of a “robust bilateral relationship” between the two countries.
Yousef Al OtaibaAmbassador of the United Arab Emirates // A diplomat with deep pockets and a high profile, Al Otaiba has across the board entrée to politicians and officials from both parties, including — it is said — a close relationship with Jared Kushner. His reputation for checkbook generosity is well earned as he continues to support galas and charities, not to mention think tanks and an army of lobbyists. Although the UAE, together with the Saudis, continues to support the devastating war in Yemen, it has been reported that the two allies are supporting different factions as they vie for power.
Binyamin NetanyahuPrime Minister of Israel // Given his long association with Jared Kushner, Netanyahu’s influence within the White House remains high. Trump’s moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, reneging on Washington’s long-standing commitments to Palestinians, supporting annexation of the Golan Heights and other far-right Israeli positions are a testament to the influence of Netanyahu, Trump’s super rich Jewish backers, and his right-wing Christian base. Despite his corruption scandals, team Trump gave Netanyahu all the campaign help it could. Many view the prime minister’s election to a fifth term as a geopolitical catastrophe that, with help from the Trump administration, is likely to set back a lasting, equitable Israeli- Palestinian solution for decades.
Vladimir PutinPresident of Russia // For the past two years, Putin cast an ominous shadow over the Trump presidency. Two-thirds of the Mueller report details Russia’s extensive use of social media to influence the outcome of the 2016 elections in Trump’s favor, which raises the question, why hasn’t the Trump administration responded to Moscow’s interference in the American democratic process or warned against more of the same in 2020? Strobe Talbott, a Russian specialist and former deputy secretary of state in the Clinton administration, recently wrote in Politico that, regardless of the Mueller investigation’s findings, Trump has colluded “with a hostile Russia throughout his presidency.” Perhaps it’s a testament to Putin’s power that earlier this year the Treasury Department lifted sanctions on three Russian firms with connections to a Russian oligarch and close Putin ally Oleg Deripaska, who was linked by Mueller to convicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. In his home country, Putin enjoys an 80 percent favorability rating among Russians, as he continues to stoke Russian nationalism.
Xi JinpingPresident of China // President Trump boasts of his personal relationship with his Chinese counterpart, but a proposed summit early in 2019 had to be pushed back because both sides were trying to pin down details of a trade deal and avert the embarrassment of failure. A further problem is the U.S. antagonism to Huawei, the world’s largest provider of telecommunications equipment. The Chinese foreign minister has warned that China will “take all necessary measures” to protect the company.
Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman
The expression “heads will roll” acquires a grotesque, literal meaning in Saudi Arabia were in April, 37 individuals were beheaded, of which at least 34 were from the desert kingdom’s Shia Muslim minority, according to Human Rights Watch. This brings the total number of executions so far this year to 105, including at least one crucifixion, and fits into Crown Prince Mohammad’s ruthless drive to secure his power within the kingdom. Known as MBS, the prince is regarded as Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler. His harsh application of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi-based Islamic law, against non-adherents, his merciless bombing of neighboring Yemen – a humanitarian disaster of catastrophic proportions, and his role in the execution of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi have irrevocably undermined his multi-million dollar public relations blitz to present himself as a reformer. The Trump White House, however, continues to support MBS, recently vetoing legislation to halt U.S. support for the Saudi Arabia-UAE war in Yemen. As such, Saudi influence with the Trump administration appears immovable, perhaps in part because Saudi political and financial support is pivotal to Kushner’s Israeli-Arab peace plan. Saudi Arabia has the dubious distinction of being the top foreign spender with Washington lobby firms, employing a virtual army of 146 lobbyists to work on its image and advance its agenda. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Saudis lavished more than $19 million on the lobbying sector between January 2017 and October 2018. Of course, this pales in comparison to the $10 billion the Saudis have spent over the past five decades, according to the State Department, to spread a narrow, puritanical, and intolerant version of Islam that has been linked to nearly every terrorist attack in the West. In fact, according to the Global Terrorism Database of King’s College in London, nearly every terrorist attack in the West since September 11, 2001, has had some connection to Saudi Arabia.
NEWS “FAKERS” AND MAKERS
Dan Bongino and Rush Limbaugh
Tucker Carlson, Ainsley Earhardt and Sean Hannity
Chris Matthews, Mika Brezezinski and Joe Scarborough and Rachel Maddow
Wolf Blitzer, Jake Tapper and Dana Bash
Bret Baier and Chris Wallace
Martin "Marty" Baron and Fred Ryan
Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman
Robert Allbritton, Patrick Steel and Carrie Budoff Brown
Mike Allen, Roy Schwartz and Jim Vandehei
PinocchioMedia Fact Checkers at The New York Times, The Washington Post, Associated Press, etc. // A children’s tale from Italy, written in 1883, provides the symbol for media checkers who daily expose Trump’s habitual indifference to the truth. Pinocchio, the wood puppet that comes to life, gained a global audience in a Walt Disney cartoon, released in 1940. More recently, Pinocchio, whose nose gets longer when he lies, entered American politics as the lie indicator of media fact-checking teams: five small images of his long-nosed face to signify a whopper, and fewer Pinocchios for lesser fibs and inaccurate claims. As of April 2019, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker Database reports, President Trump has made or repeated 9,451 false or mistaken claims.
Dan Bongino and Rush LimbaughHosts, “The Dan Bongino Show” and the“The Rush Limbaugh Show” // Right-wing commentators Bongino and Limbaugh are somewhat inaccurately included as media, as are many bloggers. Limbaugh, a far-right broadcaster with one of the largest radio audiences ever, is among Trump’s most loyal supporters, and the feeling is mutual. Back in December, when Trump was on the verge of signing a budget that did not include his $5 billion to build the southern border wall, Limbaugh publicly urged him to reject it, and the president changed his mind, opening the way for the longest federal government shutdown in history. Fox News contributor and conspiracy theorist Bongino boasts over a million Twitter followers. He has used his platform to, in his own words, "debunk one liberal myth at a time.”
