A report by Politico outlining the dysfunction and toxic environment in Vice President Kamala Harris’ office recalls similar stories about the final days of her 2020 presidential campaign, which fell apart before the first nominating contest.
As the wheels came off the then-California senator’s primary run, stories of mistreatment of employees and dissent in the ranks began bubbling up before eventually spilling into public view.
In November 2019, the Harris campaign’s state operations director, Kelly Mehlenbacher, stepped down. Her resignation letter contained a blistering account of mismanagement that had culminated in major staff layoffs days earlier.
“This is my third presidential campaign,” Mehlenbacher wrote, “and I have never seen an organization treat its staff so poorly.”
“With less than 90 days until Iowa we still do not have a real plan to win,” the departing operative added.
Politico’s reporting about the current state of the Veep’s office — which cites current and former Harris aides, White House officials, and others — contains echoes of the stories from the campaign trail.
A source told Politico that in Harris’ office, “People are thrown under the bus from the very top, there are short fuses and it’s an abusive environment. It’s not a healthy environment and people often feel mistreated. It’s not a place where people feel supported but a place where people feel treated like s—.”
According to reports at the time, much of the blame for Harris’ flop as a presidential candidate was laid at the feet of two figures: campaign manager Juan Rodriguez, and campaign chairwoman Maya Harris, the vice president’s sister. Neither occupy current positions in the vice president’s office, and yet the complaints about problems coming from “the very top” persist.
Harris has previously drawn fire for her handling of the border crisis, which was assigned to her portfolio by President Biden in March. Since then criticism has mounted, especially around the vice president’s failure for several months to visit the southern border. The vice president did visit El Paso, Texas, last week, but criticism of herhandling of the illegal immigration crisis — such as her insistence on dealing with its “root causes” — has continued.
Harris spokeswoman Symone Sanders tried to tamp down the reports of dissension in the vice president’s office, telling Politico that “We are not making rainbows and bunnies all day.
“What I hear is that people have hard jobs and I’m like ‘welcome to the club,’” adding, “We have created a culture where people, if there is anything anyone would like to raise, there are avenues for them to do so. Whoever has something they would like to raise, they should raise it directly.”
She’s No. 2: Report claims Kamala Harris’ staff feels they are ‘treated like s–t’
It’s like “Veep,” but real and less funny.
A bombshell Politico report published Wednesday describes Vice President Kamala Harris’ office as “chaotic” with a “tense and at times dour” atmosphere — a place where, as one source memorably put it, “people feel treated like s–t.”
The report, which cited nearly two dozen “current and former vice presidential aides, administration officials and associates of Harris and [President] Biden,” pointed the finger at Harris herself for the dysfunction as well as Tina Flournoy, a longtime Democratic operative who works as Harris’ chief of staff and gatekeeper.
“People are thrown under the bus from the very top, there are short fuses and it’s an abusive environment,” said the same source who claimed staffers are “treated like s—.” “It’s not a healthy environment and people often feel mistreated.”
Sources quoted by Politico described an insular environment marked by a failure to get on the same page for big moments, like the announcement of Harris’ trip last week to the US-Mexico border. On that occasion, the VP’s underlings — including those responsible for making travel arrangements — reportedly were blindsided and left scrambling to make sure everything was in order.
According to Politico, Flournoy’s efforts to protect Harris from flak have led to her dismissing or ignoring staff ideas, refusing to delegate responsibility, unnecessarily prolonging decisions, and blaming those under her for negative outcomes.
So complete is Flournoy’s control over who sees and speaks with Harris, the report states, that even a friend of Harris who tried to connect the vice president with a top Democratic donor for a meeting waited weeks for a response before being told Harris was too busy.
“This is someone who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars — millions, even — for your boss and you’re just blowing them off?” the Harris friend asked Politico. “Next time Kamala wants [them] for something, it’s like, ‘Hey, I couldn’t even get a call-back from your chief of staff!’”
Days before Harris dropped out, the New York Times printed a resignation letter from the campaign’s state operations director that claimed: “This is my third presidential campaign and I have never seen an organization treat its staff so poorly.”
Symone Sanders, a Harris senior adviser and chief spokesperson, decried Politico’s anonymous sources as “cowards” for airing their complaints in the media.
“We are not making rainbows and bunnies all day. What I hear is that people have hard jobs and I’m like ‘Welcome to the club,’” Sanders told the outlet. “We have created a culture where people, if there is anything anyone would like to raise, there are avenues for them to do so. Whoever has something they would like to raise, they should raise it directly.”