Chris RipleyPresident and CEO, Sinclair Broadcasting Corp. // When the largest television station operator in the United States (193 outlets) instructed its news anchors across the country last year to parrot a prepared announcement warning that “national media outlets” spread “fake stories” — and used a version close to one of Trump’s favorite slogans to make its point, a lot of people, including some Sinclair staffers, were reminded of some countries, past and present, where the media are forced to follow regime orders. The fact that the Sinclair chain has a long-standing, rightwing reputation didn’t help. The defense was hardly convincing: Sinclair said it was referring to really fake news, and cited as examples the notorious “Pizzagate” story and “Pope endorses Donald Trump for president,” both items the “national media outlets” had gone to great lengths to discredit.
Tucker Carlson, Ainsley Earhardt and Sean HannityHost, "Tucker Carlson Tonight”; co-host, “Fox and Friends”; and host, “The Sean Hannity Show” // Hannity is the main reason Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News is widely seen as Trump’s propaganda network — and the Democratic party’s justification for shutting out Fox from hosting any of its primary debates. New York-based Hannity is the voice of Trump’s core support, very close to the president (they are said to talk on the phone most nights); in 2018, he appeared with Trump onstage at a campaign rally. Trump starts his day watching “Fox and Friends,” and the show often inspires his tweets. Earhardt, also in New York, recently argued that one reason the United States is great is because “we defeated communist Japan.” Carlson is an often combative, conservative interviewer who has been accused of parroting the president’s white nationalism and climate change denial, has also been willing to challenge interventionist pro-war policies.
Chris Matthews, Mika Brezezinski and Joe Scarborough and Rachel MaddowHosts, “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” “Morning Joe;” and “The Rachel Maddow Show,” MSNBC // If Fox News is Trump’s media ally, MSNBC is his sharpest media critic. Overall, the tone of MSNBC’s programs contrasts sharply with Fox’s wall-to-wall support for the president. New York-based Rachel Maddow, in particular, takes no prisoners: in January, Maddow averaged 3.29 million nightly viewers, beating Hannity, Fox’s top performer (3.01 million). “Morning Joe,” once a Trump favorite, now fits into the MSNBC pattern of adversarial coverage. Veteran broadcaster Chris Matthews takes a more cerebral approach, challenging the neoconservative “foreign policy blob” on their interventionist advocacy for perpetual war.
Wolf Blitzer, Jake Tapper and Dana BashRespectively CNN anchors and chief political correspondent // Having recently joined the “Billionaire’s Club” in terms of profits by a major TV news organization, chasing the Trump story has been good for CNN, which in 2018 had its best year ever, chalking up $1.2 billion in earnings on $2.5 billion in revenues. Its reporting is thorough and accurate, but the main attraction is its endless succession of panel dissections of the latest Trump news between resident journalists and guest experts, deftly orchestrated by Wolf Blitzer, Jake Tapper and others. The network claims to give equal time to pro- and anti-Trump views, but the overall tone tends to be adversarial towards the president. Trump is a CNN “hate watcher” who returns the compliment with scathing public comments. Chief political correspondent Dana Bash, who has been at the network her entire career, is, alongside Blitzer and Tapper, one of the most recognizable faces on CNN. She’s the lead reporter on both the House and Senate, is a key player in the network’s campaign coverage, and hosts the “Badass Women of Washington” series.
Bret Baier and Chris WallaceHost, “Fox News Sunday;” Fox News chief political anchor and host, “Special Report with Bret Baier” // “I’m not one of the opinion guys … They know I’m not going to sell a party line,” veteran Fox journalist Chris Wallace once told the Associated Press, putting distance between himself and the Fox commentators and talk show hosts — the ”opinion guys” — to whom Trump is a hero. Wallace, 71, describes himself as a journalist with a newsman’s perspective and many years of covering the White House. Unlike his fawning Fox colleagues, he has in recent months, memorably dismantled White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ claims that 4,000 terrorists crossed the southern border into the U.S.; shot full of holes White House adviser Stephen Miller’s defense of Trump’s emergency declaration; and admonished the president himself for attacking the media (“We’re all together. When you call CNN and The New York Times [fake news], we are in solidarity, sir”). Baier has played golf with Trump at Mar-al-Lago but recently complained that he can’t get an interview with the president. Baier also challenged Fox’s reputation as Trump’s mouthpiece, drawing a distinction between his own program and Sean Hannity’s, and took heat from right-wing commentators for hosting a town hall with Sen. Bernie Sanders. “The wall between real, factual journalism and opinion at Fox News is very much alive, very real,” Baier told a recent audience.
Ryan GrimWashington bureau chief, The Intercept // The Intercept, an online publication launched in 2014, leapt to notoriety by publishing National Security Agency documents provided by NSA leaker Edward Snowden. Its co-founder, lawyer-turned-journalist Glenn Greenwald, now runs The Intercept by remote control from Rio de Janeiro, where he lives. Grim, who joined the publication in 2017, is The Intercept’s Washington bureau chief and has shown the courage not only to take the political right but the Democratic party as well. He is known as one of the hardest-working journalists in town.
Martin "Marty" Baron and Fred RyanEditor and Publisher/CEO, Washington Post // In 2018, the Post first had to cope with the shocking murder of one of its columnists, journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and later faced the challenge of reporting on its owner, Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos and his ongoing battle with The National Enquirer over publication of details of his affair with Lauren Sanchez. And all the while the paper was striving to maintain a competitive edge on the never-ending Trump saga. To their credit, The Post has published a string of stories on their owner’s problems with the Enquirer, while Bezos recently took to the website Medium (not The Post) with a spirited attack against the Enquirer, which in April was sold to new owners.
Peter Baker and Maggie HabermanNew York Times White House correspondents Haberman, who has covered Trump since at least 2011, is consistently the best Trump watcher in Washington, both when it comes to uncovering information that the president and the White House don’t want revealed and in her penetrating profiles of the man himself, as when she memorably described him rattling noiselessly around the residential quarters at night in his bathrobe. Baker was brought back from heading the Jerusalem bureau to lead the Times team at the White House, where he had earlier covered three presidents over a span of 15 years and had a reputation for being marinated in presidential politics.
Robert Allbritton, Patrick Steel and Carrie Budoff BrownPolitico founder and chairman; CEO; and editor // Now in its 11th year, the online juggernaut maintains its reputation for fast, penetrating political Washington coverage, and a respectable footprint in Europe and Canada. But its $113 million revenue in 2018 — the highest in its history — and $2 million profit is less due to its mainstream news delivery and more to its pricey Politico Pro, described by the company as a “customizable policy intelligence platform for professionals.” Allbritton recently told Vanity Fair that Politico’s mission “is not to have the largest audience — it’s to have the most influential audience.” In 2016, when some top managers broke away to found the rival news start-up Axios, Allbritton hired investment banker Patrick Steel as CEO, and the company seemed to hardly miss a beat. Budoff Brown, who was appointed editor in 2016, has been a Politico staffer since its inception.
Mike Allen, Roy Schwartz and Jim VandeheiCo-founders, Axios // Allen and VandeHei, who broke away from Politico in 2016 and joined forces with Roy Schwartz to set up their own media startup, seem to have struck a chord with their trademark formula of “smart brevity” news snippets plus standard articles on the internet. In his Axios AM and PM, Mike Allen has replicated his Politico Daily Playbook, with comparable success.
Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer, Tommy Vietor and Jon Lovett, Hosts, “Pod Save America”
Favreau, Pfeiffer, Vietor and Lovett are a quartet of former Obama aides. In 2017, they launched the HBO-based podcast which they describe as a “no bullshit conversation about politics” and it has become a go-to source of political commentary for American millennials, with an average audience of 1.5 million per show. Millennials favor getting their news through comedy and following John Stewart’s lead, Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee and John Oliver have taken this to another level. Together, with Favreau and company, they’ve helped politically engage millions of young Americans.
ADVOCACY AND NONPROFITS
Matthew Brooks and Norm Coleman
Thomas Donohue and Scott Reed
Jo Ann Jenkins
Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox
Fatima Goss Graves
Mike SommersPresident & CEO, American Petroleum Institute // Sommers took over API this summer, after most recently serving as president of the American Investment Council, but is best known in Washington as former House Speaker John Boehner’s chief of staff and chief strategist. He takes over API at a time when U.S. oil and gas output is the highest ever, making extraction the nation’s fastest growing industry — and also the most devastating for the planet.
Brian BallardPresident, Ballard Partners // Ballard was a top Florida lobbyist for years, with a long business and personal connection with Trump. Following the election, Ballard Partners established a serious presence in Washington. Qatar, Mali, Kosovo and Zimbabwe were added to their foreign client list, and the firm is regarded as the most successful of Trump era lobbyists.
Matthew Brooks and Norm ColemanRepublican Jewish Coalition (RJC) National Chairman and Executive Director // Although the RJC only has the support of a small percentage of American Jews, it provided a very significant proportion of Republican party funds. Its patron is mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, and its influence with Trump reflects the tremendous largesse lavished upon the president and the Republican party by Adelson and his RJC cohorts. It was not always such. In 2016 former Minnesota Sen. Coleman called Trump “a bigot, a misogynist, a fraud and a bully,” vowing never to vote for him. But that was then. Both Coleman and Matthew Brooks now shower approval on Trump’s Israel policy.
Jeremy Ben-AmiFounder and President, J Street // Founded in 2008, J Street’s main thrust is the peaceful two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Ben-Ami’s intention was to introduce a more balanced voice that reflects the views of the majority of American Jews. While the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC – see below) finds itself reflecting Israeli Jews’ support for Trump (90 percent), J Street is more in tune with the views of American Jews, 75 percent of which increasingly perceive Trump as racist and anti- Semitic, and voted Democratic in the mid-terms.
Thomas Donohue and Scott ReedPresident & CEO and Senior Political Strategist, U.S. Chamber of Commerce // Late last year, the Chamber of Commerce issued a statement saying it was “inappropriate for government officials to use their institution to attack an American company.” The official — not mentioned by name — was President Trump, and the company was Amazon, which had been the target of a presidential tweet attack. The statement shows the challenge facing the Chamber in dealing with an unpredictable president who is business friendly, except when he isn’t. Reed recently told The Atlantic magazine that the Chamber was reconsidering how to respond to Trump’s tendency to attack individual companies publicly and by name, which Reed called “unchartered waters.”
Thomas FittonPresident, Judicial Watch // The conservative investigative website has been a thorn in the side of Presidents Clinton, Obama and even George W. Bush, but in Trump it has found a White House occupant it can defend. Its main weapon is the government itself through successful Freedom of Information requests. In reality, Trump admires Thomas Fitton more than Fitton does Trump. But Fitton has said in interviews that Trump is being “victimized” by the national security establishment, the Democratic party, the media and government bureaucrats. This “plot” finds fullest expression in the Mueller probe, which Fitton called “unconstitutional.”
Jo Ann JenkinsCEO, AARP // An executive with years of federal government experience, Jenkins heads the $1.5 billion, District-based nonprofit group that advocates for Americans over age 50. The organization has upward of 38 million members. She has made cheaper medication prices, educating members in the new “job mobility” labor market and understandable technology the AARP’s top priorities.
Howard KohrChief Executive, American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) // Kohr heads the large and powerful — some say too powerful — right-leaning Israel lobby that has been struggling to keep up its bi-partisan persona. AIPAC does not endorse or raise money for individual candidates, but its members do, with AIPAC’s strong encouragement, giving considerable clout on the Hill. In addition, the group spent $3.5 million last year on lobbying. The majority of American Jews vote for Democrats, but Trump has won AIPAC’s approval with his support for right-wing Israeli policies.
Wayne LaPierre and Chris CoxCEO, National Rifle Association; Director, NRA Institute of Legislative Action // Year after year, LaPierre’s rhetoric never changes, but the killing statistics do. They continue to rise: 11,984 deaths in 47,220 gun incidents in 2018 (not counting suicides). To LaPierre and Cox, the NRA’s chief strategist, last year’s Florida school shooting (17 dead) was everybody’s fault but the weapons — lax school security, “rogue” FBI leadership and the Democrats. The reality is that opposition to gun violence is slowly growing in the U.S. Trump himself has voiced support for measures the NRA opposes, including raising the age limit to purchase an assault rifle and banning rapid-fire gun bump stocks. But at the same time, Trump calls LaPierre and Cox “GREAT patriots, and GREAT people.” Recently, the NRA fired president Oliver North for allegedly blackmailing LaPierre.
Leonard LeoExecutive Vice-President, The Federalist Society // As head of the powerful, nationwide organization of right wing lawyers, Leo will have a lot to answer for long after Donald Trump has left the White House. Both Trump’s nominees for the Supreme Court so far — Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — as well as several appointees to the federal judiciary, came from a list drawn up for him by the Federalist Society. And given the age of some of the other justices, Trump could well have the opportunity to appoint one or two more from Leo’s right-wing nominees.
Fatima Goss GravesCEO, National Women’s Law Center // Through the Law Center, Graves promotes the rights of women and girls at school and in the workplace and works to ensure non-discrimination in athletics. She was one of the African American lawyers to publicly oppose Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. She also came out against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ changes to the rules governing campus sexual harassment, limiting the cases schools must investigate, and allowing lawyers for the accused to question the victims. Goss Graves argues that the last measure would inhibit victims from coming forward at a time when one in five women students say they experienced sexual misconduct while in college.
Corey LewandowskiLobbyist // Like White House counsel Don McGahn, Corey Lewandowski failed to carry out Trump’s instructions to undermine the Mueller investigation. But, unlike McGahn, Trump’s former campaign manager escaped the president’s wrath despite his testimony to Mueller based on notes he kept in his safe. According to Lewandowski, Trump dictated a note that he was to take to Jeff Sessions instructing the then Attorney General to make a statement which would clear the president of any wrongdoing in the Russian interference probe, and curtail the scope of Mueller’s investigation. Lewandowski failed to deliver the message himself and then gave it to a White House staffer who didn’t deliver it either, according to the Mueller Report narrative. But Lewandowski has remained in Trump’s good graces and has written a favorable book of the Trump presidency. Things may change if, like McGahn, he is subpoenaed to elaborate on the incident before Congress.
Stephen MilesDirector, Win Without War // For the umbrella organization Win Without War, Miles directs a coalition of 37 national organizations, including the member groups MoveOn. org, CREDO Action and the NAACP, that are dedicated to the principle of resolving conflicts through diplomacy. Win Without War is a program of the Center for International Policy that maintains American victory in foreign policy can be achieved through U.S. diplomacy and negotiation.
Michael PetruzzelloManaging Partner, Qorvis Communications // It’s business as usual for Qorvis, one of several go-to lobby/public relations firms for the Saudis, after Saudi Arabian agents — acting on orders from Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, as has been widely reported — murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. Several other K Street firms dropped the Saudis as clients once the gruesome details of Khashoggi’s murder were made public, but not Petruzzello’s outfit, which in 2018 managed the crown prince’s U.S. tour.
Charles RivkinChairman & CEO, Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) // When Rivkin was appointed Hollywood’s man in Washington a year ago, The New York Times described the MPAA as “musty.” Rivkin, named ambassador to France by Obama and then assistant secretary of economic affairs from 2014-2017, and before that the Muppets’ boss as CEO of the Jim Henson Co., set to work removing the mustiness and reshape the trade association to reflect the upheaval in the business. In 2019, for example, he negotiated the admission of Netflix as a new MPAA member.
Anthony RomeroPresident, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) // The American Civil Liberties Union received a boost with Donald Trump’s election when it found itself fighting legal battles on several fronts. Its membership quadrupled in 15 months. By 2018, it had initiated 170 legal actions against the Trump administration. The ACLU led the way in blocking the administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families and was also involved in lawsuits on Trump’s Muslim travel ban, digital privacy, voting rights and free speech issues. Not surprisingly, it is hiring more lawyers.
Robert StrykExecutive Chairman, Sonoran Policy Group // Robert Stryk’s Sonoran Policy Group calls itself a “global private diplomacy” firm. What’s in a name? It’s a lobbying firm. Stryk was West Coast advisor to the Trump election campaign and is one of several people with Trump connections to immediately jump on the influence peddling bandwagon. This development is not unique to the Trump campaign, of course, but more of a fixture in Washington’s modern post-election scenario. Almost overnight, Sonoran had foreign clients, inevitably including the Saudis (more than $5.3 million before the Khashoggi murder scandal). Last year, SPG had $100 million in revenues.
Randi WeingartenPresident, American Federation of Teachers // In her Washington, D.C. office Weingarten has a blow-up of a statement she made prior to the 2018 midterms. “We must fight the anti-democratic, nativist, racist, incompetent, oligarchical, authoritarian and cruel instincts and actions of this president and his cronies and associates,” it said in part. That pretty much sums up where the teachers; union leader stands in relation to the present administration. As she tells it, her most recent contact with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was in 2017. The AFT spent $12 million on supporting Democratic candidates in the midterms, and, says Weingarten, has more to spend in 2020.
Leana Wen, President, The Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Leana Wen had hardly settled in as the first physician to lead the national organization in nearly 50 years when she was pushing against new cuts in federal family planning funds proposed by the Trump administration. Sweeping new rules will make organizations that provide or refer patients for abortions ineligible to receive funds under the so-called Title X family planning program. The new regulations also divert more funds to faith-based organizations that promote fertility awareness and abstinence as family planning methods. Planned Parenthood provides health services for millions of women through its 600 health centers across the country. Prior to moving to Planned Parenthood in November, Wen was Baltimore’s City Health Commissioner. To combat an opioid crisis, she issued a blanket prescription for the opioid antidote, naloxone, to all 620,000 Baltimore residents, a program that saved thousands of lives.
Christine LagardeManaging Director, International Monetary Fund // Lagarde is an influential voice in the global economy, but a calm and reasoned one. An absence of rhetoric against Trump’s protectionist policies and his rants against globalism help explain in part the absence of tension between the IMF and its biggest contributor, the Trump administration. Another possible explanation: the IMF’s deliberate media low profile, so the attention-hungry White House (i.e. Trump) doesn’t see it as a competitor for the spotlight. Lagarde, who is in her second five-year term as the IMF’s managing director has, for example, warned that the tax cuts could undermine the U.S. economy in the long term, but the IMF has not pushed back against the White House’s attack on U.S. international trade agreements. That does not mean that Lagarde is unafraid of speaking up against the Trump Administration’s protectionist policies. At Spring Meetings of the 189-nation IMF, Lagarde said the world’s economies are at a “delicate moment” with 70 percent of the global economy caught in a growth slowdown that could be worsened by “unnecessary” trade battles. Despite forecasting a rebound in growth next year, Lagarde warned that forecast is “precarious and subject to downside risks” with rising trade tensions a top threat.
David MalpassPresident, World Bank // President Trump’s pick to succeed Jim Yong Kim as president of the World Bank is a long- time critic of the Bank and the International Monetary Fund. David Malpass, a senior Treasury Department official, also has the dubious distinction of having publicly declared the 2008 financial meltdown wasn’t going to happen — a few days before it did. This is why his critics say he doesn’t exactly shine as an economist either. Malpass has said he considers World Bank specialized staff to be overpaid. As one Bank insider tweeted about Malpass’s appointment: “An incorrigible arsonist has now been made our fire chief.”
Stephen Brogan and Don McGahn
Kim KoopersmithChair, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld // Koopersmith is now in her third three-year term leading one of Washington’s major law/lobby firms, with more than 800 lawyers and a revenue in 2018 of $1.07 billion, up 3.1 percent over the previous year when the firm first topped the billion-dollar mark. As a firm originating in Dallas, Akin Gump has a robust energy practice, but handling the legal complexities of trade sanctions against Russia and Iran is another strength.
Stephen Brogan and Don McGahnManaging Partner, Jones Day; attorney, Jones Day // Former White House counsel McGahn is caught in the middle of a looming legal battle between the Trump White House and the Congress over his revelations in the Mueller Report that — as The New York Times reported — he “stepped in repeatedly to thwart Mr. Trump’s attempts to curtail the [Mueller] investigation.” Lawmakers want McGahn to elaborate on his disagreements with Trump over Mueller: the White House wants to prevent that happening. Trump has denied ordering McGahn, who is cited 157 times in the Mueller Report, to remove Mueller, but commentators have noted that the White House counsel was testifying under oath. McGahn is back at his old law firm and recently hinted to the Washington Post that he expected an unspecified number of former Jones Day lawyers to follow him out of the White House, just as they had followed him into it. In all, 14 Jones Day attorneys had joined the administration, including the newly appointed solicitor general, Noel Francisco, as detailed in our 2018 Power 100 feature. Brogan leads the firm of 2,500 lawyers in 43 offices across five continents, including one in Moscow to service its several Russian oligarchs. Recently, Jones Day represented the Chinese firm Huawei in its federal lawsuit against the U.S. government over a ban of its products.
Steve and Jean Case
Teresa Carlson and Jay Carney
Karam Bhatia, Joel Kaplan and Frederick Humphries
Laurene Powell Jobs
Mark Ein, Jason Levien, Mark Lerner and Dan Snyder
J.W. Bill Marriott and Arne Sorenson
Sachiko Kuno and Kate Goodall
Jeff BezosChairman, Amazon; owner, The Washington Post // The bad news for Bezos is that his divorce settlement from his estranged wife MacKenzie is expected to knock him off his perch as the world’s richest man — and make his wife one of the world’s richest woman. As of February, Bezos was worth more than $145 billion. Under Seattle’s community property laws, his wife is entitled to half his estate, or $72.5 billion, however, they reportedly settled for $36 billion. Bezos has stood up to threats by the National Enquirer to publish photos and texts related to his extramarital affair, accusing its owner, David Pecker, of extortion. The scandal sheet’s action is seen as inspired by Trump, who is close to Pecker, to retaliate against what the President sees as unfavorable coverage by the Bezos-owned Washington Post. But business is business: Amazon sells Trump’s signature Make America Great Again baseball cap on its website for $10.95.
Steve and Jean CaseChairman and CEO, Revolution; Chairman of the Board, National Geographic and CEO, Case Foundation // Steve Case’s Revolution Growth venture capital firm aims at broadening the geographic areas of investment. He argues that 75 percent of venture capital went to three states in 2018: New York, California and Massachusetts. That left 47 states fighting over the remaining funds. His Rise of the Rest bus tour has visited 38 heartland cities and held pitch competitions for $100,000 investments. Jean Case heads National Geographic Society and also oversees the Case Foundation, funder of City Year, which provides academic support for public school kids and also focuses on “entrepreneurial investment.”
Richard FairbankChairman & CEO, Capital One Bank // The head of the bank that asks “What’s in your wallet?” in its advertising now has $1 billion in his. According to Bloomberg, Fairbank’s net worth passed the billion dollar mark in 2018. One of the longest-serving bank CEOs in America, Fairbank hasn’t collected a salary since 1997. In recent years, he has received an average of $18 million in bonuses and shares. And he knows Jennifer Garner, main star of Capital One’s commercials.
Marillyn HewsonCEO, Lockheed Martin // When President Trump forgot her full name he called her Marillyn Lockheed, but to the defense industry that’s who she is. She joined the aerospace and defense company in 1983 as a senior industrial engineer, worked in virtually every department and 30 years later was appointed CEO. Fortune magazine recently called her “the Pentagon’s top weapons supplier.” The list includes the F-35 fighter jet program, with a supersonic aircraft that breaks the sound barrier with no sonic boom under development. Hewson’s current annual compensation: $22.87 million.
Sheila JohnsonCEO, Salamander Hotels & Resorts // The co-founder of BET (Black Entertainment Television) found a new interest six years ago in the Salamander Resort & Spa, 340 acres in the heart of Virginia’s horse and wine country. In 2018, Forbes Travel Guide awarded the resort its coveted five-star rating. She has turned Salamander into the headquarters of a small empire, acquiring four more resorts, three in Florida, and more recently one in South Carolina. She has also returned to her entertainment roots by launching the annual Middleburg Film Festival, which has become a key stop on the road to the Oscars. This is in addition to her being part owner of three professional teams, the NHL’s Washington Capitals, the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, all of which secures her place among Washington business titans.
David RubensteinCo-executive Chairman, The Carlyle Group; Chairman, The Kennedy Center // David Rubenstein is almost as much of a Washington monument as the historic sites he has contributed money to restore or preserve as a leader in the area of patriotic philanthropy, including the Washington Monument, the Library of Congress, Mount Vernon and the National Zoo. He is on the board of practically everything that is worth being on the board of, including the Washington National Opera, the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian Institution and a lot more. When it comes to supporting and preserving the city, Rubenstein is philanthropic to the nth degree. In his spare time (he has spare time?) he does a creditable job of interviewing fellow entrepreneurs on Bloomberg Television.
Teresa Carlson and Jay CarneyVice-President, Public Sector, Amazon Web Services, Amazon; Senior Vice-President Global Corporate Affairs, Amazon // Teresa Carlson, a cross-over from Microsoft, is in charge of the Amazon Web Services relations with its military and federal government customers. Carney, a former Obama Administration press secretary, was hired by Amazon in 2015 when the company had a reputation for avoiding publicity and Jeff Bezos made a fetish of personal privacy. Since then, Carney, a former Time magazine correspondent, has had to handle the fallout from his employer’s clash with the National Enquirer and his divorce, and Amazon’s headline-festooned search for an East Coast headquarters.
Karam Bhatia, Joel Kaplan and Frederick HumphriesVice President, Government Relations, Google; Vice President, Global Public Policy, Facebook; Vice President, U.S. Government Affairs, Microsoft // Top technology executives like Mark Zuckerberg come to Washington to fight the big battles before Congress as it pushes for more protection of people’s data and online privacy, but the periodic skirmishes are generally handled by resident representatives who man Silicon Valley’s forward trenches in the nation’s capital. Joel Kaplan, who recently ran into a storm of protest within Facebook for celebrating Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment as a Supreme Court justice, is a notable exception to the criticism from conservatives that the high-tech giants share a liberal bias. If true, the resurgence of a Democratic majority in Congress could foreshadow more cooperation from Silicon Valley on such issues as the extent of Russia’s internet involvement in the 2016 elections. Karam Bhatia is a new arrival handling Google’s government affairs; With 10 years in his present post-Frederick Humphries is the dean of the group.
Laurene Powell JobsFounder, Emerson Collective // Powell Jobs inherited stakes in Apple and Disney worth $19.2 billion from her late husband Steve Jobs. In 2004, she launched Emerson Collective as a for-profit social impact firm making grants and investments relating to immigration, education and social justice. Her increasing ties to Washington are a majority share in the District-based Atlantic magazine, acquired in 2017, and a sizable stake in Monumental Sports and Entertainment. “It is my goal to effectively deploy resources,” she told the Washington Post recently. “If there’s nothing left when I die, that’s just fine.”
Mark Ein, Jason Levien, Mark Lerner and Dan SnyderOwner, Washington Kastles; CEO, DC United; owner, Washington Nationals; owner, Washington Redskins // Ein recently announced a new home for his Washington Kastles World Team Tennis franchise - the roof of Union Market in Ward 5 - and also acquired lead ownership of Justice, a D.C. team in Overwatch, the multi-player team-based action game. Levien is managing partner of DC United, the local soccer team rooted firmly at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but displaying a promising new energy since the arrival of the former record goal scorer for the English national team Wayne Rooney, and moving into a new stadium last summer. Snyder continues to cling to a team name that many believe disrespects Native Americans — and to run a team that has forgotten how to win. In Major League Baseball, Mark Lerner’s Nationals have edged upward in performance and public regard in the past five years or so, winning division titles in 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, but losing in the National League Division Series (NLDS) each time.
Ted LeonsisFounder, chairman and CEO, Monumental Sports and Entertainment // As the founder and principal owner of a conglomerate of teams and sports facilities (the Capital One arena), Leonsis is virtually the voice of sport in Washington. With 18 other shareholders, he heads a $2.5 billion company that is one of the city’s highest-profile enterprises. 2018 provided one of the high points of his life as a sports entrepreneur when the Washington Capitals brought home the coveted Stanley Cup after 43 unsuccessful seasons. Even though the Caps lost in this year’s playoffs, we are still ALL CAPS! The other teams include the Washington Wizards and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics.
Alex OvechkinCaptain, Washington Capitals // Sports heroes are a rarity in Washington, but nobody can say that Ovechkin hasn’t earned that distinction. And despite losing in Game 7 of the first round of Stanley Cup playoffs this year, the sentiment of his enduring power is perhaps best reflected in the Stanley Cup’s official tweet, “Dear @ovi8, It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later. Yours truly, SC.” As the city switches gears to a 2020 run, Ovechkin remains the poster image of the Capitals, if not local sports.
Kenneth SametPresident & CEO, MedStar Health // Samet became CEO of MedStar, the largest healthcare provider in the Maryland and Washington area, in 2008. He was named chief operating officer 10 years earlier when the hospital complex was founded, and president in 2003. In 2009, Samet launched the first of MedStar’s outpatient care facilities in prime urban locations near shopping centers to operate in conjunction with the company’s 10 hospitals. To date, there are 250 such centers and in 2017, the network had treated 4.6 million outpatients and had a revenue of $4.6 billion.
J.W. Bill Marriott and Arne SorensonExecutive Chairman of the Board, Marriott International; CEO, Marriott International // When Marriott International acquired Starwood Hotels and Resorts in 2016, the Maryland-based, family-owned hotel chain also unwittingly bought one of the largest computer hacking thefts in history. Starting in 2014, thieves had breached the Starwood reservation system and stolen guests’ personal data. The thefts went on well after Marriott bought the chain, and by the time it was discovered in 2018, the number of guests affected had reached 500 million. This was Arne Sorenson’s biggest challenge since he took over leadership of the hotel chain (in 2012) from Bill Marriott, who had run it for 44 years.
Chris NassettaPresident & CEO, Hilton Hotels & Resorts // Nassetta, who took over as CEO of the then-struggling hotel chain in 2007 is credited for turning Hilton into one of America’s most successful hospitality firms, putting it on the Fortune 500 list and helping it earn $769 million in net income in 2018. Hilton, which boasts over 5,000 properties in more than 100 countries, is committed to cutting its environmental footprint in half and doubling social impact investment by 2030.
Sachiko Kuno and Kate GoodallChair, Halcyon; CEO, Halcyon // Kuno is the founder of the non-profit incubator for social impact entrepreneurs who get five months accommodations, a stipend and free expert advice in an 18th century Georgetown mansion. Her co-founder, Goodall, who trained as an underwater archeologist, runs both Halcyon's incubator and arts lab. Goodall also created the "By the People" arts festival, a free city-wide event now entering its second year, which has been described as "Art Basel with a conference" and the "next SXSW."
J. Stephen Jones, President and CEO, Inova Health System
In March 2018, Jones, a urology specialist, succeeded Knox Singleton, who had expanded the Falls Church health system of five hospitals to a still-growing network of healthcare facilities that serves some two million patients annually and has 17,500 employees. By December, Jones, formerly president of the Cleveland Clinic Regional Hospitals, had revised the original expansion plans that included what had earlier been called “a near mini-city” with a mall and residential areas to focus instead on advancing Inova’s existing medical and research plans. The state-of-the-art Inova Schar Cancer Center is expected to open later this year. Then, in 2020, the Global Genomics and Bioinformatics Research Institute housing research collaboration with the University of Virginia, and George Mason University will be fully functioning.
John J. (Jack) DeGioia
Sylvia BurwellPresident, American University // Burwell and Jack DeGioia (Georgetown) are two presidents of universities in Washington with very different backgrounds, but facing many of the same problems: tougher restrictions on foreign students coming to study in the United States, sexual harassment cases and the fear of Chinese indoctrination and most recently indictments in a large scale college bribery scam. Burwell has held cabinet and senior posts in the Obama White House but has no previous academic experience. Her main challenge is addressing the problem of declining foreign student enrollments, a financial mainstay of many colleges, but now in jeopardy, because the Trump administration is tightening restrictions on student visas.
John J. (Jack) DeGioiaPresident, Georgetown University // DeGioia is an academic who for the last 17 years has headed the oldest and largest Catholic (Jesuit) university in America, founded in 1789. Georgetown’s nine schools include the undergraduate Walsh School of Foreign Service, virtually a door-opener to a State Department career. In April, Georgetown students voted approval of a $27 increase to tuition fees to pay reparations to the descendants of slaves sold by the Jesuits in the 19th century to rescue the university from bankruptcy. Georgetown is also one of the big name schools targeted in the college entrance bribes scandal
Jodie W. McLean
Jodie W. McLeanCEO, EDENS // EDENS CEO Jodie W. McLean has been responsible for the development and redevelopment of more than $12 billion dollars in retail assets across the country, most recently in Northeast Washington’s Union Market area, where she transformed the warehouse district into a dining and retail hub for one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the nation’s capital (or, perhaps, the growth was due in part to her revitalization of the area). “We are in the business of humanity,” states EDEN’s website and the company says its purpose is to “enrich community through human engagement.” To that end, McLean will open La Cosecha, a contemporary Latin market featuring food, shopping, entertainment and community spaces in the Union Market district next month. And she recently signed a deal with investor Mark Ein, owner of the Washington Kastles, to construct a 700-seat stadium for the tennis team atop the food hall at Union Market, further ensuring the area will remain a gathering place for people from all over the city and beyond for decades to come.
Monty HoffmanFounder and CEO, PN Hoffman// With The Wharf, the mixed-use landmark development of the District’s Southwest Waterfront, now opened and flourishing, developer Hoffman has launched phase 2, with a completion target of 2022 for the 1.25-million-square-foot follow-up complex. In addition, in December 2018, PN Hoffman launched its first project venture outside Washington — a $250 million mixed-use project in Raleigh, N.C.
Matt KellyCEO, JBG Smith // If there’s one date that is surely etched in Kelly’s memory forever it’s November 13, 2018. That’s the day Amazon told the D.C. developer that his company had won the rights to create its new headquarters — known as HQ2 — in Northern Virginia’s Crystal City neighborhood, across the Potomac from the District. The previous July, Kelly and his associates had a 10-hour meeting with Amazon representatives to make their pitch. But it was not until November that the firm got the green light to set to work on 1.5-million-square-foot headquarters — by 2021.
Fabio and Maria Trabocchi, Franco Nuschese, Ashok Bajaj, Aaron Silverman and Eric Ziebold
Michael Kahn and Simon Godwin
Emily and Mitchell Rales
Fabio and Maria Trabocchi, Franco Nuschese, Ashok Bajaj, Aaron Silverman and Eric ZieboldFiola Mare (Trabocchi), Café Milano (Nuschese), Rasika (Bajaj), Pineapple & Pearls (Silverman) Kinship and Métier (Ziebold) // The group further reflects the range and quality of restaurants in a city that has blossomed into a serious gourmet capital. Fabio Trabocchi is the chef (mainly at Fiola, which has a Michelin star), but Maria Trabocchi is the owner diners know — the out-front personality at their clutch of restaurants including Fiola, Fiola Mare, and two called Sfoglina. Silverman’s Pineapple & Pearls retained its two stars in the 2019 Washington Michelin Guide. Bajaj, has turned his first District restaurant, The Bombay Club, into a collection, including the popular Rasika downtown. Nuschese’s Café Milano in Georgetown is the administration’s canteen, but it’s strictly bi-partisan. In the Obama years, the Bidens were regulars; Michelle Obama also ate there. Now, it’s Ivanka and Jared, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Louise Linton and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and wife Hilary. With two Michelin stars under his chef’s coat – one for each of his restaurants Kinship and Metier – Eric Ziebold has become a fixture in Washington’s burgeoning dining scene. He owns both establishments with his wife Celia Laurent, who runs the front of the house.
Patrick O’ConnellOwner-chef, The Inn at Little Washington // O’Connell deserves recognition for gaining a third star in the Washington Michelin Guide, the first Washington, D.C. area restaurant to win the highest accolade that the iconic French dining guide has to offer. The Michelin Guide is new to Washington, but in France, the book with its familiar red cover has been awarding coveted stars from its unique rating system since 1926. Once awarded, Michelin stars can also be withdrawn for a decline in standards, and French chefs have been known to commit suicide after they lost one. O’Connell gained his third star in his fortieth year at The Inn at Little Washington and celebrated both landmarks with lavish dinners for his favorite diners at Mount Vernon and at the famous Vaux-le-Vicomte chateau in France.
Michael Kahn and Simon GodwinPresent and future Artistic Directors, Shakespeare Theatre Company // Simon Godwin’s planned choice of “Much Ado About Nothing” in his first season as the new head of Washington’s Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) in 2019 is a link to history. The sparkling Shakespeare comedy had been Michael Kahn’s first production when he took over the theater in 1986. This is Kahn’s last season before his retirement after more than three decades. During that time, he moved the STC from the Folger Shakespeare Library to the Sidney Harmon Theater and became a key force in transforming the local cultural scene into what it is today. Godwin’s pedigree is English-based with directorships in the Royal National Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre and the Bristol Old Vic.
Courtney MonroePresident, National Geographic Global Networks // After 13 years at HBO, where she was chief marketing officer, Monroe moved to Washington to join National Geographic Channel. She now heads National Geographic’s channels around the world, which include National Geographic, Nat Geo WILD, People and Nat Geo MUNDO. Last month, Monroe celebrated the first National Geographic movie (“Free Solo”) to win the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. If Monroe has her way, it won’t be the last.
Gianandrea NosedaMusical Director, National Symphony Orchestra // Noseda is one of the outstanding conductors of his generation. In his first year heading the National Symphony, he has done much to raise its level of performance, its spirit, and its energy. But on the first anniversary of his becoming the lead baton of the National Symphony, the Washington Post’s excellent music critic Anne Midgette wrote, “It will take time to transform an orchestra that’s been allowed to develop some bad habits.” Noseda now has that time: he recently signed a four-year contract extension and will remain with the orchestra until the 2024-2025 season. That’s the longest period that any conductor has led the NSO since its creation in the 1940s.
Emily and Mitchell RalesOwners, Glenstone Museum // In 2018, billionaire Mitchell Rales and his art curator wife Emily opened what the New York Times described as “a private art Xanadu,” referring to its tranquil rural setting in Potomac, Md., and as “a bespoke temple” for artists the Raleses have collected. The last is a reference to the taken to comply with the individual artists’ specific instructions on how their works were to be displayed. Works in the collection cover the time frame 1943 to 1989, and include such well-known artists as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, but also Bruce Marden, Pipilotti Rist and the Brazilian artist Lygia Pape.
Deborah RutterPresident, the Kennedy Center // Deborah Rutter is a relative newcomer to Washington where she runs the largest cultural complex in the country, embracing opera, theater, the National Symphony Orchestra, as well as jazz groups from Bulgaria. Such is the range of programming on offer that any evening the cavernous halls are filled with a public ranging from teenagers to patrons with walkers. Rutter also inherited a $250 million expansion program (financed in part by David Rubenstein) called The Reach to give the center more elbow room for education programs, additional performance space, and rehearsals, due to open later this year.
José Andrés, Chef; Founder, World Central Kitchen
When not opening new restaurants (he has seven in Washington) Michelin star chef José Andrés is most likely to be found at the latest natural disaster, setting up relief kitchens to feed its victims through his World Central Kitchen operation. In Puerto Rico, Andrés opened 25 emergency kitchens to serve three million meals after Hurricane Maria. In December, World Central Kitchen launched the #ChefsForFeds project to deal with another kind of disaster – the partial federal government shutdown. #ChefsForFeds served thousands of meals to federal workers in locations in 22 states. Andrés has been nominated for a Nobel Prize.
WOMEN HEADS OF WASHINGTON ART MUSEUMS
Kaywin Feldman, Director, National Gallery of Art
Feldman is the first woman to be appointed director of the NGA, the country’s second largest art museum. Until March 2019, she was director of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, a distinguished, medium-sized institution, with a current annual average of 700,000 visitors. In 2018, the NGA’s average is over five million. Feldman succeeds Earl (Rusty) Powell, whose parting gift was an exhibition of works by Tintoretto, the first ever in the United States.
Feldman, who took over as director of the National Gallery of Art in March is the first woman to run the NGA, but by no means the only woman at the head of a Washington art museum. With one or two exceptions, museum directorships in the nation’s capital are a female domain – well above the gender division nation-wide, which is 48 percent. Feldman has the added distinction of being the first woman to head one of the four museums in the nation with a budget of over $100 million ($154,114,000 for FY2020). The ultimate glass ceiling is the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York – the NGA is the second largest art institute.
FEMALE HEADS OF THE LEADING US ART INSTITUTIONS
Sarah J. Bloomfield, US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Melissa Chiu, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Susan Fisher Sterling, National Museum of Women in the Arts
Anthea Hartig, Elizabeth Macmillan Director of the National Museum of American History
Kate Markert, Hillwood Museum
Dorothy Kosinski, Phillips Collection
Emily Rales, Glenstone Museum
Kim Sajet, National Portrait Gallery
Ellen Stofan, National Air and Space Museum
Stephanie Stebich, Smithsonian Museum of American Art
This feature appeared in the May 2019 issue of Washington Life magazine.